This past week I had the pleasure of meeting many Motherhood contributors. First a panel of 10 at the AAAS Fellows program, then a smaller group gathered at the Union of Concerned Scientists the following day.
When I visualize the panels, ten of us science moms, PhDs in different fields from different generations, I can’t help but think there’s got to be power in numbers. When there are enough of us speaking up and out – I can only hope that things will change.
So before I loose the momentum, just wanted to post a few topics that came up, with more to follow in other posts:
1) Language is huge. The references to a “science pipeline” which flows mainly to academia is limiting. Not only does it suggest a straight-shot is the only way – but also there is one route through science. I think the contributors to this book are a testament to the many different paths one may take and the many different fulfilling options for a scientist.
Another phrase, which I am guilty of using, is “alternative career” (for lack of a better alternative!) Why should careers other than academia be considered alternatives? The connotation is sometimes demeaning – particularly when meant as “unconventional.” Why shouldn’t many other choices for scientists be conventional such as working for NGOs, federal and industry labs, writing, teaching?
2) Guilt. Guilt stems from two sources (at least.) Once source for those who are categorized as “leaking from the pipeline” or who chose an “unconventional” is the concern that funding and time (their and their advisors) have been wasted by their pursuing a PhD but then straying from academia, or full-time more traditional work.
Though it may be self-serving (disclaimer: I am one of those) I’d say the time and money spent to educate a segment of the population that are not only more often the primary care givers but who also may more often be the ones stepping out of academia and into primary schools, high schools, college classrooms, community colleges – who may volunteer their time to local organizations, communicate science to the public – cannot possibly be a waste. In fact – it may even help spread the word – SCIENCE IS IMPORTANT and it’s accessible.
Guilt also inflicts itself on those who feel they ought to spend more time and effort at home, or at work. “Loose the guilt,” said one participant. “If during those times, half the time is about work, and half the time about home– then you’re doing OK,” said another.
And finally (for now)
3) Day care. Day care. Day care. When someone asked what NIH can do to encourage parents, one contributor pointed out that plans for a new building hadn’t incorporated day care. With over 1000 kids on a waiting list – its likely that some primary care providers have had to turn away from a job because of the day care issue.
This isn’t anything new or groundbreaking. So why is it still a problem!?