Can you give a brief summary of your career to date, and the journey that brought you here to us at the University of Edinburgh Business School?
After my undergraduate degree in business, I worked for an international corporation for a few years where I quickly worked my way up into the European management team. While I am grateful for this experience, I kept being drawn back towards Academia, and so in 2017 I studied for an MPhil in Innovations, Strategy and Organisation at the University of Cambridge Business School. This programme was of particular interest to me because it was research-driven and explored not just strategy and organisational theory, but also focused on social innovation. This fit well with my goal to a better understand how the workplace is implicated in the maintenance of social inequality and, ultimately, what organisations can do to help address such patterns of inequality. While doing the MPhil, I applied for a PhD in Strategic Management at the Cambridge Judge Business School to continue exploring this question. I was lucky to get an offer to study under the supervision of Kamal Munir and Shaz Ansari, funded by the Business School and the Cambridge Centre for Social Innovation. I got an offer to join Edinburgh during my last year of the PhD and have been here since March 2022.
If you had to give your ‘elevator pitch’ and explain in layman terms what your research focuses on, how would you answer?
A major research interest of mine is social inequality in the workplace. Across multiple research projects, I ask why and how social inequality is maintained in organisations – despite the growing attention to diversity, equity and inclusion. Research often focuses on how organisational structures and practices contribute to inequality. In my research, I also focus on how occupational dynamics contribute to patterns of social inequality, such as who takes on which jobs and why.
For example, I ask why and how patterns of inequality persists; how and to what effect they influence daily interactions within organisations; and what, if anything managers can do to overcome them. I have explored these questions in different contexts, for example by studying the hiring and promotion decisions in US-based law firm and the day-to-day interactions in UK healthcare organisations.
With regard to your work, is there anything exciting in the pipelines that you are working on?
I have just returned from the Academy of Management, where I organised a symposium on Work, Occupations, and Inequality. This is the second symposium in a line of activities to foster a community based around occupations and inequality, and I was excited to see the ongoing interest in (and support for!) this research agenda. Continuing to build a community around this topic through conferences and meetings is one of my goals for the next few years.
In line with my research interest in occupations and inequality, I have a project on how emerging occupations become gendered. This is a project that I have been working on for some time and I hope that I will soon be able to collect more data. I am also working on a project on the future of work and inequality, where my co-authors and I explore how trends in the future of work affect individuals differently, based on their intersecting identities. Since we live in a time of fast-paced social and technological change, I think that this is an exciting and important area of research. My hope is that our research does not only inform how inequality is embedded in existing and new structures and practices, but also to help understand how we can leverage this time of change to enhance equal opportunities.
What do you enjoy most about working at UEBS?
I enjoy working with the students who are smart and engaged. One experience that stood out was teaching a course on the new MSc in Global Strategy and Sustainability. I enjoyed developing a course on Sustainable Business Practice because it really fits my personal interests in sustainability and inequality, which also allows me to bring research insights into the classroom. The students were also very driven and it was fun to teach and discuss with them.
Research-wise, I feel privileged to work with colleagues who not only share similar research interests but also excel at what they are doing! Not only can I learn a lot from them, but I also find that pursuing similar research interests and aiming for similar journals is very energising, which is important especially when projects get tricky.
What advice would you give to your younger self, about to leave home and embark upon further education?
You have made the right decision and you will meet amazing people. Believe in yourself and enjoy the experience!
If you could invite anyone over for dinner (past/present) who would it be and why?
Probably Ruth Bader Ginsberg for her personal and professional experience with challenging gender discrimination in the US.
If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
I enjoy surfing in Portugal but when it comes to exploring new places, I think I would stay close to home and visit the Isle of Skye! Since I have moved to Scotland I have had limited opportunity to travel and explore the country but what I have seen is stunningly beautiful so I would like to continue travelling around. The Isle of Skye is definitely on the bucket list but I am also open to recommendations! I have also just learnt that colleagues at UEBS have developed an app to help mitigate tourist congestion as well as support local business and aiding with achieving net zero goals. I look forward to trying it out as I go.
Research Spotlight: Dr Andrea Wessendorf
Andrea Wessendorf discusses her research into the influence of organizational and occupational dynamics on crisis management, social inequality, and the impact of rapid societal change, including the effectiveness of healthcare professionals during the Covid-19 pandemic.