Women in NOC

The NOC People Strategy has at its centre a vision of NOC as ‘a great place to work where people succeed and deliver great work’. NOC is using the Investors in People framework to review progress towards this vision and make improvements; and gained accreditation in September 2015, with very positive feedback from the Assessor. Working towards this has resulted in actions that have already improved management practices (acknowledged by staff) which will also feed into attaining better gender equality, through applying more consistent management practices across the organisation. Achieving the Athena SWAN standards for gender equality is also part of our strategy.

Ed Hill, NOC Executive Director, says “I am committed to the principles of the Athena SWAN and delivering the action plan which represents a moral and practical commitment to fairness and equality.”

Dr Penny HollidayDr Penny Holliday

Penny is a physical oceanographer whose research centres on physical processes in the high latitude North Atlantic Ocean.  

Career path

At 22 years old, after graduating with a Geology degree, Penny got a job with the Institute of Oceanographic Sciences, a predecessor of today's National Oceanography Centre. Here she worked as a junior science administrator for WOCE: an international project aiming to measure the entire world ocean circulation over the course of five years. In 1993 Penny joined her first science cruise and only a few years later decided to begin a PhD on the topic of interannual variability of physical properties and circulation in the subpolar North Atlantic. In 2002 Penny earned her PhD having worked on it part time for six years and it remains her research focus and passion.

Support for equality and diversity

In an article for ‘Women in Oceanography’ Penny outlined the positive changes which have been happening for women on board ship “On my first cruise, there were just two women in the 25-strong science team, and none in the ship’s personnel. Cruises are very different now: on my 2014 cruise, half the scientists were women, and on a cruise in 2011, five of the six-member physics team were women.”

Penny is a great supporter of encouraging more women into STEM subjects and is a fantastic role model for those thinking of a career in Oceangraphy. Penny says “The NOC have supported me throughout my career and when I had my children allowed me to work the flexible hours I needed. I did work part-time for 11 years but have recently returned to science cruises now my children are older. I have a great sense of job satisfaction and look forward to coming in every day.”

Dr Stephanie HensonDr Stephanie Henson

Stephanie Henson is a senior research scientist in the Ocean Biogeochemistry and Ecosystems division of the National Oceanography Centre, leading an active research group in global biogeochemical oceanography.

Career path

After gaining an undergraduate degree in physics Stephanie took a master’s in oceanography, inspired by the applied aspects of the work and seeing the University of Southampton’s research vessel! The next step on Stephanie’s career path was a PhD, followed by postdocs in the US. The award of a NERC Fellowship brought her back to NOC, and she has since remained at the NOC in a full time position.  

Support for equality and diversity

In an article for ‘Women in Oceanography’ Stephanie says “Having started out as a physicist, where I was only one of eight women in a class of more than one hundred, I was amazed to find during my PhD studies that there were so many female oceanography students.” However, Stephanie recognises that within the scientific community there is still a way to go in increasing diversity at the top of many departments, committees and activities and is proud to be a role model as a senior research scientist at the NOC.

Dr Julie RobidartDr Julie Robidart

Julie is a molecular ecologist in Ocean Technology and Engineering leading a biosensor program focused on the development and application of novel technologies for analysing marine microbes.


As an oceanographer, a wealth of diverse opportunities are within reach and as a result, Julie has visited deep sea hydrothermal vents, worked with cutting-edge instrumentation, contributed to ground-breaking discoveries in carbon metabolism and led a major research cruise north of Hawaii.

Support for equality and diversity

Julie says “My development as a scientist and a Principle Investigator at the NOC has been facilitated by direct mentorship from senior levels, giving me a unique advantage as an early career scientist. I love my job.”

Ella Richards

Ella is a Mechanical Design Engineer working on the Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) within the NOC.


Ella read Mechanical Engineering and Girton College, Cambridge, graduating in June 2013 with a Bachelors and Masters Degree. She joined the AUV group in November 2013. She is currently working towards gaining her Chartered Engineer Status with the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, and hopes to achieve this status in 2017. In her current role at the NOC Ella provides the mechanical design effort in order to integrate new technology on the AUVs, build new AUVs and also maintains and operates the AUVs whilst at sea alongside other colleagues.

Support for equality and diversity

Gender equality within the workplace, and particularly within STEMM fields is a subject that Ella is very passionate about. Having spent a large proportion of her educational and work life as a gender minority, she feels responsible for encouraging other women to consider a career in the Engineering field. In order to do this Ella has been involved in an Engineering outreach program with local schools in order to show students that engineering is a career that is for women as well as men. She has also created links with the Naval Architecture department at University College London; running tours of the NOC facilities and has plans to give a lecture to students at UCL in attempt to promote the ideas of professional women in STEM, as well as give them information of AUV Mechanical Design. She has also been involved with the Athena SWAN process to assess and improve gender diversity at the NOC.

Judith WolfDr Judith Wolf

Judith is a Physical Oceanographer specialising in Shelf and Coastal Processes and Marine Systems Modelling as well as being the Head of Site at the NOC in Liverpool.


After graduating from Bangor University, with a 1st class joint honours in Maths and Physical Oceanography, Judith started work at the Institute of Oceanographic Sciences (IOS) in April 1976. She was able to work for a part-time PhD, registered at Liverpool University between 1978 and 1984. Judith has seen many changes during her 40-year career with NERC, not least the IOS becoming the Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory (POL) in 1988, and part of the NOC in 2010.

Support for equality and diversity

Judith says “I have found NERC to be a great employer, allowing me the flexibility to have a career break from 1991-1994 to go sailing with my family. During this time I obtained a job at the Institute of Marine Affairs in Trinidad (1992-1994), setting up a physical oceanography group, teaching at the University of the West Indies and carrying out fieldwork around the coasts of Trinidad and Tobago. Returning to the UK I was re-employed at POL, part-time for a few years while my children were young, then full-time again from 2004.

Things have changed a lot from my early days when there were very few women in oceanography in the UK, I was often the only woman at meetings and conferences. I’m glad to see many young women now being very successful and confident in their role and status. I’m very happy to be leading the Athena SWAN Self-Assessment Team for the NOC, which aims to promote the recruitment, retention and promotion of women in STEMM subjects.”

Margaret YellandDr Margaret Yelland

Margaret is a Principal Investigator at the NOC and her work is on understanding the physics of how the atmosphere and ocean exchange momentum, heat CO2, and other constituents.


After her first degree in physics at London’s Imperial College Margaret began work on a short-term contract at the Institute of Oceanographic Sciences (which later became the National Oceanography Centre). Margaret still loves the science and the work she started 25 years ago and has been on more research expeditions than she can count.

Support for diversity and equality

In an article for ‘Women in Oceanography’ Margaret gives many examples of how things are changing for the better, one great story involves a physics team she put together for a 2011 Antarctic cruise which consisted of 6 women and 1 man. She says “Some of the women had not been to sea for some years while their children were very young: their excitement and enthusiasm at returning to the sea made that cruise particularly enjoyable and hugely successful.”

Lucy CalvertLucy Calvert

Lucy is the Head of Communications at the National Oceanography Centre, managing a team of five communications professionals, who promote the NOC’s activity.


Lucy graduated with a degree in Journalism specialising in PR and publicity. Her first role saw her working in a small multi service communications agency in York, working for clients as varied as window and door manufacturers, business services, the Flying Scotsman and eight English Heritage properties. Lucy’s career then took her back to Southampton, where she studied, to another PR agency servicing a large private healthcare account, then to a national network of florists, before taking a position at the Office for National Statistics, heading up the press office for the 2011 Census. “This was a steep learning curve for me, but an amazing opportunity to communicate with every household in England and Wales, and do it in two languages - one of which I don’t speak!” After short contracts at Southampton Airport and Southampton City Council Lucy joined the NOC in March 2014 and considers this to be “one of the most interesting and diverse places I’ve ever worked, both from the point of view of the backgrounds and experience of the people I work closely with and the subject matter. I’m very lucky to have genuinely inspiring content to work with.”

Support for equality and diversity

“It’s the diversity in my career which I believe has kept me passionate about what I do, and what has also allowed me to develop the range of skills and experience that I have, and so it’s also something I value in any one job.”

Claire HammondClaire Hammond

Claire is Head of Programme Management Office at the National Oceanography Centre.


Having left Grammar School Claire started at Peat Marwick Mitchell & Co (latterly KPMG), Chartered Accountants, as a Junior Secretary.  Within three years she was managing a team of eight and continued this alongside rolling out training programmes and becoming involved in Corporate Events for a further seven years. When the opportunity arose Claire moved into the Marketing team and worked alongside the client service teams to promote the services within KPMG and develop relationships with their clients, liaising with senior clients and organising various small to large events. Seven years later when marketing was centralised she was asked by the Chief Operating Officer to support him in the operational side of the business, something she had enjoyed previously, and within a couple of years Claire was promoted to Operations Manager.  It became evident that there was a need to develop some areas within the Operations team and she was asked to build a Learning & Development (Training) function supporting the Compliance Team with Continuing Professional Development; which the practitioners were required to submit on an annual basis.  In 2007 Claire went back to studying and completed my CIPD Learning & Development Diploma, equivalent to post doctorate, qualification and was subsequently promoted to Senior Manager and Global Head of Learning & Development for a team of approximately 600 in the UK, 750 worldwide managing a budget of over £1m.

Support for equality and diversity

Claire believes it is healthy for any organisation to employ a diverse group of people who can contribute and challenge the strategic and operational aims of the organisation and bring different perspectives to the table. She says " I was brought up with strong role models with my Mum, who left school with one O’ Level, working her way through to Operational management, again studying at post graduate level as a mature student, and a Father who could easily have gone to University, if the money had been available, pursuing a career he enjoyed and which gave him the flexibility to take us to work with him during school holidays. During my career I have had support from my management to develop my skillset and pursue opportunities that I have been interested to follow, but I have taken the responsibility to find the opportunities and have encouraged those that I manage, both male and female, to develop themselves through coaching/mentoring and encouraging them to strive to be fulfilled in the career they are seeking."