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Spotlight on OU women researchers who #BreakTheBias

To celebrate International Women’s Day 2022, we highlight seven OU research projects helping make the world more diverse, equitable, inclusive, and free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. Collectively we can all #BreakTheBias.

Consigning the mathematics gender gap to history

Professor of History of Mathematics June Barrow-Green in the Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics uses her research to challenge cultural stereotypes about mathematics and inspire the next generation of women to get into the subject. The researcher’s work has impacted thousands of young people through school talks, media appearances, lectures, and landmark exhibitions. In 2022, Barrow-Green and colleagues will launch a new open-access online resource highlighting diversity in mathematical development on OpenLearn for students and teachers.

Empowering women in rural communities in Malawi and Sierra Leone

Professor Freda Wolfenden, Kimberley Safford and Dr Deborah Cooper in the Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language studies empower rural and under-resourced communities in sub-Saharan Africa by training local women to become teachers. The researchers’ Girls’ Access to Education (GATE-GEC) combines coaching, technology, OU maths and English distance learning. It has helped more than 3,000 women become positive role models for girls in their communities, build confidence and embark on a pathway to financial independence.

Learning lessons from India to improve gender equality in the UK IT sector

Professor Parvati Raghuram and Dr Gunjan Sondhi from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences are challenging gender inequality in the UK IT sector and perceptions that wealthier countries are more gender-equitable than lower-income counties. UK sector bodies welcomed the researchers’ insights on why women fill more than 30% of technical roles in India’s IT sector, but less than 20% in the UK, highlighting the cultural change necessary to attract more women to the sector. More than 4,500 women have participated in a leadership development programme in India inspired by the research.

Destigmatising abortion

Lesley Hoggart, Professor of Social Policy Research in the Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies, has raised awareness of the problem of abortion-related stigma, the need for non-judgmental care among abortion providers and the medical profession. The impact of this research has been to reduce feelings of blame, shame and isolation in women who have had abortions and a raising of public awareness of how common abortion is.

Improving the security and public understanding of migrants

Research led by Marie Gillespie, Professor of Sociology in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, highlights the experiences of migrants. Her collaborative research led to a new digital platform for migrants improving information security for over 53.4 million users. It also underpinned the co-production of the multi-award-winning OU/BBC documentary series Exodus: Our Journey to Europe that reached 4.39 million viewers globally. Her most recent research with migrants examines the impact of COVID-19 on the lives of asylum-seekers and refugees.

Challenging how unhealthy food is marketed to young people

Dr Mimi Tatlow-Golden, Senior Lecturer in Developmental Psychology & Childhood in the Faculty of Wellbeing, Education & Language Studies, has conducted research revealing the detrimental nature of marketing unhealthy food to children and young people in digital media. Her findings are shaping public health in the UK, Europe, Asia and Latin America, and the knowledge of almost 2,000 parents and educators.

Creating menopause-friendly workplaces

Jo Brewis, Professor of People and Organisations in the Faculty of Business & Law, has researched the under-studied area of menopause at work and has contributed to the removal of the workplace taboo around menopause and to making organisations more menopause-friendly. Her research builds on a Government Equalities Office (GEO) commissioned report entitled The impact of menopause transition on women’s economic participation in the UK (2017) for which she was lead author.

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