Equality and Diversity (including family leave)

Family Factsheet

The department is fully committed to promoting equality in all activities. We ensure the highest standards of equality are adhered to when recruiting and encourage applications from a diverse range of candidates. This starts with our undergraduate recruitment strategy which places a strong emphasis on outreach activities aimed at attracting a diverse pool of high achievers to aspire to undertake a degree course in Materials in Oxford. In recruiting researchers and academic staff we encourage potential applicants to consider the supportive nature of the working environment that we offer and the generous and flexible family support that the University provides. The department believes that flexible working should be a normal aspiration for staff on any grade, allowing them to plan and manage childcare or other caring responsibilities.

The department is very supportive of current staff who wish to take family leave. We also actively encourage applications from those who have taken career breaks. The department has created a ‘Family Factsheet’, in which both current staff and applicants can find information about family leave, childcare and related topics.

The department has established an Equality and Diversity Committee. This committee meets at least termly, and aims to promote equality and diversity within the Department of Materials on grounds of gender, ethnicity, disability, sexuality, religion and age. Further details of the committee can be found via the link below.



AthenaSWAN The department is committed to realising gender equality among our staff and students, and to promoting good working practices for women. We were granted an Athena SWAN Bronze Award in 2017 in recognition of this. The Equalities and Diversity Committee actively monitors and implements actions working towards all aspects of gender equality.

In 2017 a new Women in Materials Science Network was launched and the group meets regularly to discuss and address issues. See the WiMS facebook group for more information.

Women in Materials Science Network Launch 2017

Flexible Working

Flexible working can include a wide variety of working practices. Examples of flexible working patterns include part-time working, compressed hours (for example, working full weekly hours over four rather than five days) and working from home ("teleworking").

Staff who wish to request flexible working are advised to discuss it with their line manager in the first instance. The next step is to complete a Flexible working application form and send it to the HR Manager (tom.lake@materials.ox.ac.uk), who is also happy to discuss any aspect of your application.

There is also provision for flexible retirement within the department. Flexible retirement is a scheme which allows employees, with departmental approval, to reduce their work and give up part of their salary in exchange for part payment of their pension. Active members of USS or OSPS aged 55 or over with at least two years of qualifying service in the scheme may apply for flexible retirement.

Benefits of flexible retirement can include an improved work-life balance or freeing up time for caring or other responsibilities, without taking the full financial penalty that can come with going part-time or leaving work altogether. If you are considering applying for flexible retirement please contact the HR Manager (tom.lake@materials.ox.ac.uk).

Family Leave

The department is very supportive of staff who require family leave. This includes staff taking maternity leave, adoption leave, paternity leave, shared parental leave and unpaid parental leave. Staff who are expecting to become parents or who are already parents should contact the HR Manager as soon as possible to discuss: tom.lake@materials.ox.ac.uk

Further information is available in the department’s Family Factsheet or from the university website: http://www.admin.ox.ac.uk/personnel/during/family/

Bullying and Harassment

The Department of Materials prides itself on being a positive environment in which people are treated fairly and with respect. Any form of harassment or victimisation is considered unacceptable. It is the responsibility of all members of the department to ensure that the rights and dignity of others are respected.

If you have experienced harassment, please contact one of the department’s Harassment Advisers:

  • Hazel Assender ext: 73781 or 83715 hazel.assender@materials.ox.ac.uk
  • Alison Crossley ext: 83726 alison.crossley@materials.ox.ac.uk
  • Jan Czernuszka ext: 73771 jan.czernuszka@materials.ox.ac.uk
  • Paula Topping ext: 73658 paula.topping@materials.ox.ac.uk

If you would prefer to speak with an advisor outside of the department, please use the contact details below:

  • Telephone: 01865 270760 harassment.line@admin.ox.ac.uk

The University’s policy and procedure on harassment, along with additional advice and guidance, can be found here: http://www.admin.ox.ac.uk/eop/harassmentadvice/

Race Ethnicity and Nationality

The department is very welcoming of Black and Minority Ethnic staff and students, both from within the UK and overseas. We have a very diverse and international staff body, with researchers coming to join us from across the world. Following the vote to leave the EU we continue to encourage European workers to join the department, and we continue to create a positive and welcoming workplace for all.

The university is applying for an award under the Race Equality Charter, which is currently awarded at institutional level only. Further information can be found here: http://www.admin.ox.ac.uk/eop/race/raceequalitychartermark/


LGBT+ staff and students will find that the department is an inclusive and friendly place in which you can be yourself. The department includes staff who are members of the University LGBT+ network and LGBT+ Advisory Group. Further information for LGBT+ staff and students at Oxford can be found here: https://www1.admin.ox.ac.uk/eop/sexualorientation/ https://www1.admin.ox.ac.uk/eop/transgender/

Individual Case Studies

The following case studies outline how the Department's SWAN activities have benefited individuals.

Hazel Assender

Prof Hazel Assender completed her PhD in 1994 and was appointed to a lectureship in the department in 1996.  She is a ULNTF with a fellowship at Linacre College. She took her first maternity leave in 2001, for 6 months, and returned to work part time (50%FTE) for 15 months before returning to full-time.  A second period of maternity leave (7 months) followed in 2004 before she returned to work part time (80%FTE) and has continued these part time hours since.  Her husband is a Patent Attorney, working full time.  Flexible working hours mean that she can work longer hours during school terms, with more time available to spend with the children in the school holidays, as well as enabling her to able to attend school events etc.  As well responsibilities for her two children, she is now, in a small way, taking on more support for elderly parents, and this may increase over the coming years.

Sergio Lozano-Perez

Prof Sergio Lozano-Perez completed his DPhil in 2002 in the Department of Materials (Oxford University) where he still works. He was appointed Professor of Materials in 2015 and is also the George Kelley Fellow in St Edmund’s Hall.  He used an extended paternity leave when his son was born and benefits from flexible working hours by having a late start in the morning (9:30-10am) and working until later in the afternoon (6-6:30pm). He successfully requested his teaching to start after 9:30am, which allows him to take care of his son in the mornings. Flexible working hours also allow him to modify his working hours when needed (e.g. to drop or pick-up his son from school).

Lavina Snoek

Dr Lavina Snoek completed her PhD in experimental physics in Amsterdam in 1997, and started a Royal Society University Research Fellowship in 2002 at the Physical and Theoretical Chemistry Department in Oxford. She took her first maternity leave in 2005, and returned to work part-time after 4 months (80% FTE). In 2007 a second maternity leave followed for 6 months, and she continued working part time until the end of her URF in 2012.
She then had a break from research, doing freelance work for the OED, researching science-related entries for the dictionary. She now works part-time (50%) in the group of Nicole Grobert, which enables her to combine work with looking after two primary school-age children.

James Marrow

Prof James Marrow holds the James Martin Chair in Energy Materials.  He is father of children aged 13 & 10.  As a parent, he makes use of the department's flexible working culture, starting at 9:30 most mornings for school runs, and regularly breaking his work in the afternoon for school pickup.  He actively makes use of remote working (using tools such as dropbox and Eduroam) to work in a variety of locations.

Peter Nellist

Prof Peter Nellist completed his PhD in 1995. He arrived in Oxford as a University Lecturer in 2006, becoming Professor of Materials in 2010, and is the Tutorial Fellow in Materials at Corpus Christi College. He has two children aged 5 and 8, and his wife works 80% FTE. He makes use of flexible working hours to do the school drop on 3 days a week, with departmental teaching being scheduled to avoid these hours. The flexibility also enables him to do the occasional school pickup, and to attend children-related events and meetings.

Susie Speller

Dr Susannah Speller completed her DPhil in the Materials Department in 2000. She is married to a local teacher who works full time. She took 2 periods of maternity leave (July 2004 - Feb 2005 and April – October 2006) supported initially by an EPSRC research grant held by Professor Grovenor. The department enthusiastically supported her successful application for a Royal Academy of Engineering Fellowship in 2005, and then agreed with Dr Speller and the RAE a working pattern that suited her changing family responsibilities as they developed and as the children got older. So she worked 50% FTE from October 2005 and then 60% from June 2008 to the present, with the fellowship end date extended accordingly (with the full support and encouragement of the RAE). Dr Speller has been able to develop her CV so she is now able to compete for substantive academic posts.

Sanna Henderson

Sanna Pippo-Henderson started in her post as the Chemicals and Materials Laboratory Support Technician in December 2008. She took maternity leave for a year from March 2010 and requested that when she returned she should work part time for 3 days a week. The department considered this request, but felt that the post was so important to fulfilling our safety responsibilities and providing support to the experimental groups that we could not consider it to be held at less than 100% FTE. However we felt that this would be a good opportunity to move to a job share arrangement, if we could find a suitable candidate. In September 2011 Maria Thompson joined the team and the two provided an excellent service to the department, especially as it was arranged for them to overlap for half a day each Wednesday.