Gender equalities at work: an interdisciplinary history
of 50 years of legislation

UCU strike placard
By Alarichall - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

How was workplace gender equality law introduced, implemented and changed? And in what contexts and with what consequences? This project is the first comprehensive longitudinal study (from the 1960s to the present) of the creation, trajectories, legacies and lived experiences of the Equal Pay Act 1970 and Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (now integrated in the Equality Act 2010) across the four nations of the UK.

Traversing the fields of gender studies, history, industrial relations, law and politics, the project is a collaboration between researchers from UWE Bristol, UCL and the University of Edinburgh. It has been awarded funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council from January 2021 for two years.

Combining archival research with oral history interviews, the project examines the law in action, as agency, and as experience. It involves a broad survey of key actors, institutions and architectures, discourses, and junctures: across the strands of equal pay, sex discrimination and sexual harassment. What types of legal tools and what kinds of campaigning strategies have proved most (or least) effective across time and why? The project also examines the influence of intersectionality on legal thinking and campaigning around workplace gender equality, as well as the difficulties experienced in giving intersectionality legal form in the UK.


Project team:

Sophia Ayada (UCL), Research Fellow in Law, is soon to complete her Ph.D. in Law from the European University Institute (Florence). Her research focuses on the uses of gender stereotyping and anti-stereotyping in the CJEU jurisprudence, and their consequences on women’s rights and emancipation. She is author of articles and contributions on EU gender equality and anti-discrimination law and acted as a researcher for cross-disciplinary projects concerning domestic violence and European free movement law.

Dr Ashlee Christoffersen (University of Edinburgh), Research Fellow, holds a PhD in Social policy about understandings and uses of intersectionality in policy and practice. She is author and co-author of articles concerning gender and intersectionality, and has held research and practitioner roles at the Equality Challenge Unit, centred, the Trades Union Congress, and the Institute for Intersectionality Research and Policy, Simon Fraser University, Canada.

Professor Hazel Conley (UWE Bristol), Co-Investigator, is an expert in discrimination and inequality in the workplace, particularly in relation to the development and effectiveness of legal interventions. She is co-author of Gender Equality in Public Services; Chasing the Dream (2014, Routledge) and co-editor of The Gender Pay Gap and Social Partnership in Europe (2019, Routledge).

Dr Frances Galt (UWE Bristol), Research Fellow, specialises in feminist labour history in twentieth-century Britain. Her PhD examined the relationship between women workers and trade unions in the British film and television industries. She is author of Women’s Activism Behind the Screens: Trade Unions and Gender Equality in the British Film and Television Industries (2020, Bristol University Press).

Professor Louise Jackson (University of Edinburgh), Principal Investigator, is a social historian of women and gender (with a particular interest in the work culture of policing). She is co-author of Police and Community in Twentieth Century Scotland (2020, Edinburgh University Press) and a co-editor of Women and Work Culture: Britain c. 1850-1950 (2005, Ashgate).

Professor Fiona Mackay (University of Edinburgh), Co-Investigator, is an expert in gender and political representation, feminist institutionalism, gender and institutional change, gender and public policy. She is co-editor of Gender, Politics and Institutions: Towards a Feminist Institutionalism (2011/15, Palgrave Macmillan) and Doing Feminisms in the Academy (2020, Zubaan Publications and University of Chicago Press).

Professor Colm O’Cinneide (UCL), Co-Investigator, is an expert in the field of comparative constitutional, human rights and anti-discrimination law, and is co-author of Discrimination Law: Theory and Context (2008, Sweet & Maxwell). He has acted as specialist legal adviser to the Joint Committee on Human Rights and the Women & Equalities Committee of the UK Parliament, and has also advised a range of international organisations including the UN, ILO and the European Commission.

Tanya Rhodes is the project’s Communications and Engagement Officer. Originally a journalist, Tanya has worked in communications, events and PR in a wide range of private, public and third sector organisations, including Scottish Women’s Aid, Heriot-Watt University and the Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine. As well as supporting the project communications, Tanya is a student on the postgraduate Arts, Festival and Cultural Management programme at Queen Margaret University.