Athena Swan Charter

Professor Louise Waite

Professor Louise Waite

Louise Waite is a Professor of Human Geography with research interests that span forced migration and discourses of ‘modern slavery’. Louise talks about some of her recent career achievements and the aspects that are valuable to her, as well as giving advice about career development.

Career achievements – Widening participation

I am very proud of being part of a small group of colleagues who successfully lobbied the University of Leeds to support and finance Sanctuary Scholarships for asylum seekers and refugees who otherwise cannot access Higher Education in the UK.

Louise said: “These are life-changing opportunities for individuals who have often experienced the structural violence imposed by the state on those seeking asylum in the UK.

“Albeit very small in number, the fact that the University now gives Sanctuary Scholarship holders the opportunity to pursue their education is, and will always be, a career high for me.”

Work-life balance

Louise talked about balancing her career with the demands of daily life, as well as the aspects of her role that bring her great pleasure.

She said: “I derive great pride from being able to balance my career with the equally important job of being a parent. Most of what I’ve achieved is actually enabled by my partner and close family, so my sense of pride in being where I am is intensely inter-relational.”

Valuable experiences

“I get greater kicks out of every day, micro-pride experiences rather than the classic ‘highs’ of promotion or keynote invitations and so on,” Louise said.

She continued: “By this I mean things like the startled look from a student when they are first confronted with a particular social injustice, and I see a shadow pass over their face as they vow to resist; the email from an early career colleague thanking me for giving them support and conversation time; or the knowledge-exchange opportunities that come out of a grant that give me scope to learn about the world from a grassroots asylum charity.”

She added: “These encounters have peppered my career thus far: and are those that I continue to nurture.”

Career development advice

“In whatever way it works for you, it is important to prioritise and maintain your work-life balance. Avail of opportunities to participate in events and meetings remotely,” Louise said.

“Move through your working life speaking to all those you encounter in the University family – those who clean our offices, work in our campus cafés, toil in our professional services, not to mention co-academics at all career stages – in the way that you yourself would like to be engaged with.”

She added: “Collegiality must trump all; maintain your humility, and humour.”