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Dr Maria Kakarika at external campus 500x500px

Meet Dr Maria Kakarika, Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour and Leadership at Durham University Business School

Where did it all start?

It all started during my MSc at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), where I took an Organisational Behaviour course based on articles published in top academic journals. I was so inspired to do research at that time that I immediately started applying to PhD programmes.

I landed in Spain, where I did my PhD on leadership and diversity and have been meeting my LSE professor in academic conferences ever since. During my PhD, I spent a year at Arizona State University, and I started my academic career in France where I lived for more than 10 years.

Tell us about your current research / role 

I recently joined Durham University and I have been very happy about my decision. Our Centre for Leadership and Followership is full of great colleagues who share my research interests in women and identity, and I am looking forward to advancing my projects and collaborating with them.

I am also the Director of the Durham DBA, which is a very interesting programme bridging academia and practice.

What are your next steps in your career?

I plan to develop this programme and continue doing research that has an impact on women in the workplace. I think that women looking to succeed in my field should follow their passion and do research on topics that they like and find both important and fun, supporting each other and confidently negotiating their role in universities and academic journals. 


Making a difference in society

Maria joined the Business School as Associate Professor in October 2022. Her work focuses on ‘gendered’ social perceptions and issues affecting women in the workplace. In a series of recent experiments, she found that women who self-sexualised were objectified by others. In turn, other unrelated and non-sexualised women were also objectified in subsequent interactions. Such research shows that the mere exposure to female sexualisation - e.g. viewing sexualised women in the media, urban space, the Internet, or advertisement campaigns; encountering or interacting with self-sexualising women in different life domains - can impact perceptions of other non-sexualised women at work.

In a follow-up study, she is investigating the impact of inferred motives for self-sexualization on social perceptions and on the hiring probability of female job candidates. Taken together, her work helps to uncover important biases that female employees may suffer due to sexualisation. 

Maria is also exploring gender differences in relation to various workplace phenomena. In a recently published paper, she examined how men and women react to workplace gossip and found that women are stricter when it comes to judging the gossiper.

Maria has also published research findings on women’s responses to workplace bullying and leadership development. Her ongoing projects on how women experience happiness at work, evaluate candidates for leadership positions based on their social media public data, and react to gender quotas shed further light on women’s experiences in the workplace and female leadership.