Maila Stivens studied for her B.A. and M.A. in Anthropology at Sydney University, and for her Ph.D at the London School of Economics. Her main research work has been centred on Malaysia, both on gender and underdevelopment in Negeri Sembilan, and on work and family among the new Malay middle classes in Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Seremban. She lectured in Anthropology at University College, London from 1977 to 1987 and in 1988 became Director of Women's Studies at the University of Melbourne.