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Reducing inequalities through meaningful work: An intersectional lens (RDF23/LHRM/VU)

   Faculty of Business and Law

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  Dr Mai Vu, Dr Nicolas Burton  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

This PhD project seeks to explore intersectional experiences of meaningful work in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals (Goal 10 – Reducing Inequality). The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal on Reduced Inequality (SDG10) calls for reducing structural inequalities based on age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion, economic or other status within or across countries, and yet, research on progress towards the SDGs at an organizational level has been limited (e.g., Heras‐Saizarbitoria et al., 2022). There is a widespread lack of knowledge about how organizations are contributing to and addressing SDGs and particularly, the role of employees (e.g., Mhlanga et al., 2018).  

Intersectionality theory (Crenshaw, 1989; Collins, 1990) asserts that it is the way in which social categories shift in their meaning, depending on social context, relationships, and interactions of individuals with one another that create privilege or oppression. Therefore, in order to address the dynamic processes of power and privilege as they are played out in intersections of social relations and within organizational practices, processes, actions, and meanings, an intersectional lens offers conceptual possibilities through which to examine the nexus of meaningful work and inequality. Existing research has demonstrated that meaningful work that promotes equality is influenced by societal and cultural contexts (e.g., Lepisto & Pratt, 2017; Michaelson, 2019; Mitra & Buzzanell, 2017, Vu, 2020, 2021) and the way individuals develop virtuous dispositions (e.g., Beadle, 2017; 2019; Beadle & Knight, 2012) over time. Recent studies have integrated intersectionality to explore a wide range of intersecting sources of oppression, including sexuality, class, ethnicity, religion, citizenship status, and age (Collins, 2019) that helps us to understand more about the different ways in which work is experienced as meaningful. For instance, spiritual traditions can influence the interplay of subjective and normative interpretations of meaningful work (Vu & Burton, 2021), and ragpickers in the lowest caste in Indian society can construct a set of positive meanings from their work (Shepherd et al., 2021). However, more work needs to be done to explore how intersections of age, nationality, ethnicity, religion, cultural norms, and expectations of a particular society interface with meaning-making at work (e.g., Bailey et al., 2019b, Lysova et al., 2019; Vu & Burton, 2021) and how these facilitate organizational practices that embrace the dissemination of SDG10.

This project seeks to explore novel and exciting new pathways of research exploring meaningful work that facilitates an intersectional lens. Successful applicants are encouraged to shape this outline to their own interests paying attention to novelty in their choice of intersections, nature of work, organizational and cultural contexts. We welcome applications exploring contexts in both the UK and internationally. We also welcome different methodological approaches for data collection (e.g., qualitative, ethnography approaches, etc.) to capture the exploratory nature of the study and innovative methods which consider the researcher/researched power dynamics. We seek a motivated applicant with evidence of appreciating power and privilege dynamics to join this multi-disciplinary research.

Academic Enquiries

This project is supervised by Dr Mai Vu, Dr Nicholas Burton, and Professor Ron Beadle. For informal queries, please contact [Email Address Removed]. For all other enquiries relating to eligibility or application process please use the email form below to contact Admissions.

Funding Information

Home and International students (inc. EU) are welcome to apply. The studentship is available to Home and International (including EU) students and includes a full stipend at UKRI rates (for 2022/23 full-time study this is £17,668 per year) and full tuition fees. Studentships are also available for applicants who wish to study on a part-time basis over 5 years (0.6 FTE, stipend £10,600 per year and full tuition fees) in combination with work or personal responsibilities).  

Please also see further advice below of additional costs that may apply to international applicants.

 Eligibility Requirements:

  • Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
  • Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
  • Applicants cannot apply for this funding if they are already a PhD holder or if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

Please note: to be classed as a Home student, candidates must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a UK National (meeting residency requirements), or
  • have settled status, or
  • have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or
  • have indefinite leave to remain or enter.

If a candidate does not meet the criteria above, they would be classed as an International student.  Applicants will need to be in the UK and fully enrolled before stipend payments can commence, and be aware of the following additional costs that may be incurred, as these are not covered by the studentship.

  • Immigration Health Surcharge https://www.gov.uk/healthcare-immigration-application
  • If you need to apply for a Student Visa to enter the UK, please refer to the information on https://www.gov.uk/student-visa. It is important that you read this information very carefully as it is your responsibility to ensure that you hold the correct funds required for your visa application otherwise your visa may be refused.
  • Check what COVID-19 tests you need to take and the quarantine rules for travel to England https://www.gov.uk/guidance/travel-to-england-from-another-country-during-coronavirus-covid-19
  • Costs associated with English Language requirements which may be required for students not having completed a first degree in English, will not be borne by the university. Please see individual adverts for further details of the English Language requirements for the university you are applying to.

How to Apply

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see


For applications to be considered for interview, please include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words and the advert reference (e.g. RDF23/…).

Deadline for applications: 27 January 2023

Start date of course: 1 October 2023 tbc


Beadle, R. (2017) “Virtue and the Case for Meaningful Work” In Sison, A., Fontrondona, J and G. Beabout. (Eds.) Handbook of Virtue Ethics in Business, New York: Springer. 835-843.
Beadle, R. (2019). “Work, Meaning and Virtue” In Yeoman, R., Bailey, K., Madden, A and Thompson, M. (Eds.) Oxford Handbook of Meaningful Work. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 73-87.
Vu, M. C. (2020). How the contextual constraints and tensions of a transitional context influence individuals’ negotiations of meaningful work–the case of Vietnam. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 1-27.
Vu, M. C., & Burton, N. (2021). The Influence of Spiritual Traditions on the Interplay of Subjective and Normative Interpretations of Meaningful Work. Journal of Business Ethics, 1-24.
Vu, M. C., & Burton, N. (2021). Bring Your Non-self to Work? The Interaction Between Self-decentralization and Moral Reasoning. Journal of Business Ethics, 1-23.

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