Dr Helen Norman

Dr Helen Norman


I joined Leeds University Business School as a Senior Research Fellow in January 2020 and was promoted to Associate Professor in August 2023. Previously I worked in Sociology at the University of Manchester as a Research Fellow (2017-20) and a Research Associate (2011-16). My PhD in Social Statistics was funded (with a quantitative stipend) by the ESRC and was awarded by the University of Manchester in 2011. In the last six years, I have secured four major ESRC grants – two as the Principal Investigator leading a team of cross-institutional academics and stakeholders. The first was funded by the ESRC’s Secondary Data Analysis Initiative (SDAI) (2016-17) to develop my doctoral research exploring fathers’ childcare involvement using longitudinal data, in partnership with Working Families. The second was also funded by the ESRC SDAI scheme (2021-23) to explore whether and how fathers’ childcare involvement affects children’s educational attainment at primary school, in partnership with the Fatherhood Institute. In the last five years, this research has attracted significant national and international media attention in, for example, the Guardian, BBC, ITV, MailOnline, Daily Mirror, the New York Post, Sky Italy, NBC and more.

I am on the editorial board for Work, Employment and Society (2023- ) and I am an Associate Editor for Families, Relationships and Societies (2021- ). I am also on the Working Families academic advisory board (2021- ). I have been an academic advisor for various national and international government bodies and third sector organisations. For example, I was one of two UK experts that advised the European Commission’s Expert Network on Employment and Gender Equality (2012-2020), and I was appointed to the Department for Business and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) advisory board (2019- ) to provide steer on their Shared Parental Leave evaluation – the remit for which moved over to the Department for Trade and Industry in 2023.


  • Co-Director of Postgraduate Research Studies (WERD)

Research interests

My research interests focus on fathers and fatherhood, the gendered division of labour and gender inequalities in work, employment and family life, and early years education and care.

Much of my work uses quantitative analysis to explore how policy regimes, gender role attitudes, socio-demographics, employment hours and other employment related factors affect unpaid work (childcare and housework), work-family reconciliation and the working-time of men and women. I am also interested in mothers' and their work-care trajectories after having children, flexible working, as well as cross-national variations of gender inequalities in work, employment and care practices and policies across Europe. 

The four ESRC-funded projects I have secured funding for are:

(i) Which fathers are involved in looking after their children?’ (Principal Investigator) – ESRC Secondary Data Analysis Initiative (ES/N011759/1), 2016-2018. This involved conducting cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses on the UK’s Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) to explore what influences paternal involvement in childcare and housework as children age from nine months to eleven years old. Co-Investigators: Profs. Colette Fagan and Mark Elliot, University of Manchester. Project partner: Working Families.

(ii) ‘Does father involvement increase children's educational attainment at primary school?’ (Principal Investigator) – ESRC Secondary Data Analysis Initiative (ES/V004328/1), 2021-2023. This explored whether and how fathers’ childcare involvement affects children’s educational attainment as they progress through primary school, using MCS data linked with the Early Years Foundation Stage profile and the National Pupil Database in England. Co-Investigators: Dr Jeremy Davies – The Fatherhood Institute and Profs. Colette Fagan and Mark Elliot, University of Manchester).

(iii) ‘Transition to Parenthood in Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises’ (Co-Investigator) – ESRC ‘Investigate Changes in Working Lives and Power in the Workplace’ call (ES/W01002X/1), 2022-25. (PI: Dr Bianca Stumbitz, Middlesex University Business School; Other Co-Is: Simon Kelleher – Working Families, Dr Jeremy Davies – the Fatherhood Institute, Dr Emma Banister – the University of Manchester, Prof. Tim Freeman and Drs. Clarice Santos, Erika Rascon Ramirez, Bastien Chabe-Ferret – all Middlesex University Business School). 

(iv) The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on early years childcare across England and Wales (Co-Investigator) – ESRC Rapid Response to Covid-19 (ES/V013203/1), 2020-22. (PI Professor Kate Hardy; other Co-Is: Prof. Jenny Tomlinson, Dr Xanthe Whittaker, Dr Katie Cruz – University of Bristol)

Prior to these projects, I collaborated on several funded international research projects for the European Commission, the United Nation’s International Labour Office, the Korea Labour Institute and the European Trade Union Institute. In addition to the research areas outlined above, my publications address the effect of paternal involvement on parental relationships, men and gender equality in family roles and social care jobs; the barriers to quality part-time employment; flexible working; working time; and reconciliation policies to support childcare and eldercare in the UK and across Europe. I have also written blogs and briefing papers on these issues for the LUBS Research and Innovation blog series, Fatherhood Institute, Working FamiliesParentkind, Policy@Manchester, Fathers Network Scotland and Workingdads.co.uk, and the findings from my first ESRC Fatherhood project were written up as an Impact Case study for the UK Data Service. My co-authored submission to the Women and Equalities Committee 2017 'Fathers and the Workplace' inquiry, which set out how policy can better support fathers to be more involved in their children's care, was published and cited in the Women and Equalities Committee first report recommendations to Government, and our research findings on early years childcare were cited in a 2022 House of Commons Debate on the spring budget.

Listen to my video interview by Cheryl Hurst where I discuss the findings of my recent paper: Norman, H. (2020) Does Paternal Involvement in Childcare Influence Mothers’ Employment Trajectories during the Early Stages of Parenthood in the UK? Sociology, Vol 54(2): 329-345


  • PhD Social Statistics, University of Manchester
  • MSc Sociological Research Methods, University of Manchester
  • BA (hons) Sociology, Leeds Metropolitan University

Professional memberships

  • British Sociological Association
  • European Sociological Association
  • Work and Family Researchers Network
  • Work and Equalities Institute (Honorary Research Fellow), University of Manchester
  • Social Policy Association

Student education

PhD supervision

I currently co-supervise three doctoral students:

(i) Clare Matysova (part-time) (2018- submission in 2024): “Exploring the impact of Shared Parental Leave on parents' decision-making dynamics in the UK”;

(ii) Riya Chaudary (2023– ) “Understanding the relationship between the Community Health Providers’ sociocultural and political context and how does it impact their paid work: A study of ASHA workers in rural India”;

(iii) Yuqi Ji (2023– ) “East Asian Women In the UK Workplace: A Study of the Effectiveness of Equality and Diversity Management”.

I have supervised one doctoral student (external to LUBS) – Darya Vanchugova (2017-23) – to completion (with no corrections). Darya was based in the Cathie Marsh Institute for Social Research at the University of Manchester and her project used Millennium Cohort Study data to explore the effect of paternal involvement in childcare on delinquent behaviour in adolescence. 

UG and MA teaching 

I have over ten years’ teaching experience of research design and methods at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, including module leadership at the postgraduate level (in my previous role at the University of Manchester). At Leeds, I have delivered research methods lectures at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

Research groups and institutes

  • Centre for Employment Relations, Innovation and Change

Current postgraduate researchers