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Mothers and Mothers-to-be Support (MAMS) Network

The MAMS Network exists for mothers and expectant mothers at the University. Our membership is drawn from across the University's departments and divisions, including staff and postgraduate students.

If you’d like to join MAMS, please contact Fire Kovarovic.



The MAMS network began in the 2013-14 academic year as a grassroots support group for Durham University mothers, by Durham University mothers.

A small group of mums employed by the university serendipitously met at a local “Bumps and Babies” group and, facing the end of maternity leave, they wanted to create something that would allow peer support for mums to flourish in their own workplace. They knew that getting to know other mothers when they returned to work would help them personally - by knowing other mums at a similar life stage and those in other stages from which they could learn - and professionally - by accessing work-related information, keeping up on developments, and generally understanding life as a working DU mum through the sharing of experiences. An initial call of interest was followed by a meeting at which over 30 women agreed that the founding of a staff network for mothers was needed to provide support and foster a more family-friendly environment. After much deliberation the acronym MAMS, which recognises our place in the northeast of England, was decided – Mothers and Mothers-to-be Support Network.

Over the years the network has grown to 200+ members, activities have become more frequent and varied, and we’re proud to have made a name for ourselves in the staff network space!  



We welcome mothers of the DU staff community from all areas of the institution, including postdoctoral researchers, PhD students, and anyone employed on a short-term or agency contract. We are organised by staff representing professional services and academic staff employed on both part-time and full-time contracts.

Co-chairs of the network can be contacted at any point in the year to provide support or advice to any mother-colleague with any question or concern, no matter how big or small. Members can also share their queries to the entire network via the Teams channel or a network-wide email. We believe that all members have something to gain and something to give.

MAMS recognises the gendered disparity in caregiving in our homes and working lives and focuses on supporting female-identifying parents regardless of how they came to be a mother (birth mums, adoptive mums, trans mums, step mums). In recognition of this, we also advocate for greater equity in our workplace when it comes to recognising the burden of caring and how this is built into our systems and structures to continue to disadvantage mothers. We also recognise the burdens shared by all carers, regardless of gender or the age of the person being cared for; if non-mother carers need our advice, we are happy to be contacted.



Formal events and initiatives are planned to respond to the interests of members at a given time and informal events continue to provide space for developing friendships, seeking advice, and generally taking a small bit of time to socialise in our otherwise busy working and mothering lives! It goes without saying that babies, breasts, and bottles are naturally welcome at our events! Those who are on maternity leave are also very welcome to attend (it is an excellent opportunity to eat lunch with both hands as there are always willing volunteers to help with babies!)

Activities include:

  • Informal social events, such as bring-your-own lunch gatherings
  • Invited speakers who talk to us about parenting and women’s issues such as breastfeeding or flexible working
  • Catered events to mark celebrations such as International Women’s Day or the start of a new academic term
  • Offering the views of mothers on EDI-related topics or ongoing EDI programmes at the university
  • Contributing to formal consultations on university policy developments
  • Keeping members up to date on university issues, programmes and developments of interest to mothers via mailing list and Teams
  • Supporting requests for participation in parenting research projects, from undergraduate dissertations to funded research collaborations in the UK
  • Providing peer support and advice on issues relating to all forms of parental leave and returning to work after maternity leave
  • Providing peer support in pregnancy, including an informal buddy pairing service



The MAMS network is currently organised by the following staff members who are here to help:


Fire Kovarovic

I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology, where I specialise in human evolution and palaeoecology. I’m also an elected member of Senate, representing the Academic Electoral Assembly (all academic staff Grade 7 and above).

I joined MAMS when I had my daughter in 2014 and have taken an active role in co-organising the network since my son was born in 2016. I help organise termly events and other activities, communicate with the membership, and represent the network’s interests at Senate and in other forums. I am happy to offer support and advice to anyone or point you in the direction of someone who can help!

Sarah Woodroffe

I am an Associate Professor in the Geography Department, and my area of research is past sea-level and environmental changes.

I have been a member of MAMS since it was started in 2014 and am currently a co-chair of the network. I have three children, two at school and one at nursery. I help organise activities. I can offer peer support on juggling an academic career and motherhood!



"I joined the MAMS network when I was pregnant with my first child in 2015. I didn’t know many people who had children and was fairly new in my career so was keen to find some peer support to help me navigate the changes I was about to face. Since I joined the network, I have been lucky enough to have two further children and having informal peer support during pregnancy, maternity leave and following my return to work has been very welcomed and much appreciated. I have been able to get to know staff from across the University, share hints and tips and have gained another form of support to help me navigate the rollercoaster ride that is motherhood. I also greatly enjoy the cake at events"

Ashley Callard
Access and Engagement Officer, Mother of three under five


The MAMS network received funding from the QR Strategic Priorities Fund from Research England to explore the experiences of mothers working in Higher Education across the UK during the Covid-19 pandemic. The study surveyed 2,888 mums in March 2021 during the third UK lockdown. Acknowledging the challenge of the intersection of gender and childcare for those working in our sector, it looks at how the pandemic impacted mums' careers, health and wellbeing, and the specifics of what meaningful support was offered. In conjunction with interviews with senior leaders at seven UK HEI's, the study also identifies areas of good practice in supporting working mums and makes recommendations for moving forward.

Please read our report "The impact of Covid-19 on mothers working in UK Higher Education Institutions" available HERE.

Please see here for our short video overview of the report! If you would like a video with an audio overlay, please click here.

The impact of our advocacy of mothers at Durham University over the years in conjunction with our Covid-19 research earned co-chair Fire Kovarovic and the network 2nd place in the Making Opportunities for Mothers in Academia (MOMA) Award hosted by the International Association of Maternal Action and Scholarship in 2021.

We welcome your thoughts and comments on our research and the other important work that we do! Please get in touch if you’d like to learn more about it, or if you would like to collaborate on future projects.