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Rachel Wibberly UG award ;

Geography's 'Best Undergraduate Dissertation' award winner reflects on her journey

Rachel Wibberley, 2020 BA Geography graduate, was awarded 'Best Undergraduate Dissertation' last academic year for her outstanding research on gender pay gap inequalities in London’s financial services sector. She's written a blog reflecting on her time at King's, why she chose her dissertation topic and what she is up to now.

I decided to study a BA in Geography at King’s in order to gain the analytical and technical skills needed to understand real-world development issues. I knew that I was keen to pursue an international policy route within my degree and the breadth of the course at King’s meant that I could use complex data sets to better understand the interactions between humans and their environments, whilst gaining practical experience in policy writing to facilitate positive change.

Alongside my degree, I took an interest in international gender and development issues and was even given the opportunity to represent young women in the UK at the UN Commission on the Status of Women and the UN Human Rights Council. My dissertation, or Independent Geographical Study (IGS) as it’s called in the Department, presented the perfect opportunity to develop this interest by exploring the knowledge gaps within current literature on gender inequalities and adding value where I felt it was needed the most. I decided to focus my IGS on an issue that will continue to impact every woman in the world until sufficient progress is made – the gender pay gap.

Stagnant gender gap progress suggested that monitoring had not gone far enough in generating substantive progress towards gender equality – a fundamental human right. My IGS attempted to draw upon qualitative evidence from female employees in London’s financial services sector, alongside corporate narratives to explore the impacts of surveillance on everyday attitudes and behaviours. The study revealed that the narrow parameters of traditional monitoring theory and practice are limiting the progression of gender equality and it supported policy recommendations to drive cultural change.

Despite the coronavirus circumstances during my final term, I really enjoyed writing my IGS. Settling on an idea was the hardest part. I think the key is to not get bogged down with finding a ground-breaking gap in the literature but to add your analysis to an area you are genuinely interested in. This way the process becomes much more enjoyable.

Rachel Wibberley Dissertation close

Rachel with her award-winning dissertation

I conducted the bulk of my literature review research between February 2019 and December 2019. I reached out to potential participants on LinkedIn and conducted my interviews in the first term of my final year. I used the Christmas period to write my literature review and then used the final term to conduct my analysis and write the remainder of my dissertation. I spent several weeks editing my IGS before the final deadline, creating countless drafts in order to get it within the 10,000-word limit and ensure it read well. I submitted it and I hoped for the best.

When I received my mark I cried happy tears! I refreshed the result several times just to be sure that it wasn’t a mistake in the online system. I then read the examiners feedback and was blown away by the positive comments. I felt relieved that the year of hard work that went into my IGS had completely paid off and ecstatic that I had created a valuable piece of research.

More recently, I found out that I won the award for the best overall undergraduate dissertation. Again, I was in complete disbelief. Throughout university I often doubted myself before essay submissions and I think that receiving this award has instilled confidence in my own ability to produce quality research. This confidence has helped me within my current role as a policy executive, where I am working in a policy institute to produce a report on international gendered health inequalities.

I owe a lot to my wonderful IGS supervisor, Professor Cathy McIlwaine, who provided invaluable advice, expertise and support throughout the writing of my IGS and has since encouraged me to apply for postgraduate study. I hope to study for a Masters in the next couple of years. Following that, I would love to work in international development within an international organisation.

Read Rachel's Dissertation

‘No reporting about us, without us’: Exploring the Impacts of UK Surveillance Practices on Gender Inequality in London’s Financial Services Sector.

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Cathy McIlwaine

Cathy McIlwaine

Professor of Development Geography

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