“If you have the passion, and the work ethic, then a career in academia is one of the most rewarding and freeing ones women can have!”

10. Mai 2021

Since 2017 you are Nuffield Professor of Political Theory at University of Oxford and have gained many experience in this field. When did you decide to become a professor? And what do you love about your job?

I had not planned on becoming an academic; originally I was going to try the French civil service or journalism. But I spent a year in the UK doing a Master’s under the Erasmus programme, and I got the research bug there. My doctoral studies at Oxford confirmed and consolidated my love for reading, thinking and writing. The prospect of being actually paid to do this – the prospect of an academic career – was just so incredibly exciting that I don’t remember making a conscious decision to do this. It just seemed the natural thing to do. It’s a wonderful privilege, to be able to follow your passion and interests, and to share them with students.

A professor has many different responsibilities such as teaching, researching, publishing, attending conferences etc. How do you manage all these tasks?

You have only identified the pleasant tasks! In practice, much of our job also involves quite a few administrative tasks, such as managing programmes and departments, running admissions, sitting on hiring committees, attending many departmental, university and other professional association meetings.. Managing all the tasks is all about balance, and making sure you do enough of the ‘nice’ tasks (research, teaching, conferences) to keep motivated.

You have published five monographs in total and articles in major journals of political science and political philosophy. In 2019, you even won the prestigious Spitz Prize for your book "Liberalism's Religion". Which are the major ingredients for publishing successfully?

I have been lucky, in that I received research funding to write Liberalism’s Religion (a 5-year personal grant from the ERC) and I also got funded sabbatical leave to write Critical Republicanism. It’s very difficult to complete big research projects when you have a full teaching and administrative load, so I was very fortunate to get extra support.

Which was one of the major challenges in your academic career? And how did you master it?

One great challenge – but also a blessing! – was having two children just as I was trying to establish myself, getting a new job at UCL, finish my second monograph, etc. Two things greatly helped. First, I have a supporting partner, who was very firm on a perfectly equal division of child care and domestic labour – and was also happy to take up the slack when I had to travel to conferences, etc. Second, having children helped me becoming a bit more efficient with my time – when you have less time to do anything, you try not to waste it!

Women are still underrepresented in academia. What are the main causes for this mismatch in your opinion?

It’s a complex and long-standing problem. Academia has long been a male preserve and it is difficult to break that hold. Women are held back because they are likely to start families right at the time when academics are supposed to establish themselves through their publications, getting tenured jobs etc. And there are still expectations that they should do the bulk of domestic work and child care. Many disciplines and departments are still controlled by traditional male networks, and it is difficult for new voices to come through. What matters is to reach a critical mass of female presence everywhere, so you can start making changes from the inside – including making university life itself more open to women and other minorities.

Which advice would you give to young female scholars?

If you have the passion, and the work ethic, then a career in academia is one of the most rewarding and freeing ones women can have. And the more women there are making a difference in the world of ideas, the more we will inspire others to do the same. Academic work is a lonely and often solipsistic experience, but the more women can find ways to share their experiences and support one another, the more progress we can make together.