Personal profile

Personal profile

Professor Sylvia Walby OBE FBA FAcSS

Department of Law and Criminology, School of Law and Social Sciences, Royal Holloway, University of London, UK.

Sylvia’s current research is focused on violence and society. This includes the concept and measurement of violence, data and indicators, the gender dimension of violence, trafficking in human beings, and theorising the relationship between violence and society. The goal is to contribute research to support the vision of zero violence. This entails engagement with policy and public bodies, both governmental and non-governmental, at national and international levels, and co-producing research agendas.

Sylvia holds the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Anneliese Maier Research Award, which supports a programme of internationalising research on society, violence, trafficking, gender regimes, and complex systems theory. This is hosted by the University of Duisburg-Essen, 2018-2025. 

Sylvia was elected Fellow of the British Academy in 2022, elected Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in 2007 and awarded an OBE for services to equality and diversity in 2008. Sylvia was the Chair of the REF2021 Sociology Sub-Panel and was a member of the REF2014 Sociology Sub-Panel. She was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Queen’s University Belfast in 2017.

Sylvia is founding Co-President of the International Sociological Association’s (ISA) Thematic Group 11 on Violence and Society (2020-23). She was President of the ISA Research Committee on Economy and Society (RC02) and member of the ISA Research Council, 2006-10. Sylvia was the founding President of the European Sociological Association (ESA), 1995-7, and Chair of the Steering Committee to establish the ESA, 1992-5.  Sylvia was the founding chairholder of the UNESCO Chair for Gender Research, 2008-2019, and was one of the Directors of the UK National Commission for UNESCO, 2011-13. 

Sylvia has worked at Lancaster University, LSE, University of Bristol, University of Leeds, and City, University of London. She has held visiting positions at UCLA, Harvard University, National University of Malaysia, University of Aalborg, University of Wisconsin at Madison, and University of Duisburg-Essen.

Sylvia contributes evidence from research to public debate, for example to the Home Affairs Select Committee, May 2023, on trafficking in human beings based on research funded by the European Commission.

Sylvia’s research has been funded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, UKRI, ESRC, European Commission, European Parliament, European Institute for Gender Equality, Council of Europe, UNESCO, UN Women, Home Office, Cabinet Office, Equality and Human Rights Commission, and the Nuffield Foundation.   

Academic contributions include:

Developing the concept and measurement of violence, including changing the way the UK Office for National Statistics measures violent crime (Sociological Review 2014; British Journal of Criminology 2016; The Concept and Measurement of Violence Against Women and Men, 2017; Journal of Gender-Based Violence 2017; Criminology and Criminal Justice 2018; Current Sociology 2023).

Deploying complex systems science to develop theories of society and intersecting regimes of inequality (Philosophy of Social Sciences 2007; Globalization and Inequalities 2009; Sociology 2012; Crisis 2015; Current Sociology 2021).

Theorising gender regimes at a macro level to develop analyses of societal change (Theorizing Patriarchy 1990; Social Politics 2020; Women’s Studies International Forum 2023).

Policy analysis, including costing violence (domestic violence, gender-based violence, trafficking in human beings), violence reduction, mainstreaming gender and intersecting inequalities into policy architectures, and integrating concern for violence into health services delivery (Social Politics 2012, 2013; Stopping Rape: Towards a Comprehensive Policy 2015; Frontiers in Sociology 2022; Lancet Psychiatry 2022).

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions