Experienced women academics shared insights regarding the early development and progression of careers in academia, from both their own career experience and from their research and leadership experience in academic institutions at an event recently hosted in the PhD Academy by LSE Careers. We agreed that ‘Institutions are greedy’ and individuals benefit from: 1) reflecting on their career; 2) working collectively and 3) that it is possible to have fun and enjoy an academic career.

This collaborative event co-organised by LSE and the British Federation of Women Graduates included an interactive discussion on key themes, priorities and challenges of navigating the early career years in academia, making a successful transition from PhD to a first academic employment and insights for tips for ongoing career development and progression.

The speakers were:
Chair:  Professor Rita Astuti, LSE Anthropology Department, Director of the PhD Academy


Professor Mary Evans, Emeritus Leverhulme Professor, Department of Gender Studies, LSE
Professor Stephanie Spencer, Professor of History of Women’s Education, University of Winchester, Department of Education Studies and Liberal Arts
Dr. Caroline Varin, Lecturer in Security and International Organisations, Regent’s University and Research Fellow, Global South Unit LSE. Caroline completed her PhD in International Relations at LSE in 2012 and is a co-founder of Professors Without Borders
Dr Mariya Ivancheva, Postdoctoral research fellow, School of Education, University of Leeds and member of the PrecAnthro collective

We discussed the structural constraints and current competitive context of higher education (where people feel pressure to be the ‘model’ academic) and how to navigate this field.

Topics included:
• examples of being a ‘happy academic’ able to have fun and engage in activities that bring pleasure, including travelling, entrepreneurship and activism
• different types of academics; their different contracts and responsibilities; levels of mobility required
• ‘standing back’, acting reflexively about work and life, knowing that ‘institutions are greedy’ we must protect our sense of self and be selective about what we consent to
• resisting taking on the chores and ‘domestic’ work of academic departments when other activities are the ones being scrutinised: publications, research funding, knowledge exchange and to some extent teaching
• keeping the female voice in academia to contribute to shaping the research agenda and research methods
• finding many ways of working together, collective engagement, being generous with each other and finding effective mentors

Many of the issues were as relevant for men starting the early stages of an academic career and we were pleased that some men joined. We all learnt from each other and the spirit of collective collaboration continues.


If you have thoughts about the event or our support for current PhD students, contact PhD and research staff Careers Consultant Catherine Reynolds. The program of career events for PhD students and staff at the early stages of their career continues throughout the year.