UNSW Canberra’s Sophie Yates awarded the Rosemary O’Leary Prize

| 18 Apr 2019

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UNSW Canberra Postdoctoral researcher Sophie Yates has been recognised for her work in family violence research, being named the inaugural winner of the Rosemary O’Leary Prize for outstanding scholarship on women in public administration.

Dr Yates won the award for her article Power, Process, Plumbing: Big G and Small g Gender in Victoria's Family Violence Policy Subsystem published last year in the Australian Journal of Public Administration.

Receiving the award last night at the International Research Society for Public Management conference dinner in Wellington, New Zealand, Dr Yates said that it was an honour to be the first recipient of this prize.

Dr Sophie Yates (centre) pictured with IRSPM President Professor Jenny Lewis (left) and Professor Rosemary O'Leary (right).


“This article is part of a collaborative special issue on gender, power and evidence based policy aimed at implementing feminist principles in the editorial process as well as the research, so it is wonderful to have that work acknowledged.”

Dr Yates asked people who work in fields related to family violence what they mean when they say ‘gender’, and found a wide variety of definitions.

“Gender is a complicated concept. It is one word with many meanings that can change depending on who you are talking to,” Dr Yates said. 

This is concerning because statements like “family violence is a gendered issue” are common (and commonly debated) in the family violence field. If practitioners don’t have a consistent understanding of foundational concepts like gender, this has implications for how well they can communicate and work together.

“In my paper I introduce the terminology of ‘big G’ and ‘small g’ gender. ’Big G’ gender tends to be categorical and fixed and relates mainly to the state of being male or female and the differences between them, while a ‘small g’ model sees gender primarily as a series of processes – performed by people, and enacted through culture and institutions.

“I argue that a process-based approach to gender is more useful for understanding and responding to family violence than a narrow, category-based view. In order to apply a gendered approach to the many different forms of family violence, policymakers and other policy actors need a broader and more consistent understanding of gender and how it distributes power and shapes the world that men, women and children live in.”

The Rosemary O’Leary Prize is awarded to a person of any gender identity who submitted the best article on the topic of women in public administration published in the previous year. It is judged on the “significance of the contribution to scholarship on women in public administration; excellence in writing and communication; and scholarly innovation and rigor”.

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