I joined Birkbeck as Professor of Politics and Gender and Director of the existing Department of Politics Research Centre in September 2017, following 14 years at the University of Bristol. I’m not a typical British Politics scholar: my first degree was in Politics and African and Asian Studies at the University of Sussex whilst my Master’s was in Women’s Studies. My PhD, which I undertook part-time over 7 years in the 1990s, oriented me to British Politics: Women’s Political Representation in Contemporary British Politics, involved interviews with half of Labour’s new intake of women MPs in 1997.
Two decades on, I ‘find myself’ still studying concepts and theories of political representation, feminism and democracy and undertaking empirical research on political recruitment, British political parties and the UK Parliament. The ‘feminist imperative’ moreover drives me to seek to change as well as study the political world. In 2015-16 I was seconded to the House of Commons and wrote The Good Parliament Report, a blueprint for a diversity sensitive parliament. In January 2019 the House agreed to pilot a proxy voting for MPs’ babyleave, one of the Report’s key recommendations.
My current research includes the writing of a book, Feminist Democratic Representation, with Karen Celis at VUB Brussels. See my blog on my work around Baby Leave here and my piece with Meryl Kenny and Jessica Smith on women’s representation.
I joined Birkbeck in 2012 having spent 5 years with the Constitution Unit at UCL. My PhD, from the University of Manchester, looked at the development of the UK Freedom of Information Act. Since then I’ve been involved in a series of large projects looking at the impact of transparency laws in the UK and elsewhere, as well as experiments testing how the law works in England and the Netherlands, and research into other areas of openness, such as Open Data-see my research blog here.
Recently, I’ve been working with the Open Government Partnership assessing the UK government’s transparency policies. At the same time, I’ve been studying political leadership and developed, with colleagues Mark Bennister and Paul t’Hart, a leadership capital index to measure leaders and their authority, as well as writing about prime ministers. See my blog on takeover prime ministers here.