women in corporate anthropology


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Anyone who gets immersed in the world of business anthropology will soon realize the immense presence of women that this subdiscipline has. What is the influence of women in corporate anthropology ?

This fact was already verified by the spanish anthropologist Jordi Roca in his book “Antropología Industrial y de la Empresa” (1998), where he notes that:

“The presence of a considerable number of female anthropologists in the field we are dealing with is a fact, at least, remarkable, and this not only happens in the US, but in all those countries that have some research tradition in this regard. Perhaps the traditional androcentrism that has been blamed on the discipline along with the fact that this is a relatively new specialty and not with excessive remoras of the past may have something to do with it “(Roca, 1998: 116; own translation).

Today, on The International Women’s Day, we wanted to vindicate the fundamental role that women are playing in the development of corporate anthropology. This article does not pretend to be an exhaustive work on the feminine presence in this field, although a relevant study could be done in that sense. We just want to acknowledge their work and make them visible to all of you.

At the end of this article you will find a list of references on corporate and organizational anthropology written by women (plus the book by Roca i Girona mentioned above).


Possibly one of the most well-known corporate anthropologists in the world. Genevieve Bell has developed much of her career at Intel, where she started leading the first User Experience department, becoming the company’s Vice President in 2014. She is considered one of the most influential women in the world of technology and has been awarded with several international prizes.


An indispensable reference in the world of business anthropology. Her work and references are so many that they would require an article just for it. However, you can check them all in her Michigan State University profile: https://msu.edu/~mbaba/. Her research includes organizational and institutional anthropology, technological innovation in organizations and the practice of applied anthropology.


Melissa Cefkin is one of the leading anthropologists in the world of corporate anthropology. After developing her career in companies and organizations as diverse as IBM or NASA, Melissa Cefkin currently leads the team developing the autonomous (and electric) car for Nissan. She is the author of Ethnography and the Corporate Encounter: Reflections on Research in Corporations, reference work on the meeting between anthropology and business.


Author of the reference work Business Anthropology. She is a very prolific author, among her works you can find an exhaustive study on the process of modernization of Saudi Arabia.


Founders of Practica Group, ethnographic consultancy and authors of the Handbook of Anthropology in Business and Doing Anthropology in Consumer Research, both reference works in business anthropology and market research.


Known primarily for her work as an anthropologist on Wall Street. Time magazine published in 2009 an interview with her that you can consult through the following link: http://content.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1912085,00.htmlHer most important bibliography is included below.


The team of Antropologerne, a Danish consultancy led by Rikke Ulk, is virtually composed of women. According to its website www.antropologerne.com, out of a total of fourteen members of the Antropologerne team, eleven are women. Antropologerne is one of the largest consultancies in Denmark and a reference for European corporate anthropology.


Author of the book On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights and founder of the consultancy Simon Associates Management Consultants (SAMC). Andrea Simon has more than 20 years of experience as a corporate anthropologist in the banking sector and in clinical institutions.


Both anthropologists have, both jointly and individually, a long career in business anthropology. One of their most important publications is Anthropology and Industry: Reappraisal and New Directions, which was one of the first attempts to carry out a history of industrial anthropology.


Author of the classic Ethnography in Organistions, considered as one of the most rigorous attempts to collect the history of industrial anthropology. She is currently dealing with issues related to children.

We will complete this list with the authors cited in the note of the book “Antropologia Industrial y de la Empresa” mentioned earlier. We must take into account that this publication dates from 1998, almost 20 years ago. Since then more and more women have contributed to the development of corporate anthropology and work.

However we consider it relevant to share this list to understand the historical scope of the presence of women in the world of business and work anthropology. The authors pointed out by Jordi Roca i Girona; in addition to Holzberg, Giovannini and Schwartzman are:

Laura Nader, June Nash, Aiwa Ong, Helen Safa, Eleanor Wynn, Constance Ojile, Sandra Wallman, Susan Wright, Cynthia Cockburn, Rosemary Pringle, Deborah Kerfoot, Sandra Cullen, Christine MsCourt Perring, Jeanette Edwards, Lalita Prasad Vidyarthi, Carmen Bueno, Luisa Gabayet, Patricia Torres, Margarita Estrada, Lucía Bazán, Victoria Novelo, M. de la Cruz Labarthe, Patricia Arias, Minerva Villanueva, Cecilia Sheridan, Mercedes González, Yolanda Montiel, Florence Weber, Dolors Comas, Susana Narotzky o Encarnación Aguilar

Under different perspectives and objects of study, all these women anthropologists have addressed in a significant way the ethnographic study applied to the company, to the industry, or to industrial relations.

Happy International Women´s Day!


Relevant Bibliography

Baba, M. L. (1986). Business and industrial anthropology: An overview (Vol. 2). Wiley-Blackwell.

Baba, M. (2006). Anthropology and business. Encyclopedia of anthropology, 1, 83-117.

Baba, M. L. (2016). De-anthropologizing ethnography: a historical perspective on the commodification of ethnography as a business service. Handbook of Anthropology in Business.

Bell, G., & Kaye, J. (2002). Designing technology for domestic spaces: A Kitchen Manifesto. Gastronomica: The Journal of Critical Food Studies, 2(2), 46-62.

Bell, G., Blythe, M., Gaver, B., Sengers, P., & Wright, P. (2003, April). Designing culturally situated technologies for the home. In CHI’03 extended abstracts on Human factors in computing systems (pp. 1062-1063). ACM.

Bell, G., Blythe, M., & Sengers, P. (2005). Making by making strange: Defamiliarization and the design of domestic technologies. ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction (TOCHI), 12(2), 149-173.

Bell, G., & Dourish, P. (2007). Yesterday’s tomorrows: notes on ubiquitous computing’s dominant vision. Personal and ubiquitous computing, 11(2), 133-143.

Cefkin, M. (2009). Introduction: Business, anthropology, and the growth of corporate ethnography. Ethnography and the corporate encounter, 5, 1-37.

Cefkin, M. (Ed.). (2010). Ethnography and the Corporate Encounter: Reflections on Research in and of Corporations (Vol. 5). Berghahn Books.

Denny, R. M., & Sunderland, P. L. (Eds.). (2016). Handbook of anthropology in business. Routledge.

Ho, K. (2005). Situating global capitalisms: a view from Wall Street investment banks. Cultural Anthropology, 20(1), 68-96.

Ho, K. (2009). Liquidated: an ethnography of Wall Street. Duke University Press.

Ho, K. (2009). Disciplining investment bankers, disciplining the economy: Wall Street’s institutional culture of crisis and the downsizing of “corporate America”. American Anthropologist, 111(2), 177-189.

Holzberg, C. S., & Giovannini, M. J. (1981). Anthropology and industry: Reappraisal and new directions. Annual review of anthropology, 10(1), 317-360.

Jordan, A. T. (2010). The importance of business anthropology: Its unique contributions. International Journal of Business Anthropology, 1(1).

Jordan, A. T. (2012). Business anthropology. Waveland Press.

Roca i Girona, J. (1998). Antropología industrial y de la empresa. Ariel.

Simon, A. (2016). On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights. Greenleaf Book Group.

Sunderland, P. L., & Denny, R. M. (2016). Doing anthropology in consumer research. Routledge.

Schwartzman, H.B. (1993). Ethnography in Organizations, Sage Publications.

Ulk, R. L. M. (2002). The velvet rope-grænsedragning i klubland: en analyse af klubsocialitet i New York: specialeafhandling til kandidateksamen. Institut for Antropologi, Københavns Universitet.

Co-founder and CEO in Antropología 2.0 I contribute to the development of innovative business strategies by providing in-depth knowledge of human complexity. As a social anthropologist, I am qualified to conduct ethnographic research based on empathy and a holistic understanding of social phenomena. I collaborate with multidisciplinary teams providing valuable insights on which to build unique and differentiated strategies. My passion for people-centred innovation has led me to train in fields such as Business Anthropology, Design Thinking and Customer Experience (Cx)


  1. can u help me with some book name which ia written about corporate Anthropology and women??

    • Dear Shartaj Kabir Diana, at the end of the post you will find rich bibliography about corporate anthro written by women. I don’t know if there are a specific book about this subject.

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