Stevin laureate Tanja van der Lippe on her healthy work-life balance

NWO put it nicely in the laudation for Tanja van der Lippe, professor of Sociology at Utrecht University: At a time when there is an increasing focus on a healthy work-life balance and sustainable employability, Tanja van der Lippe can rightly call herself a pioneer in this field. Van der Lippe is to receive the Stevin Prize, which amounts to 2.5 million euros, for the social impact of her academic research.

Van der Lippe was one of the first sociologists who did not regard families and organisations as separate entities, but in fact focused on the strong connection. She showed that although the expectations of work and family can conflict, they can also enhance each other and lead to greater satisfaction and productivity. As a result, she has brought an innovative perspective to the field. The research by the Utrecht sociologist has a major impact on the well-being of employees and provides a vision for the future of work. She advises organisations on retaining talent and tapping into unexploited potential and makes her research applicable by developing tools and platforms.

Tanja van der Lippe


As an academic, Van der Lippe describes herself as subject-fixated, but always with a new angle. Last year, she published her book Waar blijft mijn tijd? (Where does my time go?), a book about time allocation and workload. In fact, these topics already came into play when she obtained her doctorate in Utrecht in 1993 with her thesis about labour distribution between men and women. Van der Lippe: I have always been and remain interested in how people divide the tasks within the family, how they deal with their work-life balance. And how this balance can be optimised for everyone, including the employers. After all, it's also an allocation issue.

From Utrecht

Following her doctoral research, Van der Lippe wrote a research proposal on the employment positions of men and women in Eastern and Western Europe. She received an NWO grant for this. Van der Lippe says that, at that time, she started a family with her partner. For her (new) academic career, it seemed important for her to occasionally attend conferences abroad. But contrary to the standards of the time, she did almost everything from Utrecht. I consciously chose to be in Utrecht as much as possible; this also allowed me to spend a lot of time with our family with young children. Instead of constantly travelling abroad, I invited foreign researchers to come and visit Utrecht. As a result, I still managed to fit in the necessary international workshops and build up an international network.

Why would I go and work somewhere else when I've got it so good here?

Fantastic group

Van der Lippe still works in Utrecht, at the university. She never felt the need to start working for a different university. It has a lot to do with the Sociology group. They’re fantastic. Why would I go and work somewhere else when I've got it so good here? I have very capable people around me, and we’re a team: we get ideas from each other, we enhance each other. This is also the case within Institutions for Open Societies, the university’s strategic theme to which I am affiliated, and the Future of Work platform. I can actually do everything that I think is important here, I'm really lucky. So although I will be awarded the Stevin Prize personally, I mainly regard it as a prize for our entire team.

Australia and the US

A few years ago, the youngest of her three children left home. The time was ripe for a sabbatical: Van der Lippe and her partner left for Melbourne for three months, before camping out for another three months in Irvine (California). I wanted to spend a relatively long time in one place. Not wander around. I want to see what a society is like, how people interact with each other, what they do during the day and which inequalities exist between men and women. You could call it my sociological view of things. During that six months, Van der Lippe wrote her book Where does my time go?.

He looked up what the Stevin premium entailed. "Wow! This really is something special!"

Oh, congratulations

Recently, once again with her partner, she worked online from Madrid for over a month. On her last day in the Spanish capital, she received a phone call from Marcel Levi, the chairman of NWO. He told her that she had been awarded the Stevin Prize. What did I think? I was silent at first, completely overcome. But then, of course, I was super happy that something like this would happen to me!

Van der Lippe ran straight to her partner. The Stevin Prize is of the same order of magnitude as the Spinoza Prize, but slightly less well known. I told him I had won the Stevin Prize. He said: 'Oh, congratulations!' He didn’t really know what it was. Then he looked it up. He mumbled something along the lines of 'that’s pretty special'. Until he realised exactly what it meant and he exclaimed: 'Wow! This really is something special!'

On Wednesday, 5 October, Tanja van der Lippe will be awarded the Stevin Prize. She is considering using part or all of the prize money to investigate how the talent of all women on the Dutch labour market can be better utilised. Highly relevant, given the tight labour market. But of course, I will also be discussing it with my colleagues in the Sociology department and the Future of Work platform.