School of English
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Reducing inequalities through language:


Influencing policies and changing communication practices to improve the lives of individuals and communities in the UK, Uganda and Kenya

The issue

Everyday discrimination is embedded in sociolinguistic communicative practices across public domains and spaces including the law, politics, education, workplaces and on the street.

Research in the School of English has addressed these inequalities based on gender, ethnicity and educational attainment levels in the UK and internationally in Uganda and Kenya. 

The research 

Research by Mullany, Conklin and Parente has helped to address inequality and bring about positive social change in the UK, Uganda and Kenya by improving communicative practices in politics, the law, workplaces, and education. Their work has transformed policy and practice and improved the lives of individuals and communities.

The impact

This work has transformed for the better the everyday lives of those at risk and discriminated against in the UK and in Uganda and Kenya.

Research undertaken in the School of English has had particular impact in four key areas:

  1. Politics: informed policy changes and public debate to improve the law and combat misogyny/gender hate crime in the UK;
  2. Education: increased the capacity of NGOs and charities to address gender inequality and improve the life chances of women and girls in Uganda and Kenya, as well as engaging with education about socio-cultural issues around gender in the UK.
  3. Workplaces: improved workplaces by enhancing professional communication around the world;
  4. Law: protected disadvantaged individuals and enhanced company-client relations by improving the readability of insurance documents in the UK.

Spotlight On:
Research on inequalities in language and the law

University of Nottingham researchers analyzed an insurance policy document for Browne and Jacobson and demonstrated that because of the language in it, approximately 87% of the UK population would struggle to read it. The analysis pinpointed areas of difficulty for readers.

After working with our team, Browne and Jacobson’s drafting team rewrote the policy. The percentage of the UK adult population that could meaningfully understand the policy increased by 75.6%, from 13.4% to 89%.

That means that an extra 40.4 million people in the UK could read and understand the policy due to the improvements brought about by this research. Such a result provides protection for disadvantaged groups and individuals in the UK insurance market.

Read more about this project

Key outputs

Selected publications emerging from this research:

  • Mullany, L., (2007). Gendered Discourse in the Professional Workplace. Palgrave.
  • Mullany, L. and Mills, S., (2011). Language, Gender and Feminism: Theory, Methodology and Practice. Routledge. 
  • Lumala, M. P. and Mullany, L., (2020). Language, Gender and Leadership: Narratives of East African Professionals. In: L. Mullany, ed. Professional Communication: Consultancy, Advocacy, Activism. Palgrave. pp. 65–88.
  • Mullany, L. et al., eds. (2019). The Voices of Women in Africa. University of Nottingham.
  • Mullany, L. and Trickett, L., (2020). The Language of Misogyny Hate Crime: Policy, Politics and Policing. In: L. Mullany, ed. Professional Communication: Consultancy, Advocacy, Activism. Palgrave. pp. 249–272.
  • Mullany, L. and Trickett, L. (2018). Misogyny Hate Crime: A Research Evaluation. Nottingham Women’s Centre. (66-page research report produced for the Police and Crime Commissioner).
  • Mullany, L. and Yoong, M. (2016). Language, Gender and Leadership Identities in Political Life. In: S. Preece, ed. The Routledge Handbook of Language and Identity. Routledge. pp. 428–442.
  • Conklin, K., Hyde, R. and Parente, F., (2019). Assessing plain and intelligible language in the Consumer Rights Act: a role for reading scores?. Legal Studies. 39(3), 378–97.

Research period

2014 - 2020

Key researchers

Louise Mullany (Professor of Sociolinguistics) Kathy Conklin (Professor of Psycholinguistics)

Fabio Parente (Assistant Professor in Psycholinguistics)

Key grants

  • European Regional Development Fund, ‘Linguistic Profiling for Professionals’ (2016-2019), project value £482,000, ERDF income £241,000, Mullany PI.
  • AHRC, Global Challenges Research Fund, ‘Language, Gender and Leadership Network’, (2017-2019), £48,702, Mullany PI, with M. Lumala (Co-I, Moi University, Kenya).
  • Nottinghamshire Police and Crime Commissioner Award, Nottingham Women’s Centre Funding, ‘Evaluating misogyny hate crime’ (2017-2018), £2,156, Mullany and L. Trickett (Nottingham Law School, NTU) joint PIs.

Related projects

Language, Gender and Leadership NetworkLanguage, gender and professional communicationMisogyny: the language of hate crime




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