Science, a powerful contraceptive?!

I wouldn’t suggest taking on a science career as a contraceptive (besides – there are at least 34 of us who can attest that it doesn’t work), but it was nice to see a review of Motherhood the Elephant in the recent issue of New Scientist Magazine:

“WOMEN trying to squeeze a career and family duties into one 24-hour day will gain much affirmation from this collection of essays. The writers, who all balance science careers and motherhood, provide a fascinating insight into a world too often kept hidden. For those without children it should come with a health warning: the juggling and compromises these women have learned to live with may add up to a sobering reality check for those who still think they can have it all. For some it may prove a powerful contraceptive.”

From issue 2659 of New Scientist magazine, 04 June 2008, page 49

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4 Responses to “Science, a powerful contraceptive?!”


  1. 1 Andrea Kalfoglou June 12, 2008 at 2:36 pm

    As a contributor to Motherhood: The Elephant in the Laboratory, I was pretty annoyed with the parting comment on this review. Encouraging women scientists not to have children was not our point in writing the book at all. It was to give women hope that there are ways to have it all, they just aren’t necessarily the obvious path prescribed by our scientific communities.

    It was also to point out many of the institutional barriers that still exist in 2008 that make meshing a scientific career with motherhood extremely challenging. Why should I, as an employee of the INSTITUTES OF MEDICINE — the hallmark of sound public health policy recommendations and the organization at the forefront of recommending institutional changes to keep women in scientific careers — have to pump my breasts in the women’s bathroom! And, why, when they built a gorgeous new building on Capitol Hill, could they not make room for a quality daycare center? Why are there over 1000 children on the waiting list for the daycare center at NIH? It also just invested in a huge new clinical center. Guess where the infant care center is located? In a trailer out in a parking lot. Great forward thinking…not!

    Andrea Kalfoglou

  2. 2 Alison George June 19, 2008 at 10:31 am

    I’m the person who wrote the rewiew of “Motherhood: the elephant in the lab” for New Scientist magazine. I can see how this has happened, but I didn’t mean, under any circumstances, that a science career could be a contraceptive….I meant that the book could act as a contraceptive (though some of you may find this equally offensive I guess)! Much as I loved the book, I’m glad I didn’t read it before I had kids, because there’s nothing like naive optimism that you can “have it all” to push you forward to make momentous decisions like having kids. Knowing what a struggle it would be to simultaneously maintain career and family would have made the decision harder. Apologies for the confusion!

  3. 3 Alison George June 19, 2008 at 10:38 am

    Me again. “Motherhood: The Elephant in the Laboratory” got me thinking about many things. One of these thoughts was about female science “superstars” (i.e. Nobel prize-winning women scientists) and whether they had kids or not, and if so, how did they did it. So I researched the matter…see here for the intriguing (though not very scientific) results:
    http://www.newscientist.com/blog/shortsharpscience/2008/06/elephant-in-laboratory-motherhood.html

  4. 4 Emily June 20, 2008 at 1:59 pm

    Alison, thank you for your comments and clarification. You’re right that contributors including myself didn’t intend for the book to be a contraceptive but rather, as you also wrote, an affirmation. Sometimes it’s a struggle to balance, but it can be done. (But hey, if only one reading works for those seeking a new, non-invasive, non-steroidal contraceptive, who knows, it might help with distribution.)

    You research into Nobel winning women is interesting and coincidentally (or maybe not) very relevant. While putting the final touches on the manuscript, I’d sent an email to contributors about a proposed acknowledgment.

    I had suggested a simple, “For Our Families.”

    One contributor, who noted that we are in this because we have devoted a large part of our lives to our families already, suggested we dedicate the book to the few Nobel Prize winning scientists who were also mothers – and who clearly succeeded in scientific times far more difficult than today for many women .

    However, the mention of Nobel Prize winners touched a nerve. While I too felt a twinge – a sinking feeling that I never was on the Nobel track (thought I’m not sure how or when one knows that – but I was pretty sure early on) – others were more vehement about it.

    I won’t go into the gory details, but it was a fairly heated discussion focused on whether or not Nobel winning women even those with kids — whom as you point out included just the early winners — led the kind of balanced lives that many contributors to this volume seek.

    The online “discussion” led, unfortunately, to the decision of one scientist to pull her essay and to my executive decision to dedicate to “All the women in whose footsteps we’ve followed and to those who choose to follow in ours.”

    So – it’s interesting that you too thought of them as potential role models or examples of success, and it’d be interesting to hear other thoughts on this.


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