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Celebrating a gender equality milestone in the Medical Sciences Division

2022 marks the 10 year anniversary of the first bronze applications from the Medical Sciences Division, and also the moment where all 16 of our departments had achieved a silver award. The Silver award recognises departments commitment to gender equality, to understanding their own culture and context, to actively engaging with their communities and to committing to detailed and ambitious action plans in response to data and consultation, and importantly the impact of their actions.

An image of head of division Gavin Screaton who says “I would personally like to thank every member of the division who has sat on committees, undertaken actions, and put in heroic efforts writing applications - the division is a fairer and better place because of you”

Countless staff and students have worked tirelessly over the last 10 years to make the division a fairer more equal place, and to celebrate their achievements we have asked each of our 16 departments to reflect on recent areas of good practise - large or small where they have seen impact for their staff and students.

Prof Keith Channon says

Newly appointed Head of Department Prof Channon says of Radcliffe Department of Medicine's (RDM) Athena Swan activity:

“As the new Head of the Radcliffe Department of Medicine, I am very proud of the progress that Athena Swan has already made within RDM. Initiatives in areas such as mentoring and career development have had major impacts for our academic and professional support staff and students, and the Athena Swan process will continue to be an important driver of our efforts to make RDM an attractive place to work and thrive. I look forward to being part of the Athena SWAN Self-Assessment Team, and building on the work to help shape ways to foster an inclusive and diverse teaching, research and professional support culture for all our staff and students.”

Mentoring project

In 2014, RDM introduced a mentoring scheme for all members of the department. The aim of the scheme is to assist staff (academic, research, professional support) and postgraduate students to achieve personal and professional growth through a mentoring relationship that provides support as they progress and develop within the University.

  • 85 mentees (65% female; 35% male)
  • 96 mentors enrolled (46% female; 54% male)
  • 66 live relationships

Mentoring Evaluation Report was completed in 2021:

"Overall, our mentors and mentees described feeling well supported by the scheme structure. Most mentees reported being able to plan (and act) on career progression thanks to their mentoring relationships. Mentors and mentees commented on the feeling of a community within RDM through the mentoring scheme.”

Mentoring Dialogue Project

Mentoring Dialogue Pilot Project was completed in 2020, with the report put onto the website in 2021 “The fundamental principle of the pilot was to voluntarily invert the typical hierarchical structures of formal mentoring relationships (junior post mentored by senior post), giving senior staff access to the experiences of more junior post-holders and to enabling them to re-evaluate their views and understanding of current issues in academia.”

Read more including a comprehensive report here: RDM Mentoring webpages 

An image of two women talking casually in a cafeteria alongside a quote about the RDM mentoring programme:  

Diversity Interventions Conference 2022: Towards a Science and Profession of Athena Swan

Conceived and managed by Co-Directors Dr Pavel Ovseiko (RDM) and Sarah Dickinson-Hyams (Advance HE). Organised by Head of the Conference Secretariat Louise Cotterell (DPAG and RDM), International Charters Development Officer Kay Steven (Advance HE). The Diversity Interventions conference was held in Oxford in April, in hybrid format. In tandem, a sister conference was held by Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) in Australia, with common themes and joint abstract submission.

The idea for the conference started from conversations with EDI and Strategic Projects Facilitator Charlotte Smith (RDM), as well as researchers and professional staff across as the University, Advance HE, and SAGE.

The vision for the conference was to unite Athena Swan professionals, researchers, and advocates from across the world to share best practice, discuss emerging innovations, and exchange personal experiences in designing, implementing, and evaluating interventions and action plans. This vision came to fruition thanks to the funding from the John Fell Fund, van Houten Fund, and Advance HE, collaboration with SAGE, and support from the Local Organising Committee and volunteers.

The conference proved to be a great success, with 43 speakers from Australia, Canada, the EU, India, Ireland, the UK and USA as well as over 200 in-person and online delegates, representing over 100 institutions, across 21  countries coming together to tackle some of the biggest challenges on the way to developing a science of diversity interventions.

 In their feedback, delegates noted that it was an “excellent” and “perfectly designed conference”, they were “impressed with the quality and variety of presentations”, and that the conference “left all of us invigorated”. One delegate remarked:

“I thought the conference was a great success – really useful and timely topics and debates and the networking opportunities really valuable.  Thank you also for all the care and attention to making us all feel looked after.”

The conference team is now working to disseminate the outputs from the conference and maximise its impact. The video recordings from the conference are being edited for sharing with the wider audience on the conference website. The conference proceedings and the book of abstracts are being prepared for publication in BMC Proceedings – an online open access journal devoted specifically to conference publications of a cross- or multi-disciplinary nature. Collaborations, methods, and procedures established during the conference will inform the development of the next Diversity Interventions conference, which will be hosted by SAGE in Australia in 2023.

Read more about the conference, and access the session recordings, conference proceedings, and book of abstracts once available here: Diversity Interventions website

An image taken from above of a group of conference delegates in the Natural History Museum with the quote


Click here to read about EDI activity in one of our other 16 departments:

MSD Goes Silver: 10 Years of Athena Swan

A picture of Prof Kevin Talbot saying 'Athena Swan has helped us build the tools required to maintain our progress in constructing an environment in which everyone can flourish'


Carers Career Fund:

The Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences (NDCN) is dedicated to supporting the professional development and individual career ambitions of our staff and students.

Training and conference attendance are essential for professional development, yet they often take place outside of normal working hours and away from established support networks. Parents and carers may incur additional costs in order to attend or, in some cases, have to miss out on opportunities entirely. Recent research shows that the provision of care bursaries would go some way to mitigating these pressures.

Following a successful six-month (13 September 2017–15 March 2018) pilot, they established the NDCN Parents’ and Carers’ Career Fund as a permanent scheme.

The NDCN Carers’ Career Fund is open to all academic, research, professional, support staff and students who have regular caring responsibilities, e.g. for child, parent, partner, or a close relative. Individuals can apply for funding to help offset the costs of paying for care above and beyond their normal arrangements when attending events relating to their professional development.

The idea for the fund was developed by Katja Wiech and Stacie Allan, who recognised that some members of Department may need extra support to achieve their professional goals. The initiative is part of the Department’s Athena SWAN activities and supports our goal of creating an inclusive, diverse, and supportive workplace. ‘The academic environment is often set up for the commitment-free and geographically mobile’, as Stacie explained, ‘we’re looking at ways that we can make access to opportunities more of a level playing field and ultimately give everyone a better chance of succeeding in their careers’.


To enable parents and carers to attend courses, conferences, summer schools, research visits and other work-related training, by supplementing the costs of their preferred additional care arrangements.

Since the fund’s inception in 2017, a total of £7962.07 has been awarded to 23 applicants.  

Researcher Cheng Jiang was able to attend a symposium in China, where he gave a presentation on surface chemistry, based on his PhD work in the department. He took his baby daughter with him and was even able to partake in the traditional Chinese custom of celebrating a child being 100 days old. He said:

‘I feel so grateful receiving the kind support and benefits from the Fund… and I would suggest more colleagues apply for this fund in the future’

 An image of Charlotte Jiang at 100 days old with the quote:


Women in Clinical Neurosciences Network

Through its Athena Swan work, NDCN identified particular barriers to career progression among female clinical academics. Their Women in Clinical Neurosciences Network launched with a conference at the Said Business School in December 2021. The network aims to:

  • Provide a warm, confidential and welcoming environment to build friendships and form peer support networks
  • Facilitate open and frank discussion of individual experiences of progression barriers, from junior to senior level
  • Consider what makes a successful female clinical neuroscientist at all career stages via individual case presentations
  • Signpost support that already exists for women in NDCN - what is working well and what more needs to be done?

Professor Michele Hu said of the Network:

‘I am delighted that this led to the creation of the Women in Clinical Neurosciences Network, which will facilitate frank discussion of experiences, share case studies, signpost existing support and consider what more needs to be done to break down barriers at all levels. A large number of female clinical academics gathered for the conference launch at the Said Business School in December 2021, and we received very positive feedback about our initiative and its potential.’

An image of the Women in Clinical Neurosciences network with the quote


Click here to read about EDI activity in one of our other 16 departments:

MSD Goes Silver: 10 Years of Athena Swan

Mental Health First Aiders

In 2020 the Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine (NDM) established a partnership with Mental Health First Aid England to provide awareness briefing sessions and develop a Mental Health Ally programme for NDM staff.  Our aim is to raise awareness of Mental Health, reduce stigma and improve peer support for staff in NDM. Since 2021 we have established a network of 22 trained Mental Health Allies, who can act as an initial point of contact for staff experiencing a mental health issue or emotional distress, can provide support and signpost to appropriate help if required. In 2020 we launched a Health and Wellbeing website page, pulling together resources, guidance and information from across the University to support staff and students.

Three Mental Health Awareness sessions have run since Oct 2020 (total of 75 attendees).  Two more awareness sessions planned for June 2022

Read more on the Mental Health Allies webpage

"I left the course feeling so much more confident in recognising the signs of somebody struggling and also in knowing how to help."

"It was a good experience, learnt new things and it was good to hear the other people views on the mental health. Thank you for the opportunity."

An image of a cartoon head in profile with a garden in the mind with the quote

Bullying and Harassment

In 2019 NDM established a sub-group from the Athena Swan SAT to specifically tackle bullying and harassment. A number of targeted actions took place as a result.

Action starts at induction, where several courses are mandatory for new starters, including Challenging Behaviour, Equality and Diversity training, Unconscious Bias training, and Managing People for new line managers.

NDM run regular awareness campaigns, and have implemented targeted training. Data from the 2018 survey suggested that peer-to-peer conflict may be an issue, and so in response, specific training was developed, and a number of sessions ran throughout 2021 on Understanding and Dealing with workplace bullying and harassment: guidance for managers. We also ran Responsible Bystander training throughout 2021.

To support our staff we expanded our network of NDM Harassment Advisors from 18 to 23 during 2019. We are working with AdvanceHE during 2022 on an Inclusive Leadership Project, with a view to support, develop and enhance inclusive and transparent approaches to leadership within the Department.

Read more on their Harassment and bullying webpages

"I thought the training was a good pace and there was good interaction between the trainer and the attendees and there was opportunity for us to reflect on our behaviours and experience."

"A very useful course, not dry, the content was relatable and I will be able to apply it in my day to day work/people management."

"I would highly recommend this course, I certainly think it should be delivered to more NDM members."

2019 Equity in Academia symposium

The Nuffield Department of Medicine, in partnership with Oxford Tropical Network, hosted the 2019 Equity in Academia symposium on 12th September 2019 in Oxford, which was attended by over 100 international speakers and delegates, representing Kenya, South Africa, Switzerland, UK, Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand, Nepal and Vietnam. The one-day meeting brought together a diverse and international audience, as well as experts working in health sciences to discuss some of the barriers to under-represented groups and to recognise current challenges for equity and diversity, with a focus on three central themes: unconscious bias, promotion of under-represented groups in academia, and barriers in academic publishing. The event provided opportunities for reflection, networking and personal development, as well as generated insights into shared challenges and new ideas for future action steps. Our sessions embraced dialogue to create solutions, networks, and an environment in which academic equity can be improved. Brilliant art was provided by Drawnalism’s Alex Hughes, capturing the mood and themes throughout the day. A paper was developed and published as a result of the symposium:

Wedekind L, Noé A, Mokaya J et al. Equity for excellence in academic institutions: a manifesto for change [version 1; peer review: 2 approved]. Wellcome Open Res 2021, 6:142 ( PMID: 34381874

A hand drawn image of three people of differing heights are on boxes to raise them to the same level picking apples on a tree, alongside the quote: Diversity is having a seat at the table, inclusion is having a voice, belonging is having that voice be heard: Diversity is just the first step to including all in academia


Click here to read about EDI activity in one of our other 16 departments:

MSD Goes Silver: 10 Years of Athena Swan

Krina Zondervan, head of Womens and reproductive Helath says “Athena Swan has helped to drive positive change within the department. We have seen a shift in our culture for the better because of our commitment to the Charter.”


Student Networking Event in Nuffield Department of Women’s & Reproductive Health (NDWRH)

On Wednesday 9 June 2021, NDWRH Student Committee hosted a virtual networking event for women's health researchers at the University of Oxford and Edinburgh University. The aim was to give students an opportunity to expand their connections in the women’s health field in a friendly, open and inclusive setting.

55 DPhil and MSc by Research students, PIs and post docs from both universities attended. Students presented their abstracts on Obstetrics / Fertility preservation Gynaecology topics with PIs from both departments judging.

Post event feedback reported that attendees found the day “informative, horizon broadening and engaging” and 82% would very likely attend another event.

Abi Takyi, DPhil student and President, NDWRH Committee commented:

“As president I aim to effectively represent and advocate for students by making sure their views are heard at board meetings. I'm excited to work alongside my committee to harness new ideas and technology to make our time as post graduate students as fulfilling as possible."

Read more about the NDWRH networking event that took place in June 2021

Student Abigail Taki says


Click here to read about EDI activity in one of our other 16 departments:

MSD Goes Silver: 10 Years of Athena Swan

Claire Edwards, academic champion in NDS says “The Athena Swan Charter has helped us to better understand our department, and establish new practices to build an inclusive working environment that is supportive for all”


Mental Health Pilot Project

Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences (NDS) noticed that men were less likely to engage with the topic of mental health and wellbeing, while women were likely to report feeling less comfortable discussing mental health and wellbeing compared with their male colleagues. Below are some of the actions they took:

  • Trained a cohort of Mental Health First Aiders and launched the ‘Wellbeing Support Service’ so that staff can access someone who is trained to listen and signpost them to support. We now run the training annually and have expanded the service to run across two departments. We aim to keep 10% of our department trained as Mental Health First Aiders
  • Devising a mental health and wellbeing policy
  • New pages on our staff intranet providing resources around mental health and wellbeing, including crisis support lines
  • Monthly ‘Wellbeing Wednesday Bulletin’, which gives information, resources and support on specific topics, such as anxiety, depression, bereavement, etc.

As a result of this concerted push 83% of staff felt their health and wellbeing was adequately supported at work, that number increases to 94% when you remove non-answers. 80% of staff are comfortable discussing concerns they may have about their health and wellbeing with their manager. This increases to 92% when removing non-answers.

NDS ranked among the highest three departments in the University for staff wellbeing in the 2021 Staff Experience Survey, and are immensely proud of the impact this focused piece of work has had across the department.

"There still a lot of stigma and fear about talking about mental health problems and severe mental illness and in the workplace either confidentially with a line manager or with colleagues. I think the project is working to create a framework so that staff with mental health problems feel safe and supported whether they choose to disclose their condition to their employer or not. There’s a lot of situations where HR or line managers introduce policies in the office environment which they are not aware have a detrimental impact on people with mental health problems and I’m really pleased that this project will help address that. I find it very difficult to stick your head above the crowd to raise these issues as an individual. I have found taking part in the project really affirming and I feel more comfortable and confident talking about my mental health in the workplace. Although focused on mental health, the mental health policy will provide a lot of benefits to other people with disabilities and health conditions (particularly hidden disabilities)."

An image of a brick wall with a painted sign saying 'How are you, really?' with a quote from John Gilbert "the project is working to create a framework so that staff with mental health problems feel safe and supported whether they choose to disclose their condition to their employer or not."

NDS Training Fund

NDS created a training fund that allows staff to apply for up to £1000 worth of funding for external training. Any member of staff can join including professional and support staff who are often overlooked in this area, and they encourage those of fixed-term contracts to use it as well, to prepare them to potentially re-entering the job market.

Since its creation, the fund has been used by 19 staff across different roles, 10 of whom are women.

Read testimonials from NDS staff who were successful in applying to the staff training fund 

HR Officer Gemma Horbatowski says of the NDS Staff training fund


Click here to read about EDI activity in one of our other 16 departments:

MSD Goes Silver: 10 Years of Athena Swan

A picture of Professor Jonathan Rees alongside a quote stating: “I joined NDORMS in 2002 when there was only one female academic and have witnessed first-hand the transformation in the department in size and diversity.”


Solving conflicts and managing complaints: our newest NDORMS Mediation Service

Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology & Musculoskeletal Sciences (NDORMS) has set up an internal mediation service for all its staff and students. This got additional funding from the Research Culture Enhancement Fund in 2021. By having an in-house mediation service NDORMS aims to: informally manage workplace conflicts and learn from them; to resolve them internally and at an early stage; and to create an organizational culture of conflict management and develops employee skills in conflict resolution. The Mediation Service facilitates a confidential space for NDORMS Staff /students who find themselves in conflict with another member of staff/student. We provide the parties with a new opportunity: a chance to voice feelings and to hear the other person’s perspective. Mediation improves our working environment and research culture by empowering individuals and teams to manage their conflicts efficiently, informally and constructively.

The wider University would benefit to have a Mediation service for all staff. NDORMS will share experiences and good practices with Departments and Divisions. We will present a final report, evaluation and a project plan will be shared with the MSD EDI SG to look at scaling this up across the division, and the EDI Knowledge hub to facilitate the sharing of best practice.

The NDORMS Mediators are Maria Granell-Moreno and Isuara Thomas from NDORMS and, Louise Cotterell from DPAG. They are professionally trained experts in helping people to communicate more effectively with each other. They will not judge, interrogate or tell people what to do. The Mediators are here to help parties get clarity about their situation, facilitate a conversation, and help to reach a conclusion that both parties are happy with.

“So fantastic to have this available in NDORMS!”

Read more about the NDORMS Mediation Service project

A picture of Isuara Thomas, who is co chair of the NDORMS Mediation service alongside a quote.   

Evolution of the NDORMS Taught MSc

The Taught MSc in Musculoskeletal Sciences is a part time 2-year course integrating orthopaedics and rheumatology. The vision is to train the future leaders in the field of musculoskeletal sciences to facilitate scientific and clinical excellence that transforms the study and treatment of musculoskeletal diseases. The course provides graduate students with academic training in the principles and scientific aspects of common musculoskeletal diseases, statistical and epidemiological tools used in the research of musculoskeletal diseases and advanced modules on rheumatology, trauma and orthopaedics.

Since the appointment of Prof Stephanie Dakin as Director of Graduate Studies for this course in 2017, we have increased our efforts to balance the gender ratio and to attract more female candidates to the MSc course. Working closely with the comms team during advertising we reach out to female twitter groups to ensure members of these groups see our flyers, banners and videos. We ensure that females are represented on the course, the Course Director is female, as are several members of our Organising Committee and we strive to have 50% on-course teaching materials contributed by women.

To integrate more active learning approaches into our course and forge collaborative international relations, we held the first joint symposium with the University of Toronto in 2019. The event was extremely successful and both institutions decided to take part in the symposium again with the new students. Therefore the 2nd joint symposium took place on 22nd March 2021.  7 group leaders lead this event, 4 female colleagues and 3 male colleagues. We are currently in discussion to hold the 3rd joint symposium in March 2023.

This event helps to raise the international profile of our course and foster collaborative opportunities for speaker / student exchange.

Facts & Figures

Cohort Composition:

  • 2016-2018: 13 students (1 Female student) 8%, 0% international students
  • 2018-2020: 12 students (1 Female student) 8%, 25% international students
  • 2020-2022: 13 students (4 Female Students) 31%, 38% international students
  • 2022-2024: 11 students (4 Female Students) 36%, 27% international students

Our Course provides female academics with the opportunity to teach and working towards a more gender balanced teaching team (based upon the 2 most recent teaching sessions and next proposed session):

  • December 2021: 28 Speakers in total, 12 female speakers 43%
  • March 2022: 16 Speakers in total, 8 female speakers 50%
  • Proposed June 2022: 19 Speakers, 9 female speakers 47%

Find out more about the MSc in Musculoskeletal Science course

‘It’s a great pleasure to be Director of Graduate Studies for our Taught MSc in Musculoskeletal Sciences. We work with a fantastic NDORMS team, enabling us to deliver internationally renowned training in the Musculoskeletal Sciences. It is a privilege to engage with our students who never cease to amaze us with their levels of knowledge, commitment and dedication to pursue excellence. It has been fantastic to see more female students and academics represented on the course and raise our international profile over the past 5 years. We have also worked hard to strengthen our Alumni connections and encourage peer mentoring. It’s hugely rewarding to see students generate tangible outputs from the course, getting their literature reviews published, their grant proposals funded and advancing their careers in the Musculoskeletal Sciences.’

Course Director Prof Stephanie G Dakin:

 A picture of a group of students smiling in the sun alongside some information about how changes to the MSc course they are on has resulted in the female proportion increasing from 8% to 36% over 6 years



Click here to read about EDI activity in one of our other 16 departments:

MSD Goes Silver: 10 Years of Athena Swan

A picture of Prof Rebeccah Slater who says “New departmental initiatives inspired by Athena Swan have positively influenced our decision-making processes to make us more reflective, responsive and fair.”

Using Data to Drive Positive Cultural Change

We are creating and developing a flagship departmental scheme where we use historical data to drive positive cultural change. Before key decisions are made by committee members, interview panels or board representatives, departmental data related to prior decisions and outcomes are presented to each decision-making member.

Key decision-making processes where data is used to drive positive cultural change includes selecting new graduate students, appointing, retaining and advancing members of staff, and recommendations for recognition of distinction awards.

For example, before interviewing potential graduate students, the interview panel are presented with data that highlights how many women have previously applied for the post, been shortlisted for interview, been offered and have taken up the post. Trends in our decision-making processes are visually presented in a clear and timely manner to remind us of the importance of addressing imbalances or biases in our decision-making process.

The transparency in which this data is discussed allows us all to reflect on our unconscious biases before key decisions are made. Our aim is to make departmental decision-making processes more reflective, responsive and fair.

A picture of hands at a laptop and a quote relating to the Paediatrics project to streamline data into all decision making


Click here to read about EDI activity in one of our other 16 departments:

MSD Goes Silver: 10 Years of Athena Swan

Prof Belinda Lennox says 'Following the Athena SWAN Charter has helped us to not only identify problems, but also to develop creative, even innovative, responses to them. As a result, we belong to a fairer, more inclusive and equal Department of Psychiatry'

Senior Leadership Equality

The Department of Psychiatry is very proud of the equality in leadership which has been achieved in the last award period.  Initiatives to promote and support the career development of women staff members and early career researchers have resulted in increased representation at professorial levels (from 20% in 2012 to 30% in 2022).  In particular, the recently appointed Head of Department, Belinda Lennox, is also the first female clinical Professor of Psychiatry

Professor Belinda Lennox, Head of Department, said:

‘I believe the enthusiasm for the Athena SWAN process in our Department of Psychiatry and the commitment from our teams leading on its many initiatives and activities have been incredibly valuable. Following the Athena SWAN Charter has helped us to not only identify problems, but also to develop creative, even innovative, responses to them. As a result, we belong to a fairer, more inclusive and equal Department of Psychiatry, with clear opportunities of career progression for women towards senior posts.

‘Having worked part-time my-self for 10 years, whilst balancing research, clinical practice and childcare, I did not see any way that I could be competitive as an academic in the long-term. The positive impact of the Athena SWAN process has meant that I have been strongly supported to apply for senior positions, becoming the first female Professor of Psychiatry in 2019 and the first female Head of Department last year. In effect, the playing field has been levelled for me and I’m now enthusiastic to ensure the same opportunities are available for others.’

Departmental Values and Innovative Structure

2022 brings a new focus for the Department of Psychiatry which includes a newly created People and Culture Committee to incorporate and increase the diversity of impact carried out for gender equality.  Led by Professor Cath Harmer it is supported across the department by contributions from early career researchers, professional support staff, students, clinicians and researchers. It will include a range of working groups focused on traditional gender equality topics, such as caring responsibilities and working hours in addition to well-being, career development, and disability and race equality. With this broad spectrum of experience, we will be able to respond to the challenges of the post-pandemic working culture and gender equality issues.

Professor Catherine Harmer, Associate Head of People and Culture, said:

 ”I’m really excited to take on this new role as associate head of department for people and culture.  This will allow greater focus on the working culture of our department and of academia more broadly and help to support greater inclusivity and diversity. Our new initiatives and working structure have been met with high levels of enthusiasm and support from team members in the department and I am looking forward to working together on these new plans”

An image of a meeting and a quote about the project:  

Promotion and Uptake of Shared Parental Leave

Department of Psychiatry has successfully promoted and utilised the new University Policy to allow Shared Parental Leave.  Since the department was awarded its Silver Athena Swan award in April 2018, six members of staff have used the policy to allow parents to share their caring and working responsibilities equally post-birth or adoption of their child. Using Shared Parental Leave has allowed members of staff to choose to return to work flexibly.

Visit Psychiatry's work/life balance webpages


Click here to read about EDI activity in one of our other 16 departments:

MSD Goes Silver: 10 Years of Athena Swan

Prof Sir Rory Collins says 'We are supporting activities that take into account the intersectionality of diversity to ensure an equitable working environment – but there is still more to be done and we will continue to look for new ideas to make our working lives even better.'

Professor Sir Rory Collins, Head of Nuffield Department of Population Health (NDPH) has been a champion of Athena Swan since NDPH first started on their Athena Swan journey, he said: 

‘The Athena SWAN Charter provides a framework to make sure that we are doing everything we can to enable all colleagues to make the most of their talents; it encourages us to address barriers to progression that affect women, to work towards gender equality, and to create an inclusive working, learning and social environment in which diversity is valued and the rights and dignity of all our staff and students are respected.

‘Many people have commitments and responsibilities beyond their work but this shouldn’t mean that they are disadvantaged in terms of their career progression. We want everyone to be able to make the most of their gifts and have introduced various initiatives to help make this happen – from part-time DPhils to pump-priming grants, and flexible working patterns. As a department we benefit from the learning, imagination and energy of people who might not be able to fulfil their potential without these sorts of initiatives – so it’s a win-win situation for everyone.

‘We were delighted to receive our Silver Award renewal in 2019 and it is fantastic to now be part of an all-Silver division. The Silver Awards demonstrate our commitment to providing a range of opportunities and support to staff and students whatever their background or circumstances. Building on these efforts, we are supporting activities that take into account the intersectionality of diversity to ensure an equitable working environment – but there is still more to be done and we will continue to look for new ideas to make our working lives even better.’

Part time DPhil

NDPH introduced the first part-time DPhil in Oxford University’s Medical Sciences Division (MSD), which is available to their staff (funded by NDPH) as well as to others, in order to help women and other people with caring responsibilities to further their careers alongside family life, or their existing role.

Read more on the part-time DPhil structure on the NDPH website

Since its introduction in 2015, 20 people are either currently on, or have completed, the part-time DPhil (15 female, 5 male).

 ‘The part-time DPhil is enabling me to work towards an important qualification for my future career without having to take time out of the workforce. I am simultaneously gaining experience in a job I enjoy while further specialising in statistical genomics and developing my independent research skills through the DPhil.’

Jennifer Collister, Statistical Programmer and part-time DPhil student, Oxford Population Health 

Former part time Dphil student Kate Fitzpatrick says


Click here to read about EDI activity in one of our other 16 departments:

MSD Goes Silver: 10 Years of Athena Swan

Prof Sue Ziebland says 'Our approach (and committed colleagues) has helped us to maintain momentum, keep on track, and provided the grounding and evidence of sustained good practice for our current application for a Gold award. 

Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences (NDPCHS) Athena Swan Champion Sue Ziebland says:

This year the NDPCHS marks ten years of our Athena SWAN journey.  I think that we have particularly benefitted from

  1. our early decision that our Better Workplace initiatives should involve everyone and could focus on issues that affect anyone 
  2. the recognition that we needed to share news of our EDI successes with the whole department
  3. our robust mixed methods approach to understanding the issues and to avoiding surprises by monitoring the data regularly. This approach (and committed, imaginative colleagues) has helped us to maintain momentum, keep on track, and (hopefully!) provided the grounding and evidence of sustained good practice for our current application for a Gold award. 

Part time working project

In the 2018 staff survey we saw that 39% of respondents felt working part-time hindered career progression. Yet the department believes strongly that balancing part-time work with other responsibilities, like supporting a family, shouldn’t be a barrier to career progression for anyone, and the department aims to encourage and support all staff to thrive in their careers and progress to senior positions.

In 2019 they developed a new set of guidelines for managers and staff to support this goal and collated and shared the experiences of others in the department who work part-time. During this period, we have seen 38 staff promoted, 29% of whom work part-time. We have also seen 30 staff awarded the title of university research lecturer, associate professor or professor and 23% of these were part-time workers.

James Sheppard says 'the department believes strongly that balancing part-time work with other responsibilities, like supporting a family, shouldn’t be a barrier to career progression for anyone' 

PDR Project

In the 2018 staff survey, while 93% of respondents found PDR useful only 61% reported having one in the last two years. The department aim is for everyone to have the opportunity to have an annual PDR with their line manager.

To improve the uptake of PDRs in the department, in 2018 NDPCHS launched a PDR awareness month with improved guidance and training to try to break down some of the barriers to completing a PDR and improve their quality. In 2020 the senior management committee wrote statements of commitment reflecting on why PDRs are important to them and their team.

They are currently moving our PDRs onto an online system to encourage completion and improve the accuracy of reporting while reducing the administrative burden of completing the process


Click here to read about EDI activity in one of our other 16 departments:

MSD Goes Silver: 10 Years of Athena Swan

A picture of Prof David Paterson alongside a quote:

Women in Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics

The portraits on the walls of Department of Physiology, Anatomy & Genetics's (DPAG) Sherrington Building have historically been predominantly of men, reflecting our heritage but not acknowledging the role of women in the history of the Department. In 2020 we committed to raise the visibility of women, and to acknowledge their contributions to the Department, through images and narratives celebrating their work and successes.  In 2021, the project came to fruition with the creation of a ‘Women in Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics’ website which features nominated women staff and students, past and present.  In conjunction, we created a gallery of photographs of 16 notable women on the main staircase of the Sherrington Building.  Feedback on the gallery has been incredibly positive, with regular comments from staff, students, and visitors. 

"Women on the stairwell are fantastic! The photographs look great. I had some major visitors to the lab today and they were a big hit.  So nice to see!!' (Group Leader, M, 2021)

 An old back and white picture of Mabel Fitzgerald who was a pioneer in respiration research alongside some information about the Women in Physiology project: In recognition of the fact that women have been largely excluded from DPAG’s history, we undertook this project in 2021 to redress the balance […]  we hope that it serves both to celebrate our past and to inspire future generations of women

Lunch and Learn – launched 2019

Responding to survey feedback from staff and students that there was a need for short, focused training sessions, we piloted ‘Lunch & Learn’ sessions in 2019 and 2020.  Attendance was good, and feedback excellent, leading to the development of termly themed Lunch & Learn programmes.  The sessions have been open to all DPAG staff and students, as well as other local departments.

Engagement and feedback has been excellent with 94% of attendees agreeing that their understanding of each topic has improved post-event.  A recent Lunch & Learn that included a presentation and discussion on regrading prompted a number of approaches from PIs who were keen to support the regrading of group members, and from researchers and professional services staff wishing to apply for regrading.

“It was a really useful session. I liked the panel discussion and the questions asked by the chair. One of the most useful sessions I have attended so far. Thank you!” Anon. Working in Academia Lunch & Learn, March 2022.

“This was excellent, with clear examples of how to prepare cv, covering letter and how to take part in an interview.” Anon, CVs & Interview Skills, February 2022

Some people learning in a lecture hall alongside information about how grop leaders in DPAG have used the Lunch and Learn programme to springboard discussions with departmetal management about staff regrading.


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MSD Goes Silver: 10 Years of Athena Swan

 An image of HoD Prof Frances Platt who says

Department of Pharmacology: Recognition of distinction

To redress the fact that female staff are less likely to put themselves forward for promotion (no applications for professors were made by female staff in 2015), we introduced annual reviews for all academics against the criteria for the URL, AP or Professorial titles

Since 2015/6, we have assessed all staff annual against the criteria for the titles of Professor, Associate Professor and University Research Lecturer Titles. All staff who meet the criteria are invited to apply and we share previous successful applications alongside other support.  Applications are reviewed by other academic staff and the HR manager, and their HoD guides each individual creating creates a detailed, tailored letter of support.

In this way, they identified two female staff who submitted a successful application for the title of Professor and two additional applications (1F/1M) are pending in 2022.

Applications for recognition are discussed with academic staff during annual reviews and, if there are gaps in their experience, this is built into their objectives to make sure they are on track to make an application in future.

Since this date 7 staff (4F) have been awarded titles and all our applications have been successful (compared to MSD average of 62%).

“The Department has always encouraged me to seek recognition for my achievements and I have always felt very supported in my ambitions. Gaining the title of Associate Professor will be a huge advantage as I work to move my career onto the next level.”

An image of a woman from behind giving a lecture with the quote



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MSD Goes Silver: 10 Years of Athena Swan

An image of Prof Quentin Sattentau and the quote

Sir William Dunn School of Pathology: Confocal Microscope project

The problem:

Researchers with young children were struggling to get access to microscopes in the department at the times they needed them due to over demand by users.

Group Leader Dr Monika Gullerova (pictured) raised the issue back in 2018 and this was subsequently included in our Silver Award Action Plan: “Very recently, I’ve raised an issue about booking pressures for the heavily used confocal microscopes, and as reflected in our action plan, the HOD is now committed to applying for a grant that will allow us to buy another confocal microscope, for preferential use by parents between 9am-5pm.”

The solution:

The light microscopy facility manager not only arranged a purchase of a new microscope and set up a core hours priority booking system for parents and carers for its use, but extended the priority booking system across the facility as a whole.

The impact:

Parents with young children and carers with pressures on their time now have the access they need to microscopy at the times they need.

An image of group leader Monika Gullerova saying


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MSD Goes Silver: 10 Years of Athena Swan

An image of Kate Watkins who says 'Having our Silver Award renewed in 2021 is a source of great pride and welcome recognition of our efforts to support gender equality in  Experimental Psychology'

Initiatives to support career progression.

As part of their commitment to supporting their academic staff to progress in their careers, the Department of Experimental Psychology have:

  • established research committee (2016), a vehicle for discussing and promoting career development at this pivotal stage
  • introduced mid-fellowship review for personal fellowship holders
  • established the ECR committee (2017) and ecrXchange Network (2018)
  • began ECR Fire Talks from 2018, a well-received annual seminar slot within our Departmental Seminar series.
  • has held a termly “Women’s Tea” since 2012 for research staff, a relaxed event to discuss barriers to progression for women.

ECR, female, 32, now Lecturer at another University:

“I think I got a lot of career support in the department. In addition to lab and PI-based support, I think the Women’s Tea and the ECR workshops were very helpful. Certainly, contacts via these events, as well as direct mentors, were useful in negotiating start up, understanding what was reasonable etc. I also thought the PDR process, and the idea on self-reflecting on what would help one’s career was very useful throughout my time as a postdoc.”

ECR president (F):

“Thank you very much for the ECR firetalks slot in the departmental seminar series - very much appreciated - and I am sure the ECR talks will be received very well this time again. I had also planned to say a huge ’thank you’ to all of you PI’s who have contributed to our career seminars over the last academic year - your support has been fantastic.”

Creating an inclusive and welcoming culture

Our Department has worked hard to incorporate the principles of the Athena SWAN Charter fully into our everyday activities. We are proud of our achievements to create an inclusive and welcoming culture. A few of our initiatives include:

  • embedding the principles of inclusion, diversity, respect, and equality into our department’s mission statement
  • adding our first LGBT+ representative to the PCC/SAT committee in 2018 and launching the LGBT+STEM event
  • launching in 2018 a department-wide celebration of Ada Lovelace Day to showcase women in science and in psychology in particular.
  • in 2019/20, training and establishing a network of 18 mental health first aiders who represent staff and research students across all department buildings

Since 2016, our survey revealed consistently high proportion of female and male staff feel “able to be myself” at work (92% on average).

EPICS Alumni Project

The greatest legacy of our department are the individuals that we have had the honour to teach and work with over the years and their contributions to society. Our alumni have gone on to succeed in diverse fields – both within and outside of academia – and are using their degrees in exciting and remarkable ways. Our EPICS (EP Involved in Contributing to Society website profiles our amazing alumni and researchers to inspire future generations and demonstrate the varied career paths open to EP graduates and researchers. Part of the EPICS website is devoted to marking the Centenary since the first women were awarded degrees at Oxford. Around 70 of our EP alumnae shared their insights, reflections and memories with us. Showcasing the achievements of these remarkable women is very much part of our Athena SWAN work. We are still adding information and new profiles, and are incredibly grateful to those who have kindly shared their wisdom and memories with us.

Both EPICS and the Centenary Project are ever-evolving and we are aware that names will have been missed. Contact us to nominate yourself or someone else for our Centenary of Women Project or EPICS Project.

An image of EP Alum Anupriya Dwivedi and a quote from her:


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MSD Goes Silver: 10 Years of Athena Swan

HoD Prof Francis Barr says “I firmly believe that Athena Swan plays a central role both as a driver and as a catalyst for transforming the culture of our department”

Department of Biochemistry: increasing representation

As part of Biochemistry’s application for the Silver Award, the Department set up and rebooted a variety of networks to give staff and students a greater say in the running of the Department.  Each of these networks has a representative on the Departmental Strategy Group with a standing agenda item to raise issues and report on activities.

PSS Network

The first of these is the Professional Support Staff (PSS) network to establish better communication between scientists and staff, and to give staff a stronger say in how the Department is run. The committee meets monthly to discuss Departmental issues, arrange events as well as to support PSS career development and reports to the Departmental Strategy Group.  The PSS network has a budget to host social events and improve communication with academic staff by organising accessible science research talks with coffee. It also has a dedicated Teams channel to encourage and facilitate communication between PSS network members.

Oxford Biochemistry Biochemical Society and Postdoc Association

The Department has given new impetus to the Oxford University Biochemical Society, to help masters, DPhil students, and postdoc researchers have their voices heard. This society has a budget to host events (such as seminars, poster sessions, and networking events) that are of professional benefit to their members and organises termly external seminar speakers. 

To empower postdoc researchers, Biochemistry engaged with a group of enthusiastic PDRAs to launch a PDRA Association (OBPA) (Action 5.13). The OBPA committee (9F:5M) manage a budget from the Department, plus sponsorship they raise, to organise an annual OBPA retreat and a program of social and career-related activities.

The retreats in 2017 and 18 included academic and non-academic careers talks (6F:5M presenters in 2018), skills workshops, Brexit information and a sit-down lunch. The retreats and other activities, including monthly coffee sessions with speakers (covering careers, fellowship opportunities, training), two grant writing workshops, public engagement seminars and poster sessions have been well received, with 83%F:90%M of PDRAs saying the association is a positive development

“The grant-writing workshop was so helpful and given me the confidence to work towards a fellowship application.” Female PDRA, Workshop Feedback18

“The retreat was an excellent opportunity to hear about a wide range of career options and initiatives for postdoc career development.” Female PDRA, Retreat Feedback17

Read more about the societies here:

Equality and Diversity Information for new PIs.

All newly appointed group leaders automatically join the Equality and Diversity Committee for one year. This is not onerous but introduces them to the Departmental culture on Equality and Diversity from the outset, encourages them to discuss best practice from other places they have worked and also is an opportunity to meet a diverse range of Department members to facilitate integration.

An image of the OUBS logo with some feedback from a grant writing session:


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MSD Goes Silver: 10 Years of Athena Swan


Mark Middleton Head of Oncology says “Athena Swan has given us a mirror that we hold up to ourselves. It has been instrumental in ensuring our Department is inclusive, fair, supportive and collaborative”

Department of Oncology: RECOGNISE Mentoring Scheme

The RECOGNISE Mentoring Scheme is an interdepartmental initiative run in partnership with the Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences (NDS).

Some mentoring occurs naturally and informally in the workplace, but it usually needs some coordination to ensure that it happens for all those who want mentoring. RECOGNISE aims to provide that coordination and actively facilitate the building of relationships across NDS and Oncology units.

The overall aim is to assist mentees to achieve personal and professional growth through a mentoring relationship that provides support as they progress and develop within the University.

We have developed training for all RECOGNISE mentors and mentees to support them in creating an effective partnership.

This joint pilot scheme was launched in March 2022 and, so far, has established over 40 mentoring partnerships, with more than 15 of these being interdepartmental.

Applications are now being received on a rolling basis.

Read about the Departmental Mentoring Scheme on the Oncology website

Read about the Departmental Mentoring Scheme on the NDS website

"I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to develop a mentoring partnership with someone who understands my career but is independent of my day-to-day work.” – mentee registered with RECOGNISE

An image of women in conversation representing the Oncology and NDS inter-departmental mentoring scheme. Some mentoring occurs naturally in the workplace, but it usually needs some coordination to ensure that it happens for all those who want mentoring. RECOGNISE actively facilitates the building of relationships across NDS and Oncology

60 seconds with… series

Our mini ‘60 seconds with…’ interviews are a Departmental initiative aimed at promoting the importance of the people within our Department.

It highlights the range of work they carry out through research, administrative and support areas, recognising their expertise, showcasing career paths, and also acknowledging their life outside of work too.

Since starting this project in 2019, we have around 40 articles with approximately 22 women and 18 men taking part to date.

Previous interviewees have informed us how much they enjoy taking part, that it increases their visibility in the department, and one female researcher also reported starting a potential new collaboration as a result of her interview being promoted via our Twitter channel!

Read 60 seconds with... interviews on the Department of Oncology website

"Thank you again for approaching me, the support received has been overwhelming” – DPhil interviewee feedback on an article piece which celebrated a personal achievement

Athena Swan in Oncology: Women in Focus

Our ‘Women in Focus’ series is a new initiative within the Department, which began in mid-2021. We plan to publish two to three biographies each year which focus on female scientists who’ve reached the top of their careers both within Oxford and beyond.

The idea behind this particular project is to provide a valuable insight into the resilience required as a scientist and how these women have broken through the infamous “glass ceiling”.

The aim of this is to not only inspire future female scientists, but also to highlight the varied career paths taken, and the challenges they’ve overcome to achieve their goals.

Read the Department of Oncology blogs

“The biographies highlight the childhood influences and student experiences that have emboldened these women to thrive in the male-dominated world of academic science.”

Sarah Blagden, AS Academic Lead, Department of Oncology

Sarah Blagdon says “The biographies highlight the childhood influences and student experiences that have emboldened these women to thrive in the male-dominated world of academic science.”


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MSD Goes Silver: 10 Years of Athena Swan