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Work Life Balance (OU Case Studies)

Athena Swan case studies 2016

As academics at the OU, we have fantastic jobs as long as we do the work.

I have benefited greatly from this flexibility during my 15 years at the OU. It really impacted on me on the birth of my first child when I took parental leave in 2006-07. My partner had to go back to work in 2007 and I dropped to working four days a week for a year. Being able to spend one day a week doing child care stuff was great. Then when my child went to school., I went back to working five days.

The distributed nature of the OU means that our communications are set up to enable us to work from anywhere. Since the OU embraced Athena Swan, we have seen a cultural change at the OU that provides better opportunities for women and more consideration for career breaks. I think we keep getting better at this and I am very optimistic about the future.

Mark Brandon, Reader in Oceanography, Faculty of Science

When I first started at the OU I was able to take time off when my first daughter was born; it is part of the culture of the OU to say yes to these requests. Now I have a second child, and benefit from the culture inherent at the OU which means I can leave early a couple of times a week for a school or nursery run, as long as I do the work.

I have been a parent now for five years and in that time the OU has always been very flexible. Now with Juno and Athena SWAN recognition, I find that this approach is much more at the forefront of our departmental vision. We continue to have a culture of flexibility which allows people who perform well to manage their own time.

Matt Balme, Senior Lecturer in Department of Physical Sciences (This department was awarded Juno Champion and Athena SWAN Bronze status in 2014), Faculty of Science

In 2011 I became pregnant with my first child and whilst on maternity leave I was awarded a fellowship, which I carried out part-time on my return. Last year, after returning to work after my second child I was promoted to a lecturer and returned to work full time.

The OU is a lot more flexible than other institutions. We don’t have face-to-face lectures, so we can work around childcare commitments. I have found the OU is very supportive, including during pregnancy. My role involves extensive lab work and the procedures that the OU have in place ensured that I could continue working safely in the lab during my pregnancy and whilst I was breastfeeding. I find the culture at the OU very helpful.

Karen Olsson-Francis, Lecturer in Ecology, Faculty of Science

I joined the OU in May 2013 as a professor and then I went on maternity leave from August 2013 to July 2014. I have always found the OU very supportive and the flexibility provided by the OU in which I can manage my own time, goals and responsibilities is very helpful. I like the fact that we don’t have traditional face-to-face teaching; in other universities academics often have to be at a classroom by 9am. This distinctive work/life balance provided by the OU is afforded to me and other colleagues, independent of their gender. Such flexibility makes the OU feel like a very different workplace when compared to other academic institutions.

Andrea Zisman, Professor In Computer Science, Faculty of Mathematics, Computing and Technology