Dr Helen Norman

Dr Helen Norman


I joined Leeds University Business School as a Senior Research Fellow in January 2020. Previously I worked in Sociology at the University of Manchester as a Research Fellow (2017-20) and, prior to that, as a Research Associate (2011-16). I am currently Principal Investigator on a project funded by the ESRC’s Secondary Data Analysis Initiative (SDAI) to explore whether and how fathers’ childcare involvement affects children’s educational attainment at primary school, in partnership with the Fatherhood Institute and Professors Colette Fagan and Mark Elliot at the University of Manchester. During my time at Manchester, I was the Principal Investigator on a project that was also funded by the ESRC SDAI scheme (2016-17), awarded to develop my doctoral research exploring fathers’ childcare involvement using longitudinal data, in partnership with Working Families. I was also the course leader for a core postgraduate taught module on research design (2014-18). My PhD in Social Statistics was funded (with a quantitative stipend) by the ESRC and was awarded by the University of Manchester in 2011.  

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- ). Prior to joining LUBS, I advised the European Commission on gender equality policy as a member of its Expert Network on Employment and Gender Equality (2012-20) and I was also on the Department for Business and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) advisory board for their evaluation of Shared Parental Leave (SPL) (2019-20).

Research interests

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

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, as well as cross-national variations of gender inequalities in work, employment and care practices and policies across Europe.

I have worked on four ESRC-funded projects in the last six years. In 2016-17, I was awared an ESRC SDAI grant as the Principal Investigator to conduct cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses on the UK’s Millennium Cohort Study to explore what influences paternal involvement in childcare and housework as children age from nine months to eleven years old. My second ESRC SDAI grant (2021-2023) explored whether and how fathers’ childcare involvement affects children’s educational attainment as they progress through primary school, using MCS data linked with the National Pupil Database in England. I am now working as a co-Investigator with a large cross-institutional, multidisciplinary team led by Middlesex University Business School on a project that was awarded funding from the ESRC’s ‘Investigate Changes in Working Lives and Power in the Workplace’ call, which explores the Transition to Parenthood in UK SMEs (2022-25).  The fourth major grant was secured from the UKRI (ESRC) Covid-19 Rapid Response funding scheme (2020-22) and was led by Dr Kate Hardy (PI). This explored the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on early years childcare across England and Wales and I was one of three co-Investigators on the project.

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 organisations such as the 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. 

Listen to my video interview by CERIC’s very own 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

I co-supervise Clare Matysova - a part-time doctoral student in CERIC who is exploring changing parenting norms and shared parental leave in the UK. I am also the second supervisor for an external PhD student (Darya Vanchugova) (2017- ) who is based in the Cathie Marsh Institute for Social Research at the University of Manchester. Her project uses the Millennium Cohort Study to explore the effect of paternal involvement in childcare on delinquent behaviour in adolescence. 

Research groups and institutes

  • Centre for Employment Relations, Innovation and Change

Current postgraduate researchers