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Dr Louise Ashley

Lecturer Human Resource Management and Organisational Behaviour


Teaching group: People, Management & Organisation

Location: Medway, Room M3-37

Office hours: 10:00 - 12:00 Mondays and 09:00 - 11:00 Thursdays


Dr Louise Ashley is a Lecturer in Human Resource Management and Organisational Behaviour at the University of Kent. Louise has a first class degree from the University of Cambridge, an MSc (distinction) from University College London, and a doctorate from the University of Oxford. Her doctoral research was funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

She specialises in researching the implementation and development of diversity and inclusion programmes in leading professional service firms. Her research encompasses a number of diversity strands although she has a particular focus on gender, ethnicity and social background.

Louise has published articles in leading academic journals, including Work, Employment and Society, and Human Relations. She is also regularly asked to present to company boards and diversity committees on the implications of her findings.

Her research has been covered in mainstream media including the The Times. Financial Times and The Guardian, in trade press including Legal Week and The Lawyer, and in specialist publications including People Management and Management Today. She has also appeared on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Woman’s Hour’, and contributed to practitioner publications such as Ark Group’s Retaining and Advancing Women in the Legal Profession. She also takes part in speaking engagements such as Cass Business School and Inclusive Employers' recent panel discussion on Diversity in the Boardroom; Vodafone and Thomson Reuter's event, 'Innovation, Diversity and the Legal Profession'; and 'Mixed for Success', a panel discussion for leading international law firm Baker and McKenzie.

Prior to joining Kent, Louise was at the Centre for Professional Service Firms at Cass Business School, where she is currently a Visiting Fellow.

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Also view these in the Kent Academic Repository
Book Sections

    Ashley, Louise and Sommerlad, H. (2015) Diversity and Inclusion in Professional Service Firms. In: Empson, Laura and Muzio, Daniel and Broschak, Joe et al. Oxford Handbook of Professional Service Firms. Oxford handbooks. Oxford University Press, Oxford. ISBN Unknown. (in press)


    Ashley, Louise and Empson, Laura (2013) Differentiation and discrimination: Understanding social class and social exclusion in the UK’s leading law firms. Human Relations, 66 (2). pp. 219-244. ISSN 0018-7267.


    For leading law firms in the City of London, diversity and inclusion has become an important human resources strategy over the past 15 years. A recent focus on social class within the sector has been encouraged by increasing governmental concerns relating to social mobility, which acknowledge that elite professions, particularly the law, have become more socially exclusive over the past 30 years. Based on a detailed qualitative study of six leading law firms conducted between 2006 and 2010, this article asks: why do leading law firms discriminate on the basis of social class? It argues that discrimination is a response to conflicting commercial imperatives: the first to attract talent and the second to reduce risk and enhance image. The article describes these dynamics, emphasizing the role played by the ambiguity of knowledge. It argues that until these conflicting demands are reconciled, organizational and state-sponsored initiatives centred on the ‘business case’ for diversity may achieve only limited success.

    Ashley, Louise (2010) Making a difference? The Use (and Abuse) of Diversity Management at the UK's Elite Law Firms. Work Employment & Society, 24 (4). pp. 711-727. ISSN 0950-0170.


    The UK's elite law firms have recently seen a shift from talking about equality of opportunity alone to the adoption of a diversity discourse as well. This article examines this transition for what it can tell us about the value of diversity strategies as a means for widening access to the corporate legal profession on the basis of social class, focusing on five elite law firms based in the City of London. A number of studies have demonstrated how cultural practices within the legal sector maintain exclusionary mechanisms based on class. There has been less attention to how this is sustained within an amended institutional framework which outwardly 'celebrates' difference. This research suggests that though diversity strategies do little to change organisational cultures, those that recognise both the depth of professional prejudice within the sector and the reality of educational inequality across the UK may prove relatively progressive nonetheless.

Conference Items
Total publications in KAR: 19 [See all in KAR]
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Louise's teaching interests include human resource management, strategic HRM, equality and diversity management, and organisational behaviour.

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Louise’s main academic interests are equality, diversity and inclusion in organisations, with a particular focus on large professional service firms.

Louise has presented at numerous international conferences including the European Group of Organisational Studies; the European Academy of Management; the British Academy of Management; and Gender, Work and Organisation.

She is member of the People, Management and Organisations research group in Kent Business School and the Centre for Employment, Competitiveness and Growth.

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Dr Louise Ashley has a particular interest in diversity and inclusion within professional service firms, in which context she focuses on gender and social class. In this capacity she regularly provides consultancy services to organisations wishing to assess their programmes against best practice.

Louise also takes part in speaking engagements, panel discussions and workshops such as Cass Business School and Inclusive Employers' recent panel discussion on Diversity in the Boardroom; Vodafone and Thomson Reuter's event, 'Innovation, Diversity and the Legal Profession'; and 'Mixed for Success', a panel discussion for leading international law firm Baker and McKenzie.

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Dr Louise Ashley is available to supervise Phd students interested in equality, diversity and inclusion within the workplace, especially where their focus is on gender, ethnicity/race and/or social class, and/or if they have a particular interest in professional service and knowledge intensive firms.

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Last Updated: 08/10/2013