Laurel Steinfield is completing her DPhil in the Marketing Department at the University of Oxford, Saïd Business School. She is a recipient of a Green Templeton Management - Saïd Business School DPhil Scholarship. Her thesis, 'Rethinking Materialism: A Question of Judgement and Enactment of Power', is supervised by Linda Scott.
She attained her MSc in Management Research at the University of Oxford in 2010. Her thesis topic was ‘Cultural Barriers to the Growth of Value-Added Services from Developing Countries’, and looked at cultural barriers Indian IT firms faced in moving from providing back-office services to moving “up the value chain” to provide consulting services.
She also has a Bachelor of Commerce, Honours, from Queen’s University, Canada. During her Bachelor’s she was awarded the D.I. McLeod Dean’s List Scholarship for obtaining an academic year average above 80% and the Bank of Nova Scotia and Queen’s University Leadership Award for demonstrated leadership and academic excellence.
She was elected as a Young Canadian Leader for a Sustainable Future in 2005, receiving funding from the Canadian International Development Agency to examine corporate governance in South Africa. Since then she has worked on numerous projects in emerging markets in Africa, studying entrepreneurialism, consumerism, and the effects of development.
Research expertise and interestLaurel's thesis, ‘Rethinking Materialism: A Question of Judgement and Enactment of Power’, looks at the way cultural dynamics shape consumerism, and the way negative descriptions, such as a “materialistic” consumer, are used to demean people who do not follow societal norms around consumption.
At a wider level of research, she explores how private enterprises can affect society, especially in developing countries, by providing employment and integrating small-scale entrepreneurs into supply chains, but also by giving people an opportunity to choose and buy goods. She studies the benefits and unintended consequences resulting from these actions. She has a special focus on women empowerment, and hopes that her research will help bring about societal transformations and create opportunities that will allow women to reach their full potential.
Laurel’s key research interests include:
Techniques used include a mix of quantitative and qualitative data analysis, historical analysis, in-depth interviews, focus groups, projective techniques, observations, surveys and modeling
ResearchIn her work she takes a broad approach to understand shifting consumer landscapes, acknowledging the structuration of the marketplace as a whole - both institutional structures that may impede change, and agentic forces that may facilitate change. Her research extends to include not only consumers, but also business and small-scale entrepreneurs.
Her work recognises that in the current landscape of emerging economies, small-scale entrepreneurship is often the mechanism through which people become economically enfranchised, which in turn allows them to participate more meaningfully in the consumer market. The private sector could play a meaningful role in enabling this process and encouraging the creation of sustainable marketplaces. Her research explores the benefits, unintended consequences and challenges associated with establishing these interconnections.
For example, in her thesis, Laurel challenges a common perception in scholarly work that is often used to discourage the role of business in marketplace development: the assumption that introducing goods into emerging markets will lead to an increase in materialistic tendencies. She examines the roots of this opinion by tracing the etymology of "materialism" and its emergence in consumer behaviour literature. Her approach includes applying a sociological lens to the consumption of necessities and luxuries and mixes historical analysis with present-day fieldwork, the latter which has been conducted in emerging economies such as South Africa and Uganda. She argues that "materialism" is a form of de-legitimising discourse - discourse that debases "the other" in order to protect status hierarchies. Her work seeks to establish a deeper understanding of status contestations, and the sociocultural forces surrounding consumption and the accusation of materialism.
In her research she uses mixed methods, and applies a sociological and anthropological approach. Her work includes in-depth interviews, focus groups, media analysis and surveys. She has experience in working in rural areas of developing countries, and as such, has a passion for exploring innovative research methods that can overcome challenges of doing research in these areas. For example, in Uganda where they were working with illiterate, non-English speaking consumers, she used photos and a shopping bag full of actual goods to study household purchasing behaviour and decisions.
Current Research ProjectsTwo of her recent projects include: a study on Walmart's "Empowering Women Together" programme; and a survey contrasting household consumption practices of male and female heads of house in rural Uganda.
The Walmart's "Empowering Women Together" project assesses the impact that this incubation programme has on women being brought into Walmart's online retail supply chain. The project’s goal is to create a measurement system that will gauge whether Walmart is improving the lives of the women entrepreneurs and their workers by measuring changes along multiple dimensions of poverty. The project is in its first year and spans over 14 countries.
The household survey in Uganda forms part of a DFID/ERSC funded intervention study in Uganda, which assesses the implications of access to proper sanitary pad care on girls' education. The survey explores the existence of gender biases in household consumption decisions that may disadvantage a girl by deprioritizing or inhibiting her sanitary care needs.
Peer Reviewed Publications & Conference ProceedingsSteinfield, Laurel (2014), “Consumer Types versus Stereotypes: Exploring Social Tensions in the Luxury Market of South Africa,” (to be submitted to the Journal of Consumer Research)
Steinfield, Laurel with L.J. Shrum, Tina Lowrey, Mario Pandelaere, Elodie Gentina, et al (2014), “Materialism: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly,” Journal of Marketing Management (forthcoming)
Steinfield, Laurel, Jacqueline Park, Dian Gomes, and Saul Estrin (2014), “Emerging Equals,” Business Strategy Review, 25 (2), 38-40
Steinfield, Laurel (2013), “Black versus White: Understanding the Luxury Market in South Africa,” paper presented at the American Marketing Association Summer Conference, August 8-10, 2013
Steinfield, Laurel and Linda Scott (2013), “Controlling Consumption: The Illusiveness and Pervasiveness of Gender Norms in the Ugandan Marketplace,” paper presented as part of a special session at the Association for Consumer Research North American Conference, October 3-6, 2013
Steinfield, Laurel and Linda Scott (2013), “Social Stratification and the Materialism Label: The Retention of Racial Inequities between Black and White Consumers in South Africa,” paper presented as part of a special session at the Association for Consumer Research North American Conference, October 3-6, 2013
Other Publications and PresentationsSteinfield, Laurel (2014) Are African Women Rising As Well? Oxford Analytica Daily Brief
Steinfield, Laurel (2014), Social Stratification and the Materialism Label: The Retention of Racial Inequities between Black and White Luxury Consumers in South Africa, presentation at the Spring Doctoral Conference, Saïd Business School, Apr 1, 2014
Scott, Linda, Paul Montgomery, Laurel Steinfield, Catherine Dolan and Sue Dopson (2013) Sanitary Pad Acceptability and Sustainability Study, Oxford: University of Oxford
Steinfield, Laurel (2013) Studying the Power Dynamics of Consumption, presentation at the Doctoral Winter Conference, Saïd Business School, January 18, 2013
Steinfield, Laurel (2012), The Gender Dynamics of Consumption: How Power is Maintained in Uganda through Consumption, presentation at the Strategy, Innovation and Marketing Seminar Series, Saïd Business School, November 15, 2012
Steinfield, Laurel (2007), Report on Investments into Women Entrepreneurs in South Africa: A comparison between the profiles, investment strategies & factors of success for female vs. male entrepreneurs, Johannesburg: Business Partners Ltd, p.1-193
Agbazue, Tagbo and Steinfield, Laurel (2006), African Peer Review Mechanism South African Technical Report on Corporate Governance, Johannesburg: African Institute of Corporate Citizenship, p.1-578
Steinfield, Laurel (2006), “Building Bridges to the Unbanked,” Traders Journal: South Africa, 26: 54-55
Steinfield, Laurel (2006), “A False Perception of Africa,” Business in Africa Magazine Feb: 80-82
Steinfield, Laurel (2005), “Business in Post-Conflict Zones: Pitfalls to Avoid,” Business in Africa Magazine, South Africa Dec: 78-79
Working Papers, Pending Conference Submissions & ArticlesSteinfield, Laurel (2014), “Evaluating Materialism: Rethinking an Individual Concept from a Social Perspective,” working paper, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford
Steinfield, Laurel and Linda Scott (2014) “Controlling Consumption: The Illusiveness and Pervasiveness of Gender Norms in the Ugandan Marketplace,” working paper, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford
Conferences & Seminars OrganisedConsumer Culture Theory 2012 - Saïd Business School, University of Oxford Conference Coordinator, (Aug 2011 – Nov 2012)
Welfare & Wine, Green Templeton College, University of Oxford Coordinator, (Oct 2011 – May 2012)
Human Welfare Conference 2010 – Green Templeton College, University of Oxford.
Seminars & ConferencesPowerShift: Women and Finance (University of Oxford, UK) May 27-29, 2014Discussant on the origins of they systematic exclusion of women from the financial system
Emerging Markets Symposium (University of Oxford, UK) Jan 9-12, 2014 Rapporteur for the symposium sessions on maternal and child health and nutrition in emerging markets. The symposium creates opportunities for engagement and dialogue between influential leaders from governments, public and private sectors with the goal of generating actionable recommendations.
Association for Consumer Research North American Conference (Chicago) Oct 3-6, 2013Chaired and presented a session on Power in the Marketplace, in collaboration with by Russ Belk & Rana Sobh, David Crockett, Kathy Hamilton and Linda Scott.
Chaired and presented a session on New Perspectives of Materialism and Society, in collaboration with Ayalla Ruvio, Elie Somer, & Aric Rindfleisch, Fon Sim Ong & George Moschis, Dee Warmath & Nancy Wong, and Linda Scott.
Association for Consumer Research North American Conference (Chicago) Oct 3-6, 2013Roundtable Discussant, From Outsider to Insider: Opportunities and Challenges of Trans-disciplinary Teams for doing Transformative Consumer Research, organized by Julie L. Ozanne & Minita Sanghvi.
Seminar on Consumption Markets and Culture (Bilkent University, Turkey) June 1-5, 2013Seminar will explore mid-range and contextualized theory on consumption and markets.
Transformative Consumer Research Conference (Lille, France) May 24-25, 2013Conference will discuss research concerning consumer welfare, including the effects of materialism and the impact of consumerism on developing markets.
Oxford’s Forum for Women in the World Economy (University of Oxford) May 20-21, 2013Rapporteur for the forum’s sessions. The inaugural forum, Power Shift: Women Challenging the Game, brought together high profile leaders, academics, representatives from public and private sectors, and entrepreneurs to discuss the differences and similarities of women entrepreneurs in developing and developed countries and to understand what can be done to support women and their businesses in these countries.
Emerging Markets Symposium (University of Oxford, UK) Jan 11-13, 2013Rapporteur for the symposium proceedings and sessions. Symposium brought together influential leaders from governments, public and private sectors, to discuss and create actionable recommendations that address Gender Inequity in emerging economies.
Consumption Theory: Canon of Classics (University of Oxford, UK) Aug 19-23, 2012Engaged with foundational texts and gave a presentation, applying the theories to interpret research data.
Consumer Culture Theory Conference 2012 (University of Oxford, UK) Aug 19-23, 2012Conference organiser and attendee.
Consumer Culture Theory Conference 2011 (Kellogg School of Management, Chicago) Jul 7-10, 2011Attendee and presenter for the announcement of CCT 2012
Editorial ActivityACR Conference: Reviewer (Mar 2013 – present)Reviewed two papers submitted to the Association for Consumer Research North American Conference, a conference that seeks to advance theories and research practices for understanding consumers.
Consumer Culture Theory Conference: Reviewer (Feb 2013 – present)Reviewed three papers submitted to the Consumer Culture Theory Conference, a conference that explores consumption practices, cultural meaning systems, marketplace structures, consumer networks, and the socio-cultural, political-economic and historical contexts that affect consumption.
Advertising and Society Review: Reviewer (Feb 2013 – present)Reviewed articles for the journal which uses an online format to explore the relation of advertising to society, culture, history, and the economy.
Human Welfare International Journal of Graduate Research: Reviewer (Mar 2012 – present)Reviewed articles for the online journal focused on publishing original research of graduate students that investigates issues of human welfare across the globe.
Grants, Scholarships and AwardsGreen Templeton Management – Said Business School DPhil Scholarship (2010 - 2014)
Fully funded DPhil Scholarship a warded for academic accomplishment and contribution to college life.
Green Templeton College – Competitive Fieldwork Funding (May 2013)
Receiving funding of £435 ($675) from a competitive funding bid for support of additional fieldwork being undertaken on South Africa ’s luxury goods market as part of my doctoral thesis.
Green Templeton College – Learning Grant (April 2013)
Receiving funding of £400 ($620) in support of initial research undertaken on the luxury goods market in South Africa as part of my doctoral thesis.
Green Templeton College – Small Grant Academic Initiatives Fund (June 2012)
Grant of £4000 ($6250) awarded to undertake research that explored the interrelation of Materialism, Gender and Rural Poverty. The research was originally produced in Uganda and applied to another project in Bangladesh.
Green Templeton College – Nautilus Award (July 2011)
Awarded the GTC Nautilus Award for Sporting Achievement in recognition of raising over £12,000 for a college sports complex, and for participation in the successful University of Oxford triathlon team.
Rajiv Gandhi Travelling Scholarship (May 2010)
Received funding of £670 ($1,110) from a competitive funding bid sponsored by the Cambridge Commonwealth Trust and Rajiv Gandhi Foundation to undertake research in India for my master’s thesis, which examined cultural barriers Indian IT companies faced in moving up the value chain.
The Bank of Nova Scotia and Queen’s University Leadership Award (2003 - 2004)
Earned for academic excellence, demonstrated leadership, & participation in an international exchange.
CommitteesDPhil Representative for the Strategy, Innovation and Management Group (Oct 2012 - Oct 2013)Saïd Business School, University of Oxford
DPhil Representative for the Joint Student Staff Consultative Committee (Oct 2012 - Oct 2013)Saïd Business School, University of Oxford
Management Research Representative for the Library Committee (Oct 2010 - present)Green Templeton College, University of Oxford
Graduate Common Room Student Representative (Oct 2010 - Nov 2011)Green Templeton College, University of Oxford