Equality and Diversity (including family leave)

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.

AS RGB Bronze Award

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 2016 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.

WIMS Network Launch 2017

Women in Materials Science Network Launch 2017

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 (hr@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 (hr@materials.ox.ac.uk).

Examples of staff who have used flexible working include Hazel Assender, Rebecca Nicholls, Sergio Lozano-Perez, and Peter Nellist to name just a few.

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 hr@materials.ox.ac.uk as soon as possible to discuss.

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

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:

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

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/


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/

The university equality policy recognizes diversity in religion and belief. Many religions are represented within the department and the department tries to act flexibly to accommodate requirements on the basis of religion and belief. For example, provision of quiet space for prayers and flexibility to aid observance of religious festivals.

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/

The Department is proud to support Clara Barker who received a prestigious Points of Light award from the Prime Minister for her outstanding contribution to Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual and Transgender awareness-raising both in the University and community.

There are links to more information about LGBT+ in Clara's case study profile. Also Lorraine Laird is a Stonewall ally.

Athena Swan

The department holds a Bronze award from the national 'Athena Swan' scheme, in recognition of ongoing work to improve equality in the department for anyone who identifies as female.  This is not restricted to academic roles, but encompasses every area of the department.


The next submission is due in November 2021, and the application for an award is being handled by the Equality & Diversity Committee.  If you have any feedback you would like to offer, you can do so confidentially by emailing confidential@materials.ox.ac.uk


You can download the current Action Plan we are working towards by clicking on the link below:


Individual Case Studies

Hazel Assender


Hazel Assender

Prof Hazel Assender completed her PhD in 1994 and moved to Oxford on appointment to a lectureship in the department in 1996.  She is an APNTF 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 part time.  While the children were at primary school, the part time hours allowed school drop-off and pickups three days per week.  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.




James Marrow

James Marrow & Nida

James Marrow & Nida

Prof James Marrow holds the James Martin Chair in Energy Materials.  He is father of children aged 16 & 13.  As a parent, he makes use of the department's flexible working culture, starting at 9:30 most mornings for school runs.  He makes use of remote working (using tools such as dropbox) to regularly work from home to share the family load, and when his children were younger found it very useful to be able to access Eduroam from the school playground.





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

Speller, Susannah

Susie Speller

Professor Susie Speller completed her DPhil in the Oxford Materials Department in 2004.  She held  a Royal Academy of Engineering (RAE) Fellowship between 2005 and 2014, and is now an Associate Professor in Materials and a Fellow of St. Catherine’s College.  During her early postdoctoral research she took 2 periods of maternity leave in 2004 and 2006, and worked on a part-time basis for the majority of her Fellowship.  With the support of the RAE and Materials Department, she was able to gradually ramp up her part-time hours from 50% to 100% to suit changing family responsibilities as her children got older. Her husband works full time as a Learning Consultant in primary schools, usually working from home during school holidays.  Susie continues to take advantage of informal flexible working arrangements, enabling her to collect her children from school several days per week and working remotely from home. 



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).


Lorraine Laird

lorraine laird

Lorraine Laird

In my role as EA to the Head of Department, and as the Communications and Alumni Officer, I come into contact with a lot of people, both face-to-face and via social media and internal/external communications, so I leapt at the chance to attend a Stonewall ‘Allies’ training session during February 2017 to help me understand the many issues facing our LGBT+ friends and colleagues on a daily basis, to help me improve how I personally interact with people - and to a greater extent the language employed for departmental communications - all with the aim of helping everyone enjoy equality in the Materials environment.

Coming from a fast-paced, high-pressure commercial background, I have a long and strong history of equalities training, but unfortunately in the past I have also had to deal with cases of prejudice and bullying in its many forms. Since joining the Department of Materials in 2012 I have been delighted to witness how welcoming Materials is to everyone without exception, and how it constantly strives to identify areas of inequality, and seeks to redress the balance.



Clara Barker

Clara Barker

Clara Barker

During my youth there were few LGBT+ role models around. I certainly never met any in my school when section 28 was in force. I assumed that it was not ok to be transgender and as a result my mental health suffered, resulting in severe depression and suicidal thoughts that continued until I transitioned. When I finally came out as transgender I was met with absolute acceptance. As a trans-woman I secured a position with the Department of Materials and became the vice-chair of the University’s LGBT+ Advisory Group. I was also a member of the Out in Oxford project, the legacy of which we are working to continue. Once living my life authentically my mental health improved significantly showing that it really can get better.

Outside of work I was featured in Stonewall poster campaign and I work with Oxfordshire as part of a LGBT+ anti-bullying committee visiting schools to give talks and help set up safe groups. This goes to show the importance of role models – be it in the work place, in schools, universities or the community at large. It is easy to say that these places accept people for who they are but it is vital to actually see that this is true. I also run a group for young LGBT+ people, TOPAZ, and a support group for parents of LGBT+ children alongside this, TOPAZ Parents. I am also currently a member of the Oxford Pride Committee. For this work, I won a Points of Light Award from the Prime Minister and as a result was profiled by the University. I am a trained mentor and would be happy to mentor LGBT+ members of staff or students within the University.  Contact email: clara.barker@materials.ox.ac.uk