Case Study: Dr Sara Mallinson

"When I joined Lancaster University in 2002 as a Senior Research Fellow I was already a mother of two pre-school children.

"The University and the Institute for Health Research (now the Division of Health Research) were both very supportive and were more than happy to accommodate my part-time hours and to allow me flexibility in my days of work when unexpected things arose - like coughs, colds and tummy upsets!

"In 2004 I had my third child and took 7 months of maternity leave. The whole process of planning my workload and my leave was incredibly easy. This is partly because of the commitment to flexibility and parent-friendly systems within the HR department, but also due to the support of my line manager and HoD. My return to work was staged carefully. I resumed my normal post but at only 2 days per week, increasing to 2.5 days per week after 1 year and then up to my current 3 days per week after about 2 years.

"Having a family and an academic career can be a tricky balance. However, parenthood has not been a barrier to the development of my career. Things happen a little more slowly, perhaps, and require more planning and personal focus (eg I have always been encouraged to focus my publications on 'good journals' using a quality not quantity rationale). I feel that there is a commitment to supporting the personal development of junior staff amongst senior colleagues here at Lancaster. I feel confident that my contributions to DHR and the wider University take account of my need to strike a home-work balance and that being a mother of three does not disadvantage me. In my experience, it is a commitment to identifying and cultivating individual strengths which makes Lancaster an excellent place to work. I have been encouraged to lead research, collaborate with others, develop teaching and take on senior management roles because people look at what I do well - and don't focus on my part-time hours or my (occasional) need to stay at home!

"I was delighted to be transferred to a lectureship in 2006 and that my application for promotion to Senior Lecturer was approved in 2008."

Dr Sara Mallinson is a Senior Lecturer in Social Science in the Division of Health Research and Associate Director of the NIHR Research Design Service for the NW.