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Athena SWAN Case Study: Dr Deborah Longbottom

Dr Deborah Longbottom

I have been a member of the Chemistry Department since the beginning of 2004, returning from a stint of post-doctoral work in America and commencing a second post-doctoral period of research in the laboratory of Professor Steven Ley. In terms of Career progression, Steve was supportive right from the start, realising that my passion for teaching was equal to that for research.

Steve  allowed me in those early days to take on a 25% Teaching Fellowship at Trinity College in order to develop my career in line with my academic interests and was content to take the loss of research output that this might cause.

In turn, this put me in an excellent position to apply for a Departmental Teaching Fellowship (50%) at the same time as a College Teaching Officer (50%) became available at Homerton College, both positions which I was successful in securing in 2007 thanks to the profile and experience I had developed in the Department with the backing and encouragement of my colleagues.

I subsequently had two children (2008, 2010) and found myself extremely well supported in both College and the Department, not least by receiving funds from the Returning Carers scheme in 2012. This allowed me to pursue some (graduate level) research and teaching activities I would not otherwise be able to do.

In 2014, I was promoted to the full-time Departmental role of ‘Head of Graduate Education’, a new position that offers the opportunity to develop graduate support and training in a way that will add tremendous value the research experience of our post-graduates. I was fortunate enough to then have my third child in 2015 and have experienced nothing but flexibility and support in my return to work. This has enabled me to carry out my entire job in the most effective way (e.g. working from home when practical to do so) and the return to work has been relatively painless.

Over the past decade, I have seen changes in the institutional culture of the Department, largely due to the work that many people have been doing as part of the Athena SWAN agenda to make us a more welcoming, inclusive and gender-aware community of scientists. No doubt in a Department as large, high profile and diverse as ours we will have to deal with ‘difficult’ individuals, but I feel confident that the structures are now in place to respond to problems and that collectively we have become a happier and friendlier Department. I look forward to coming to work, I am passionate about the work I do, and just as importantly I both like and respect my colleagues.