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School of Business and Management

Dr Louise Ashley


Associate Professor and IHSS Fellow



Dr Louise Ashley specialises in researching the implementation and development of diversity and inclusion programmes in large, multinational professional service firms, with a particular focus on gender, ethnicity and socio-economic background.  Louise has published articles in leading academic journals including Human Relations and Work, and Employment and Society.

She has led teams appointed by the government's Social Mobility Commission (SMCPC) to understand non-educational barriers to the elite professions, including law, accountancy and investment banking. She regularly takes part in speaking engagements to report her findings to a wider practitioner audience, and consults to private sector and third sector organizations. She also has expertise evaluating programmes aimed at improving access to the labour market for people from less privileged socio-economic backgrounds. Dr Ashley is engaged with several third sector organisations in the area of social mobility. She sits on the advisory committee of social mobility charity UpReach. She is also a Fellow of the Bridge Group, a charitable policy association researching and promoting socio-economic diversity and equality in the UK. She is a working group member of the City of London Corporation Taskforce on Socioeconomic Diversity.

Dr Ashley’s research has been covered in national and international mainstream media, including but not limited to: BBC Radio 4, the New York Times, 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.


Research Interests:

Dr Ashley's research focuses on equality, diversity and inclusion in ‘elite’ professions and occupations with competitive entry, with a particular focus on social mobility and socio-economic diversity.

Centre and Group Membership:

  • Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences (IHSS)
  • Centre for Research in Equality and Diversity (IHSS)


Ashley L (forthcoming - 2022). Highly Discriminating: Why the City isn’t Fair and Diversity doesn’t Work. Bristol University Press.

Ashley, L. (2021). Organisational social mobility programmes as mechanisms of power and control. Work, Employment and Society, 0950017021990550.

Ashley, L and Empson, L (2017) Understanding Social Exclusion from Elite Professional Service Firms: Field Level Dynamics and the Professional Project. Work, Employment and Society.

Sommerlad, H. and Ashley, L (2017) ‘The implications for gender of work in professional service firms.’ Chapter in Professions and Professional Service Firms: Private and Public Sector Enterprises in the Global Economy. Eds Saks, M. and Muzio, D. Routledge: London.

Ashley, L and Empson, L (2016) Convenient Fictions and Inconvenient Truths: Dilemmas of Diversity at Three Leading Accountancy Firms. Critical Perspectives on Accounting. 35: 76-87.

Ashley, L. and Empson, L (2016) ‘Explaining Social Exclusion and the War for Talent.’ Chapter in Diversity in Practice. Ed R Nelson, R Dinovitser, S Headworth, D Wilkins. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.

Ashley, L and Sommerlad, H (2015) ‘Diversity and Inclusion in Professional Service Firms’. Chapter in Oxford Handbook of Professional Service Firms. Eds Empson, L., Muzio, D, and Broschak, J., Hinings, B. Oxford University Press: Oxford

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

Ashley, L (2010) Making a difference? The use (and abuse) of diversity management at the UK’s Elite Law Firms. Work, Employment and Society 24(4): 711-727


Research grants

2021-2022: Co-Investigator on major AHRC Research Grant, ‘Civic Theatres: A Place for Towns’ (ref; AH/TO12609/1) £158,579  (Interdisciplinary project with drama departments at RHUL and University of Manchester).

2016: Social Mobility Commission, Socio-Economic Diversity in Life Sciences and Investment Banking (Value £14,232) (Led team with researchers from University of Birmingham and University of Leeds)

2015: Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, Non-Educational Barriers to the Elite Professions (Value £25,900) (Led team with researchers from University of Leeds)


Lu Li - ‘Forging a Feminist Identity amongst Chinese Female Entrepreneurs.’ 2018 – 2022.


Dr Ashley is especially interested in supervising PhD students in the areas of equality, diversity and inclusion in professions and ‘elite’ occupations, and on social class and social mobility.

Public Engagement

Recent and current engagements include: advisory committee member for social mobility charity UpReach; technical panel member for Social Mobility Commission (SMC); academic advisory panel member for Transforming Access and Outcomes in Higher Education (TASO); member of City of London Corporation Social Mobility Taskforce (Working Group); trustee for the JLL Foundation, which is focused on improving social equality in the property industry; member of working group examining social class as a protected characteristic, led by law firm Weil Gotshal; Research Fellow at the Bridge Group, a leading non-profit consultancy promoting social equality in organisations in the UK.

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