My dissertation research concerns the complex processes of gendered institutional change, and particularly how these unfold in an era characterized by the increased visibility of transgender, intersex, and queer accounts of the nature of sex and gender and the relationship between them. Feminists are divided over what constitutes desirable institutional change: on the one hand, women ought to be included in realms that were historically dominated by men. On the other hand, including women in these spaces often relies on reproducing essentializing constructions of sex and gender. "What women want" depends on how one defines a gender inclusive institution.

I examine two sites where these tensions emerge, the first being the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the United States (US), and their policies for sex inclusion in preclinical research (Sex as a Biological Variable). The second site is international sport and the eligibility rules of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) governing the participation of female athletes with naturally elevated testosterone.

My research examines: the policy development process; how governing bodies like the NIH and IOC construct and institutionalize particular accounts of sex and gender; the role of expertise and ignorance in enabling certain accounts of sex and gender to gain epistemological ascendancy; the role of feminists in embracing or contesting such accounts; and the ways in which regulatory efforts shape broader understandings of sex and gender-related difference.

My mixed methods approach combines archival data, semi-structured interviews, and textual analysis.


Divergent Pathways of Gendered Organizational Change

Women are still under-represented in decision-making and leadership positions in comparison with more base-level forms of organizational participation. To explain this, I ask how gendered organizations change, and examine how change comes to unfold differently for distinct groups of women, depending on their proximity to decision-making power. I undertake a case study of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), using archival and interview data representing the period 1967-1995, during which time gender equality emerged as an organizational priority. I analyze women’s under-representation among sports leaders relative to athletes, with particular attention to the historical origins of this discrepancy.

Three sources of gendered organizational change emerge from this analysis: framing, bureaucracy, and advocacy. Women athletes and leaders in the IOC were differently framed, differently defined and impacted by organizational rules and procedures, and advocated for by different groups and individuals. Women’s leadership was depoliticized relative to women’s athletic participation, with the latter framed more strongly in terms of gender equality and anti-discrimination, addressed more explicitly through IOC rules and procedures, and supported through both grassroots and top-down collective advocacy. I suggest that the observed divergence along these three dimensions and their change over time can aid in understanding the contemporary under-representation of women in positions of organizational leadership and decision-making, within and beyond sport.

Participatory Budgeting

My masters thesis focused on participatory budgeting, a process that allows residents to decide how to spend a particular pot of public money. There are a number of ways that residents can participate, from the initial collection of ideas to the final vote. The process therefore offers opportunities for residents to apply and extend or start building their civic skills, knowledge, and networks. I'm analyzing which residents were most involved in the Chicago process in 2011-2012 in order to assess how well they achieved their stated goal of involving residents other than the "usual suspects:" white, highly educated, wealthier, older residents from the four wards of the city that participated. This is also a mixed methods project involving both interviews and survey data, although I'm currently developing a paper based primarily on quantitative methods, co-authored with Professor Chaeyoon Lim.

You can read more about PB Chicago here.