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Sociology, Social Policy and CriminologyPart of Economic, Social and Political Science
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Professor Pauline Leonard MA (Ed) PhD

Professor of Sociology, Director, ESRC Impact Accelerator Role & Web Science Institute Director

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Professor Pauline Leonard is Professor of Sociology, Director of the Web Science Institute and Director of the Work Futures Research Centre at the University of Southampton. She is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences and of the Royal Society of Arts.  

My research interests are in work and organization, primarily in the areas of organizational and technological change, gender, race, age and identity and skilled labour migration.

Pauline’s principle research interests are in diversity and the changing nature of work. She has published widely on gender and organizations, race and professional migration, age, employability, technology and careers.

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Research interests

I have a longstanding interest in diversity, work and organization. In recent years, this has been explored through two key strands of research: first, looking at how age intersects with work and careers. Funded by the Nuffield Foundation, I have studied the experiences of older apprentices in England (with Alison Fuller, Lorna Unwin and Gayna Davey) and, together with colleagues at the ESRC’s LLAKES Research Centre, Institute of Education, University College, London, investigated young people’s entry routes into different regional labour markets in the UK in times of austerity. A new book Getting In and Getting On in the Youth Labour Market has been published (2019, with Rachel J. Wilde) with Bristol University Press.

Second, I explore how working lives and intersecting aspects of identity such as gender and race are transformed through processes of migration. I have conducted empirical research in China, Hong Kong and South Africa, looking at how whiteness provides an important resource in the making of new lives and identities in postcolonial contexts. This work has been published in articles and books including Expatriate Identities in Postcolonial Organizations: Working Whiteness (2010) Migration, Space and Transnational Identities: The British in South Africa (2014, with Daniel Conway), Immigration to China in the Post-Reform Era: Destination China (2018, with Angela Lehmann) and British Migration: Globalisation, Transnational Identities and Multiculturalism (2019, with Katie Walsh).

My interest in the changing nature of working lives has most recently

been pursued through research which is exploring the impact of new digital technologies such as AI on the future of work, professions and careers. Through conducting an ethnography in a global engineering organization funded by the ESRC’s IAA, I am investigating the diverse ways in which technologies are imagined and positioned in professional work futures. This has been published in a report with Dr Roger Tyers (2019) Engineering the Revolution: A Social Approach to Digitisation in the Infrastructure Industry. I am also interested in the relationship between AI, diversity and infrastructure, and how this may impact on the design of smart cities.

This interest connects with previous research on how changing working space can impact on senses of identity and well-being. Research funded by the British Council of Offices led to the report Making the Workplace Work and an article which won a BSA Climate Change Prize in 2014.

I have also conducted research on the third sector, as part of the ESRC’s Third Sector Research Centre, in a project entitled Third Sector Organizations: working lives and careers (with Susan Halford and Katie Bruce).

External Research Projects

Engineering the Revolution: A Social Approach to Digitisation in the Infrastructure Industry


Research project(s)

Does Apprenticeship Work for Adults? The experiences of adult apprentices in England.

Office space: Performance, Productivity and Practice

Organising the Third Sector

The British in South Africa: Continuity or Change?

Getting in and getting on in the youth labour market: entry process, under-employment and skill formation in regional economies

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Book Chapters


Creative Media and Artefacts


Working Papers

PhD Supervision

I am currently supervising the following research students:

  • Aasia Nisar - Does taking a greener approach to new developments make mixed communities more cohesive? (Jointly supervised with Milena Buchs, University of Leeds)
  • Roxanne Persaud-  Understanding failure in social entrepreneurship (jointly supervised with Silke Roth, SSPC)
  • Chira Tochia- An exploration of the role technology plays in work life balance for social media practitioners (jointly supervised with Mina Beigi, Southampton Business School)
  • Nina Schuller The Shifting Sands of the Web: Reconstructing and interpreting the memory of an environmental/public health crisis on Wikipedia, using primary and secondary data analysis.(jointly supervised with Will Jennings PAIR)
  • Ben Thomas- Exploring Strategies Older Workers Use to Sustain Careers in Digital and Creative Work (jointly supervised with Rebecca Taylor, SSPC)
  • Milka Kwiatek: Entrepreneurship, Citizenship and Belonging in Times of Brexit Uncertainty: Experiences of Polish Migrant Women in the UK (jointly supervised with Bindi Shah, SSPC)


Professor Pauline Leonard

Room Number : 58/4085

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