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PhD Graduate surfaces "lost" female leaders

Date Published: May 25, 2020


Kristin Williams continued to lead Junior Achievement while crafting her dissertation, Conversing in Time with Overlooked, Historical Female Proto-Management Theorists: A Ficto-feminist Polemic. It was delivered virtually on April 20, 2020. Dr. Albert Mills called the thesis “ground-breaking”.

He pointed out that during her PhD studies, Kristin published several journal articles and book chapters; presented her work at local, national and international conferences; taught; mentored other PhD students; served as Editorial Assistant of a major scholarly journal (Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management), and won awards that include Best Paper Award for 2018 in the Journal of Management History. Past Dean Patricia Bradshaw also cited Kristin's work, calling her an "outstanding leader."

Kristin took the time to respond to some questions for Sobey School:

How do I describe myself?

I straddle many roles and have done so throughout my PhD experience. I am a devoted mother of two boys and the spouse of an incredibly supportive and encouraging man who has tolerated me attending 5 universities (York, Guelph, Dalhousie, Royal Roads, and now Saint Mary’s).  I am also a non-profit leader and sector advocate. I am an enthusiastic youth mentor and coach. My PhD experience has also developed me as a scholar and academic and I am actively publishing and teaching. So, I really can’t be pinned down to one title or one thing: Mom, partner, CEO, advocate, mentor, scholar, teacher!

What drew me to the Sobey PhD?

I was drawn to the PhD program because it both encourages and promotes multiple philosophical views of the sources of knowledge, the means of discovery and the modes of sharing. I also appreciated the small, international cohorts, which allowed us as students to talk and thoroughly debate scholarship from a variety of vantage points and with an appreciation for differing worldviews. I have had mentors who have been encouraging and have allowed me to pursue my own research agenda and interests. I have been impressed with how well our PhD program is appreciated in an international environment. This has opened doors for me to attend conferences, publish papers and book chapters, and even earn top scholarly awards.

Outline the topic of your dissertation?

My dissertation explored overlooked, historical female leaders. These leaders, their theories and modes of practice have been ignored by management and organizational studies and management history. Through my dissertation, I revealed the “lost” stories of four women: Frances Perkins, Hallie Flanagan, Madeleine Parent and Viola Desmond as proto-management theorists, policy makers, entrepreneurs, community leaders and labour advocates. I discussed what we missed by excluding them and what lessons they might have brought to the development of our field, had it not been so exclusionary. As a female leader and feminist, I was also interested in surfacing female historical figures as mentors, because we seem to have a disproportional number of male ones.

What has been the best memory during my PhD journey?

My committee, the faculty, my peers and the PhD alumni are highlights of my experience at SMU/Sobey. I have met individuals who will forever be my friends and colleagues. For those of us involved in critical scholarship, we are part of a strong tradition that began at SMU and has evolved into an internationally celebrated group of scholars called “the Halifax School”. I am proud to be an active contributing member of critical management scholarship.

Future aspirations?

I suspect that I will always have one foot in academia and one in the non-profit sector. I love research, teaching and supporting organizations that serve as our social safety net. I believe in preparing our youth for the future of work and I hope to continue to make a strong contribution to both theory and practice.  

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