Gender diversity within Oxfordshire’s innovation ecosystem

Addressing barriers to participation

Making full use of potential and existing talent is essential in any innovation ecosystem. Although gender diversity has improved in recent years, underrepresentation of women is still a problem and is still evident in the low numbers of women involved in the teams that spin-out companies from our universities. Companies that participated in Advanced Oxford’s Attract, Retain and Grow study acknowledged that gender diversity is one of the challenges the innovation ecosystem of Oxfordshire is currently facing.

The Centre for Diversity Policy Research and Practice is part of Advanced Oxford member, Oxford Brookes University, and sits within the Business School.  The Centre specialises in research on equality and diversity issues in the workplace and in the wider labour market. The Centre is externally funded from a range of sources – the European Commission, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), EU Horizon 2020, Advance-HE and Human Rights Commission.

Advanced Oxford is working with The Centre for Diversity Policy Research and Practice and sponsors a PhD studentship, which is held by Hannah Tornow.  Hannah started her PhD in January, 2021.  We will be posting regular blogs on Hannah’s research throughout her PhD, which can be found on this page.


Research is being conducted at three levels:

(i) at the level of the individual – through a survey

(ii) at the level of the organisation – through an interview

(iii) at the level of the ecosystem – mediated through ethnographic research methodologies (see Hannah’s blog on this subject below)

Data analysis is now underway

Companies have distributed an online, self-completion questionnaire to employees, either across the whole company, or within units/divisions where R&D or innovation activity is taking place.  The survey data which aims to understand how employees perceive the company environment and their own role in innovation.

Companies have been asked to identify one key representative, e.g. C-suite member, site management, senior management or a senior member of the HR team for an interview which examines perceptions within the company relating to innovation, gender equality, organisational policies and culture.

Finally, ethnographic observation has also been used. Meetings and events have been observed to provide insight into the workings of the innovation ecosystem of Oxfordshire.

Data analysis is now underway and the findings from the research will start to be shared in the autumn of 2023, and in the first quarter of 2024, with academic conference presentations during summer 2023.

To find out more, please contact Hannah Tornow [email protected] or connect via LinkedIn.

Blog posts

Click here to read Hannah’s first blog on her PhD Click here to read Hannah’s latest update (October 2021) Hannah’s latest blog considers ethnography as a research technique (March, 2022) Click here for Hannah’s December 2022 blog Read Hannah’s blog about her summer 2023 ‘World tour’ of academic conference presentations

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