In discussion: Laura McLeod

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We recently announced the election of new members of our Executive Committee. We hope this interview series, one with each new trustee, will help you get to know them a little better.  This is the last of the interviews and it's the turn of Laura McLeod who is based at the University of Manchester.

Tell us a bit about yourself and where you are from

Hello! I’m Laura McLeod, and I work at the University of Manchester. I grew up in a small town in Cambridgeshire, but now live in south Manchester with my husband and two children. My kids are very young still, so I don’t have much spare time, but I never miss my weekly Iyengar yoga class, and I enjoy running and swimming.  

Why did you want to be a BISA trustee and what do you hope to achieve during your term?

I was a convenor for the Gendering IR Working group 2013 – 16, and have been a member of BISA since 2006 – so I’ve always appreciated the work done by people to make BISA possible.  I believe that it is important to serve the profession: throughout our careers we ask a lot of others (to organise conferences, to review articles and grant applications, to write references for us, and so on) and so we all also need to pay it forward.  I wanted to be a BISA trustee because I felt that I had reached the stage of my career where I could be helpful to others as EDI Officer. Doing EDI work does involve a degree of resilience – even where the door is wide open – and I felt that I was able to do this now. During my term I hope to review BISA’s current processes and practices and ensure that they meet BISA’s EDI policy created in 2021.

What is your area of research and how did you get into it? What are you currently working on?

My areas of research are broadly gender, feminism, Security Studies, international institutions, and conflict-affected contexts. I have always loved politics, but in my final year of my undergraduate degree, I took a module called War and Peace where one week looked at women and war: the set reading included a chapter of Cynthia Enloe’s Manoeuvres. I didn’t stop with the chapter: I read the whole book. And within a week, all of Cynthia Enloe’s work. This was my departure point for engagement with feminist IR, and very quickly from there, I decided I wanted to do a PhD. Currently I’m researching gendered peace and security indicators created by international institutions and looking at the effects of these indicators. How does the designation of an indicator come about? How do they change global policies targeted at women? Are these indicators transformative?      

Can you tell us a bit about your career journey so far? Do you have any advice for colleagues just embarking on an academic career?

I completed my PhD at the University of Sheffield in 2011 and was staggeringly lucky to have secured a temporary job at the University of Manchester a few days before I submitted my thesis. I started at Manchester in January 2011, and had three temporary contacts (two teaching-focussed and one as a postdoctoral research associate) before securing a permanent post in 2014. While it sounds very smooth written down like that, it was a difficult time for me. I really empathise with those on precarious contracts - that constant state of job application, rejection, knowing you need publications to secure a job but having all your time absorbed with teaching, the perpetual uncertainty and inability to plan your life – it was a tough few years and not a situation I would wish on anyone. My advice to colleagues just starting out is to reach out to others and find someone willing to mentor you (formally or informally). I found it hard to ask for help, thinking I had to figure out things on my own, and once I did ask for help, I found things much more manageable.

Is there anything else we should know about you?

I love Christmas (yes, I do start thinking about it August) and especially the cheesy Christmas films on Netflix and Prime in December.

Photo by Ben Koorengevel on Unsplash