Marsden Fund grant to help unearth the ‘male advantage’

19 Oct, 2011
Marsden Fund grant to help unearth the ‘male advantage’

The disadvantage of women in the work place has long been of interest to researchers.  However with support from this year’s Marsden Fund, Dr Irene Ryan of AUT Business School now hopes to turn the lens towards the male advantage.

Dr Ryan was among the 8.2% of researchers in New Zealand yesterday awarded Marsden Fund grants by The Royal Society of New Zealand.

Focusing on the role sport plays in male-dominated leadership cultures, Dr Ryan’s research will seek to determine how the perceived ability to talk sports, play sport and utilise sport strategies is advantageous for certain men, and how these three activities align with leadership masculinities.

The role of sport in work settings

In Something else is happening! The Invisibility of Female Leadership, Dr Ryan will seek to make sense of the part sport plays in work-settings, and to identify whether anyone is advantaged or disadvantaged.

“In this country sport is pervasive and yet its interrelatedness to managerial skills, organisational performance and leadership cultures is hidden, with these arenas seeming gender neutral and sites of meritocracy,” says Dr Ryan.

“The proposed study turns the lens towards male advantage – in contrast to female disadvantage, and will add a further dimension to documenting and theorising the invisible factors that impede equal opportunity outcomes - despite four decades of effort.

“Such invisible factors continue to result in inequalities in leadership and governance roles in New Zealand business in both the public and private sectors,” she says.

On being awarded a Marsden Fund, Dr Ryan say she is ‘thrilled' by the opportunity to undertake a project in an area she feels so passionate about, and one that will contribute insights to the local context, while also having theoretical and methodological significance internationally.

Acting Dean of the AUT Business School, Roger Stokell says the Marsden Fund is highly competitive, with applicants required to go through a very rigorous application process.

“With just 88 research projects being awarded funding this year out of a total of 1078 proposals, this is certainly a significant achievement for Dr Ryan and for the AUT Business School,” says Stokell.

Teaching computers to think for themselves

Also receiving a Marsden Fund grant this year was Dr Jiamou Liu, lecturer in Computing/Information Sciences at AUT University. Dr Liu will use the fund to further his research into mathematical theories behind computer science, in particular, how a computer system allocates resources for all the services it provides, and how it prioritises the conflicting requests it deals with from its multiple tasks.

By applying John Nash’s game theory to the problem, Liu believes that we may be able to teach a computer to (in essence) think for itself. The result would be more efficient computers with faster response times.

Professor Ajit Narayanan, Head of School Computing and Mathematics Sciences, says the findings of this research could have huge implications for industry.

“Understanding whether computers have the ability to adjust their own strategies without any outside help, is very exciting. It puts AUT University at the forefront of research in the area of game theory which has wide uses within business, with the likes of economics and financial modelling.”