Dr Michele Paule

Reader in Communication, Media and Culture

School of Education, Humanities and Languages

Michele Paule


Michele researches ways that ideas about gender and youth circulate in popular and institutional settings such as media texts and schools, and how these ideas shape young people’s views of themselves, their world and their imagined futures. She focuses on issues relating to girlhood and power, and is particularly interested in the ways in which such ideas are formed in the interstices between academic study and the public imaginary. She has been a pioneer in the combining of tradional research methods with digital methods that tap into young peoples' communicative pratices.

Before completing her doctorate Michele had a successful career in the Secondary education sector. She has led national teacher development programmes with regard to widening participation, and prior to that worked in a range of secondary schools. She was also a Lettrice at the University of Bari in Italy.

She undertakes consultancy work with NGOs, governments, and schools, with a focus on gender, equalities, and youth/media cultures. She has a strong commitent to widening participation in HE, and to the teaching/research nexus. She has held both ASKE and CETL teaching fellowships.

Areas of expertise

Michele provides consultancy and media commentary on matters relating to:

  • Girlhood and power
  • Gender and education
  • Gender and media
  • Youth and digital engagement
  • Participant Action Research

Teaching and supervision

Modules taught

At undergraduate level, Michele leads the Advanced Digital Media and Youth Identities and Audiences, Users and Producers modulesand the Honours module Citizen Journalism and Civic Engagment. She also contribues to the Understanding Culture, Research Methods, Special Topics in CMC, and Gender, Culture and Sexuality modules.

At postgraduate level, Michele teaches on the MA Publishing and in Education, and on the EdD programme.

Michele has held two teaching fellowships at Oxford Brookes and has been nominated four times for the SU teaching awards. As well as modules in the undergraduate Communication, Media and Culture programme, she teaches discursive archaeologies and qualitative digital media methodologies in a range of postgraduate contexts.


Michele offers PhD and M.Res supervision in areas relating to youth and media engagement; gender and girlhood; audiences and identities; media and institutional discourses, narratives and taxonomies.

She is currently supervising Doctoral students researching in the following areas: Discourses of 'the book' in digital and traditional publishing contexts; Pedagogies of film in theory and in practice; Cultural values and communities of understanding in girls' schools reading groups; Professional communities and identities on Twitter.


Michele's research interests lie in gendered aspects of power relationships, in discourses and experiences of girlhood, and in the potential of participation in research to address inequalities. She is currently leading a study investigating girls' imaginings of leadership, exploring ways in which they draw on local figures and transnational celebrities as well as their own experiences. Data is gathered via focus group workshops, surveys and closed social media groups. A summary of key findings from the pilot can be found here

In 2014-15 she led an international project developing models of participant action research to explore and address gendered barriers to leadership in youth in Scotland and The Netherlands.

Her doctoral thesis employed Foucault’s (1969) Archaeological model to investigate the circulation of discourses of gender, success and 'ability' with regard to girls. This study is interdisciplinary in its exploration of the ways in which discourses are reproduced in educational and popular culture settings; it developed an innovative model for data collection in schools, on television and on-line. It has purpose-built research website, www.smartgirls.tv.

Michele was co-organiser of 'The Neoliberal Life Cycle of Success: Alternative Perspectives' seminar series in 2015-16, and of the  ‘Communities, Culture, Diversity and Cohesion’ series of public events on academica and ethics in public life. (with Prof. Beverley Clack), with a focus on feminist methodologies, research relationships and community benefits. While working within Education, she developed a range of Action Research projects at national and local levels and supported teacher-researchers on the BPRS scheme.

Research group membership

  • MeCCSA Women's Media Studies Network (Vice-Chair) 
  • GEA: Gender and Education Association
  • Feminist and Women's Studies Association
  • Centre for Diversity Policy Practice and Research (Oxford Brookes)

Research grants and awards

  • 2017-18: Gender and Education Association: Support for costs for Girls, Leadership, and Women in the Public Eye' project (£1000)
  • 2016-17: Oxford Centre for Methodism and Church History. Funding to develop paper on girls' ideas about gender and religious leadership  (£2,800)
  • 2014-2016: WAGGGS (Europe) funding for participant action research project addressing gendered barriers to leadership in youth in the UK and Netherlands (£9,000)

Research projects

  • 2017-18: PI for project researching girls’ engagements with popular leadership discourses and representations of women leaders. This project explores an issue of pressing national and international significance identified by the European Commission (2010) and the World Economic Foundation (2016)—that of the under-representation of women in decision-making roles. It aims to understand what girls apprehend female leadership to mean in their local contexts, and also in global contexts of transnational celebrity and popular discourse. This project is supported by funding from the GEA and the OCMS.
  • 2014-2015: Led participant action research (PAR) project with WAGGGS Europe looking at gendered barriers to leadership in youth in different European contexts. This involved working with volunteer leaders in Scotland and The Netherlands in both single-sex and mixed settings to identify and address challenges in their own settings through PAR approaches.
  • 2008-2012: smartgirls.tv. This investigation of 'successful girl' discourses in educuatonal and media settings is a muliti-site, mixed method project that brings together the voices of girls interviewed in their schools, with participants in a dedicated website forum (www.smartgirls.tv), and stories for and about girls in film and television. It is published as Girhood, Schools and Media: Popular Discourses of the Achieving Girl (Routledge 2015)

Research impact

  • November 2018: Attended Women & Equalities Select Committee: Women in Politics, House of Commons, London
  • November 2018: Participant in #AskHerToStand Day; House of Commons, London
  • TORCH (The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities) Oxford Suffrage Centenary committee member
  • June 2017: Who Runs the World? Girls, Leadership and Celebrity Seminar organiser and presenter; Senate House, London
  • November 2016: Panellist for open debate 'Gender Diversity in Politics: Are We There Yet?' chaired by Baroness Mary Goudie and dedicated to the late MP Jo Cox. CDPRP., Oxford Brookes University
  • September 2016: Participant in round-table discussions on HE at the national; Labour Party Conference: TEF vs REF and  Student Mental Health
  • 2013-2015: Led international research consultancy project on gendered barriers to leadership in youth for the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. This involved the design, training, delivery and evaluation of a cross-Europe participant action research project.
  • July 2015: Led a series of workshops for girls at Oxford secondary schools exploring attitude to and experiences of 'being in charge' / leadership.
  • March 2014: Invited panellist for open debate: The Future of Higher Education: The role of Humanities & Philosophy in the contemporary academy alongside fellow academics and the Rt Hon. Liam Byrne MP.
  • September 2014: Invited panellist for discussion on educational equalities and access l at Labour Party National Conference, Manchester with members of the Education Select Committee
  • Contribution to All Party Parliamentary Group on ‘Sex Equality:  Women’s Access to education, opportunities and social mobility’ at Westminster
  • Nov 2014: Invited to House of Commons to meet women MPs from Australia and UK to discuss issues of women, representation and power in politics
  • June 2014: Invited to meet Shadow Secretary of State for Education at the House of Commons to discuss educational exclusion and fair admissions
  • Invited to present work on girls’ online practices to media industry leaders at Ofcom (2012)
  • Invited panellist for a live virtual panel on TV, Film and Transformative Learning held by Meridian University, San Francisco, attracting 1,200 participants online (2011)
  • Created online teacher courses and resources for Department for Education on ability identities and on fulfilling the Gender Equality Duty in schools (2004-2009)



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Professional information

Memberships of professional bodies

  • Vice-Chair of MeCCSA Women's Network
  • Member of the Feminist and Women's Studies Association
  • Member of the Gender and Education Association


Selected conference and seminar papers

  • June 2017: 'Who Runs the World?: Girls, Leadership, and Celebrity' 
  • Symposium and Project Launch, Senate house, London
  • January 2017: '"I’m not bossy, I’m the Boss”: Girls’ mediated perceptions of power and leadership'. Paper presented at MeCCSA Annual Conference: Culture, Media, Equality and Freedom. University of Leeds. 
  • October 2016: ‘Girls, mediated perceptions and experiences of leadership’ for the Oxford University International Gender Studies Centre seminar series, Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford
  • June 2016: 'Gender and discourse in audience studies' Seminar for the Oxford University Womens' Group, St Catherine's College, Oxford
  • June 2016: 'Working on Gender and Leadership' Opening keynote for the 15th Annual WAGGGS conference in Oslo
  • April 2016: 'Banning Bossy and Leaning In: Girls' mediated perceptions of leadership'. Paper presented at the International Association of Girlhood Studies, UEA, UK
  • October 2015:'Girls and the gendering of leadership'. Invited keynote for the 'ABC for youth participation in Europe' WAGGGS event, Bratislava, Slovakia.
  • June 2015. 'Girls’ negotiations with genre and gender on screen: the pedagogies of teen TV' at the Feminisms, Power and Pedagogy: 10th Biennial Conference of the Gender and Education Association at the University of Roehampton
  • June 2015: ‘”Something similar happens in TV-land”: Girls’ on- and offline audience strategies in relation to successful girl narratives’ at the Consuming CulturesWomen and Girls in Print and Pixels conference (OBU)
  • November 2014:' “He gave me all these options. And it kind of put me off”: Life-planning, anxiety and institutionalised choice in successful girl discourses'. Paper for seminar series: The Neoliberal Life Cycle of Success: Alternative Perspectives, Oxford Brookes University
  • May 2014.'Gender, Youth and Popular Discourses of Leadership'. Invited keynote for the WAGGGS International Convention on Gender, Youth and Leadership, Helsinki, Finland.
  • June 2013: ‘I was blonde and off a council estate’: Girls negotiating gender, class and success in television viewing. Console-ing Passions,International Conference on Television, Video, Audio, New Media and Feminism, De Montfort University, Leicester
  • November 2012: ‘Girls Online: Access, autonomy and anxiety’ Invited speaker at Children and Parents' Media Literacy research event,Ofcom, London
  • September 2012: ‘Researching with Girls: Spaces for reflection?’ Paper presented at A Tale of Two Cultures – Feminist Academia and Feminist Activism event held with the Centre for Diversity Policy Research and Practice, Oxford Brookes University
  • June 2011: 'The Future Girl’s Problem Past: A Genealogical Approach to Feminised Success’ Paper presented at GEA: The Gender and Education Conference held at the University of Exeter


Michele is interested in developing consultancy projects relating to girlhood and institutional cultures/practices. She has experience in designing online development tools as well as real-world intervention strategies. She has led and implemented a range of consultancy projects and evaluations for national and international clients in educational, voluntary and government sectors. 

Further details

Other experience

Before embarking on a research career in Communication, Media and Culture, Michele led and worked on a range of national education initiatives including Excellence in Cities, Aim Higher, Widening Participation, the Best Practice Teacher Research Scheme and London Challenge. She has experience teaching in the secondary education sector, including as Head of English and Media and as Advanced Skills Teacher in an Education Action Zone.  

Press, publicity and reviews

From Initial reviews of Girlhood, Schools, and Media: Popular Discourses of the Achieving Girl (Routledge 2015):

  • "The book is particularly innovative in its weaving together of media analysis and focus group/web data from girls who both respond to media, and articulate their own ‘smart girl’ identities. What also makes this book very original is its literature review on gendered notions of ‘genius’ and ‘gifted’ students. I have not seen that done anywhere else and it does offer some very interesting information for context"
  • "The author has definitely done the research to be considered an ‘expert’ on the topic and has been engaged to speak on the topic in a number of international and national venues"
  • "None of the competing literature weaves together media analysis with qualitative data. The element of on-line data collection is also a unique twist."
  • "It will push thinking in new and innovative directions. The theoretical framework is novel, as is the tri-format for data collection"

Other information


'The Neoliberal Life Cycle of Success: Alternative Perspectives' seminar series blog

Blogs for GEA-funded Girls< leadership and Women in the Public Eye project: