Psychology Doctoral Research Studentship - Women’s intersectional identities at work, and the implications for diversity practices (2022)

The studentship covers Home level PhD tuition fees (currently £4500), a stipend (currently £15,609 pa) plus some research and training costs.

What you get

  • A stipend for 3 years (tied to the UKRI studentship rates, currently £15,609 p.a.) to cover living costs
  • UK Home fees and research/training costs are also covered.
  • International students may apply for this Home/UK studentship but must fund the difference between UK Home fees and International fees (approximately £18,500 per year). One option is self-funding.
  • The School has one Scholarship available for an International student which cover a 3 year stipend AND Overseas fees. It will be very competitive and you will be considered alongside applicants from across Psychology. If you wish to be considered for funding for overseas fees then please indicate this in your application.  
  • You will also be expected to take up Doctoral Tutoring during your 6 semesters (3 years) of funding. This work is paid at Grade 5.1 (currently £13.88 per hour), and covers contact time, preparation and marking. You will be expected to work approximately 165 hours per year, dependent on modules selected and availability.


Type of award

Postgraduate Research

PhD project

Applications are invited for a PhD studentship to investigate how intersectional elements of women’s gender identities affect their work lives.  Specifically, how this might create conflict with how women identify with their daily work, how it impacts them at a psychological and social level, how this can lead to feelings of exclusion or inclusion, and how women overcome resulting gender-work-identity conflicts to succeed in their chosen fields of work (or indeed how it impedes their progress). This will help to understand how inequality landscapes in organisations/ society (in the structural or broader sense of the word) are created and resolved. It is intended that the PhD will contribute evidence-based suggestions for practice and policy (if relevant) on how to create gender egalitarian work-spaces for the populations studied.

This studentship will be supervised by Dr Varuni Wimalasiri, Professor Vivian Vignoles and Dr Megan Hurst. 


Research on gender processes and work suggest that women’s sense of self in relation to work is influenced by a multitude of intersectional elements (e.g. race, class, ethnic background, socio-economic status, migration status, caring responsibilities), at any given point of time (Acker, 2006; Wimalasiri, 2021). Feelings of gender-work-identity conflict can arise when there is a mismatch between the felt sense of these intersecting identities and any aspect of one’s work (e.g., being dissimilar from the majority gender at work, having to carry out tasks at work which are strongly gendered) (Veldman et al, 2017), which may in turn give rise to feelings of exclusion.  On the other hand, when workers are able to choose how they work and respond to structural inequalities according to their intersectional differences, they can influence their daily work routines and improve their job satisfaction, performance and ultimately the inequality landscapes around them and for others.  Some evidence of the lack of progress of women can be seen in the ongoing dearth of women in senior positions around the world (UNDP, 2021) There is much yet to understand about how the contradictions of identity in its multiple and fluid forms are enacted in one given space and how they define a persons’ behaviour and their way of being in the world (Vignoles, 2019).  

This PhD is intended to contribute to this area of research, with a special interest in the psychological perspectives (e.g. social identity) related to women’s work. You might choose to focus your study on any work population in the UK or across the world. Both common and non-common work types are welcome populations of interest (e.g. street theatre/vending,  casual work, ‘dirty’ work, emergent entrepreneurs).  

Some questions that you might consider when formulating your proposal:

  • What is the nature of intersectional gender identity in women? How does it influence gender-work-identity conflict? (i.e. drive their sense of exclusion/ inclusion at work)
  • What are the psycho-social factors that give meaning to a woman’s identity in otherwise male dominated work spaces (i.e where they might feel ‘othered’ because of their gender)?
  • Are there more dominant elements and intersections (e.g. socio-economic status, ethnic background, colour, religion, caring responsibilities, relationship status), and what are their respective influences on work?
  • How do women navigate gendered activities (“typically male”/ “typically female”) to achieve positive outcomes, even when the activities are in conflict with their sense of their own gender identity?
  • How do gender-related intersectionalities at work at a person level influence organisational level (and/or societal) inequalities? In turn, how can local interventions emancipate more gross societal inequalities. 
  • Does national culture influence these relationships?

You are strongly advised to discuss your proposal with the lead supervisor Dr Varuni Wimalasiri (  It is desirable that you have worked with or have access to your study population already and you can re-engage with this population during your PhD, but this is not essential. You will be supported to gain access to organisations as necessary to support your study. As part of the PhD you will be required to deal with practical topics relating to diversity and equality in the organisations and sectors that you will study.  For this reason, previous experience showing interest in the welfare of people and or some involvement in the area of equality and diversity will be desirable but not essential. Further training will be provided during the PhD.

Doctoral Tutor role: 

Doctoral Tutors will begin teaching in the second term of their studies. You will be encouraged to study for a formal teaching accreditation (Associate of the Higher Education Academy), including enrolling on a ‘starting to teach’ module in the first term before they begin teaching. Candidates who demonstrate suitability for, and express interest in, the additional Doctoral Tutor role will be preferred. 



  • This award will only pay fees at the Home/UK rate. International students may apply but must self-fund the difference between the Home fees and International Fees (this fee difference is currently £18,500 per year). International students are also welcome to apply for the Psychology Doctoral Research Studentship (International) naming Varuni Wimalsiri as the potential supervisor. 
  • Candidates must have, or expect to obtain, a First or a high Upper Second Class Honours undergraduate degree, or equivalent qualification, and/or a Master’s degree in Psychology, Neuroscience or a related discipline.
  • The University of Sussex believes that the diversity of its staff and student community is fundamental to creative thinking, pedagogic innovation, intellectual challenge, and the interdisciplinary approach to research and learning. We celebrate and promote diversity, equality and inclusion amongst our staff and students. As such, we welcome applications from all, regardless of personal characteristics or background. 

Number of scholarships available



18 January 2022 23:59

How to apply

  • In the 'Supervisor suggested by applicant' section of your application, put Varuni Wimalsiri.
  • In the 'Proposed source of funding' section of your application, please put 'Psychology Doctoral Research Studentship. If you are an International student liable for oversears fees, please also indicate whether you wish to be considered for the Psychology Doctoral Research Studentship (International)

Candidates should provide: 

  • A research proposal that outlines your knowledge of the research area, hypotheses that could be addressed in your PhD, and an outline of potential methods. The research proposal should be approximately 1,000 to 1,500 words in length and not exceed 3 pages, including references. It should be set at a minimum of 10 font type with margins a minimum of 1cm.
  • Current degree transcript(s) with full details of performance on all completed courses. 
  • Two academic references.
  • An up-to-date CV.
  • A document summarising any teaching experience you have and illustrating your suitability for a Doctoral Tutor role. 
  • International students who are liable to pay overseas fees should also upload a document explaining how you will cover the difference between home and overseas fees if you are not awarded the Psychology Doctoral Research Studentship (International)

Contact us

For queries with respect to the application process:  

To discuss the details of your research interests further, please contact Varuni Wimalasiri.


You might also be interested in

Some useful references:

Acker, J. (2006) Inequality Regimes: Gendered, Class and Race in Organizations. Gender and Society, 20(4): 441 Inequality Regimes: Gender, Class, and Race in Organizations - Joan Acker, 2006 (

Brown, A.D. (2015) Identities and identity work in organizations. International Journal of Management Reviews. 17: 20-40

UNDP (2021) i.e. Does it matter that men are the public ‘face’ of government? | United Nations Development Programme ( Link here.

Veldman, J. Meeussen, L. Van Laar, C. and Phalet, K. (2017) Women (Do Not) Belong here: Gender-Work Identity Conflict among female police officers. Frontiers in Psychology. Vol 8: 130

Vignoles, V. L. (2019). Identity: Personal AND social. In K. Deaux & M. Snyder (Eds.), Oxford handbook of personality and social psychology (2nd ed., pp. 289–315). New York: Oxford University Press. (PDF) Identity: Personal AND Social (

Wimalasiri V. (2021) Displacement-plurality (DP) in women refugees, its influence on work engagement and implications for diversity practice: A critical and reflective review. Personnel Review. Displacement-plurality (D-P) in women refugees, its influence on work engagement and implications for diversity practice: a critical and reflective review | (Link to paper) Emerald Insight


Deadline: Tuesday 18 January 2022 (23:59)

Interviews (in person or on Zoom): early February 2022

Decisions: before end of February 2022


At level(s):
PG (research)

Application deadline:
18 January 2022 23:59 (GMT)
the deadline has now expired


The award is available to people from these specific countries: