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Professor Marian Simms is currently engaged in two research projects: the study of the 2010 Australian election, sponsored by the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia; and the contemporary politics of gendered leadership, sponsored by the International Social Science Council. The synergy between the two is provided by Julia Gillard who became Australia's first female Prime Minister in unusual circumstances in June 2010. The general media and community interest in Ms Gillard has generated high profile invitations to present papers at 'invitation only' academic conferences and political fora; and created media interest in her work. Her current work on gendered leadership is conducted jointly with Queensland academic Dr Mary Crawford - a former Labor Parliamentary Secretary.
Their work shows that Ms Gillard presents as a highly transactional leader where the emphasis is upon completing transactions in a measured fashion and where politics is interpreted as a process of bargaining and negotiating. The analysis is derived from the categories of 'transformational' and 'transactional' leadership styles and there is more than a strong suggestion in the literature of transformational leadership styles that there is an advantage to being a female. Simply put: the 'relationship-orientation' style of the transformational model may somehow advantage women, while allowing them to 'fulfill gender role expectations.' Such leaders would present as 'nurturing', 'inclusive', and as a guided by an overarching vision. However, some male political leaders would meet those criteria (for example Bob Hawke and Bill Clinton); whilst more than a few women leaders would not. For example New Zealand's Helen Clark presented as independent, individualistic and highly practical or pragmatic (this research was published by Marian in an article for Signs: Journal of Women, Culture and Society in 2008).
Before being appointed to Deakin in 2009 Marian held a Chair in Political Studies at the University of Otago (New Zealand) and a Readership in Political Science at the Australian National University where she also acted as the Director of Women's Studies.
Marian has an established international reputation in the fields of gender studies and political history derived from a strong publication record and a history of grants and awards. She has received research grants from the ARC, the NSW Sesquicentenary committee, the National Committee for the Centenary of Federation, and UNESCO. She has established an on-going relationship with the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia which has supported her 'team' projects on Political Parties and post-Election Studies (since 1998). Her books are widely cited and have received good reviews in leading international journals such as the American Political Science Review.
She has been active in the administration and evaluation of research. From 2005-2009 she served as the inaugural convenor of the Humanities Research Cluster on Political Communication, Policy and Participation at the University of Otago, which sponsored research on political communication in British, Australian and New Zealand elections, research workshops for postgraduates, public lectures, and a number of high profile visitors. From 2003-2006 she was the Chair of the International Political Science association's Research Committee on Gender, Globalization and Democratization. She was invited by Swedish Research Council to chair the process for selecting and evaluating new centres of research in gender studies September and November 2006, and February 2008. She served two terms as a member of the Social Science panel of the Performance Based Research Funding Evaluation in New Zealand (equivalent of Australia's ERA).