Professor Deborah Foster
Professor of Employment Relations and Diversity
With a disciplinary background in sociology and an interest in trade unions and employment relations, Debbie's research has increasingly focused on equality and diversity in employment and within organisational settings. Research projects undertaken have included an examination of gender, management and employment in Europe, China and Taiwan, though more recently, Debbie's research has focused primarily on the experiences of disabled people in the labour market - of the ableist character of workplaces, professions and organisational practices and how forms of representation might address these. She is particularly interested in the intersectional interests of disabled, older and female employees and the ways in which taken-for-granted norms around what is an 'ideal' employee have shaped organisational and career processes, practices and culture, to exclude or disadvantage some groups in the labour market.
Supportive of a social model of disability, Debbie is also interested in methodologies and research ethics that facilitate co-produced and emancipatory research. As such, she has worked with Disabled People's Organisations (DPOs), as well as trade unions nationally, regionally and internationally and with a range of NGOs. Debbie has recently (2018) completed an EU funded project with colleagues and social partners in Estonia, Hungary and Poland aimed at co-producing industrial relations strategies to improve the employment of disabled and older workers. With colleagues at Cardiff University she is involved in an ESRC funded impact initiative on closing the disability employment gap and has secured DRILL lottery funding for a project (2017-19) that examines the career experiences of disabled people working within the legal profession.
Debbie is Chair of the CARBS Research Ethics Committee and has been an editor and served on the Editorial and Associate Editorial boards of the BSA international journal Work, Employment and Society. A member of the Welsh National Advisory Group of DRILL (Disability Research on Independent Living and Learning), Debbie has also acted as a mentor for Disability Rights UK and is a member of the Equality and Diversity Forum (EDF) Research Network Advisory Group.
See publications listed in this profile in the journals Sociology, Work, Employment and Society, British Journal of Industrial Relations, Economic and Industrial Democracy, Industrial Relations Journal, International Journal of Human Resource Management, Journal of Industrial Relations and TRANSFER and numerous books. Grant funding has been secured from the European Union, the Economic and Social Research Council and DRILL.
Prospective areas of PhD supervision include: all aspects of disability and employment; diversity in organisations; intersectionality and employment (particularly gender, disability and age); the representation and advocacy of diverse groups in trade unions and within organisations.
Education & Qualifications
- PhD, Sociology,University of Bath
- BA (Hons) Sociology, University of Lancaster
- Postgraduate Certificate of Teaching in Higher Education, Oxford Polytechnic
- 2017: Editorial Board member of the 'Journal of Chinese HRM'
- 2017: Editorial Board member of the journal 'Social Inclusion'
- 2013-16 Elected to Associate Editorial Board of Work, Employment & Society
- 1997-2000 Editor of 'Notes and Issues' for the journal 'Work, Employment & Society'
- Foster, D and Scott, P (eds.) (2003) Trade Unions in Europe: Meeting the Challenge.
- Braddon, D and Foster, D. (eds.) (1996) Privatisation: Social Science Themes and Perspectives.
- Member of the British Sociological Association since 1985
- Member of the British Universities Industrial Relations Association (BUIRA)
Committees and reviewing
Cardiff Business School representative to University Senate
Chair of the School Research Ethics Committee (SREC)
SREC Representative to Research Committee
Member of the Wales National Advisory Board for DRILL (Disability Research on Independent Living and Learning).
Member of the Equality and Diversity Forum (EDF) Research Network Advisory Group
- Module co-ordinator for the MBA module BST542 Management of Change.
I annually supervise students on the MSc HRM and the MBA. I am also an experienced PhD supervisor and welcome enquiries from prospective postgraduate students who are interested in conducting postgraduate research in the following areas:
- Equality & diversity in the workplace (particularly gender, disability and work-family conflict)
- Public services, trade unionism and industrial relations
- Work and employment in Europe & Asia
- Managing Change in Organisations
- Experiences of disability and disability discrimination in relation to employment, professional work, organisations and trade union representation.
- Gender and employment and the intersections of gender with disability and age.
- Trade union representation of diverse groups in the workplace
- Policies of privatisation and marketisation and their impact on employment relations
May 2017- May 2019: £88,077 from DRILL (Disability Research on Independent Living and Learning) National Lottery Funded grants, for a project entitled 'Legally Disabled? Career experiences and futures of disabled people in the legal profession in England and Wales.
April 2016 - March 2018: 206,277 Euros from the European Union [VP/2015/004] for a grant entitled ‘Improving expertise in the field of industrial relations for Older and Disabled Workers’. D. Foster (co-applicant), principal applicant PRAXIS, Estonia. This action research is working with social partners in Estonia, Hungary and Poland, to develop industrial relations strategies to integrate workplace accommodations for older and disabled workers into employer and trade union agendas.
March-July 2016: An award of £4,462 from the CARBS Public Value Engagement Project fund to establish a new research cluster: Cardiff University Research on Employment & Disability (CRED). D. Foster (P.A), co-applicants Ralph Fevre (SOCSI) and Natasha Hirst.
October 2016 – September 2017: An award of £24,233 from the ESRC/IAA Accelerator fund for an impact project entitled, Disabled Employment Evidence-based Partnerships (DEEPEN). R. Fevre (P.A), D. Foster, M. Jones and V. Wass (Co-applicants). Main partners: Macmillan Cancer Support, Disability Rights UK, Disability Wales. Additional partners: Irwin Mitchell, Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, College of Occupational Therapists, TUC.
July 2016 – December 2017: An award of £3,344 from CARBS seed-corn budget to undertake a scoping study.
Oct. 2014-Oct. 2015: An award of £15,000 for a Cardiff University Research Fellowship. £3,000 was also awarded for travel.
2004-2006 – ESRC small grant - Award Reference Number: RES-000-22-0722 for a project entitled "Gender, Disability and Representation in the workplace" (Dr. D. Foster – principal applicant). Examined employee experiences of negotiating workplace adjustments and the representation they received during this process.
1995-1996 - £4,000 awarded by the Severnside District Benefits Agency, Bristol to P. Hoggett and D. Foster for research entitled: “An investigation of ‘quality initiatives’ in the re-structured Social Security Benefits Agency”.
1997-2000 - £120,000 awarded from Non-Formula Funding, UWE to D. Foster (P.I) and G. Taylor (co-applicant) for research entitled: “A comparative Study of the Implications of the European Monetary Union on Public Services and Public Service Trade Unionism”.
PhD supervision research interests
Enquiries regarding PhD supervision are particularly welcome from students wishing to pursue further research into all aspects of diversity and employment, but in particular from students wishing to develop proposals relating to disability and health, gender, ageing and employment. With a research interest in the following: trade union representation, industrial relations, marketization, professional work and the voluntary sector, it would also be possible to combine proposals about diversity and employment with these contexts. I have experience of data collection in the following countries: the UK, Ireland, Germany, Denmark, Estonia, Hungary, Poland, China, Taiwan.