This project began with single post to a Listserve for scientists (a list for former AAAS fellows.) It was an excerpt and link to a New York Times article about the illusion of combining motherhood and career. The response to that email was immediate, enthusiastic, emotional (and surprising). For many women (and a few men) this was the first time anyone had asked that they share their own experience. It was clear that there needed to be a forum for discussion where no one would be judged and where no one would put their career in jeopardy because they were discussing the difficulties (and joys) of juggling job and family.

This project eventually led to the book, Motherhood, The Elephant in the Laboratory: women scientists speak out published by Cornell University Press, a collection of essays about science and motherhood, written by 34 women scientists.

With this site I hope to go beyond the book, serving as a forum for discussion, organization and hopefully change.

Please feel free to contribute your story, ideas, thoughts (see How to Contribute ) we welcome anyone who’d like to join us.


13 Responses to “About the Project”

  1. 1 Flicka Mawa May 8, 2008 at 6:39 pm

    Thanks for telling me about the project! I’d love to check it out. I’m most interested in how you went from the idea to the actual book. I’ve thought about this a lot with different books I’ve read and topics I’ve discussed around the blogosphere – I definitely feel that I could create a great edited collection of essays for women in science, but I have no idea how one goes past the idea stage. Are you a professor at Cornell?

  2. 2 Emily May 8, 2008 at 7:05 pm

    I was thinking the same thing – that you’ve got a lot of material and are in touch with an active community of writers. I will say one thing about editing though – it’s a lot of work, and at least in my case – self-funded work! I’d thought a bit about why not just do this on the web – but then wasn’t sure I could create a site and community of contributors that would get the exposure we really wanted.

    So you’ve got to really believe in what you’re doing and like doing it!

    I’m no expert – but the first step in my case was to get a book on writing nonfiction book proposals – at the very least they prompt you to think about why your writing, who the audience is and what else is out there.

    Then I’d say persistence – Cornell published it (I’m not a prof there – I work from home, consulting, teaching writing) – but only on the second try with them! First time Fran the eventual editor turned it down. I got a lot of “this is great,” “important topic”, and “timely” BUT it was too narrow in scope for commercial publishers and not academic enough for academic publishers!

    So good luck! Let me know what happens!

  3. 3 AvocadoInParadise May 15, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    Thanks for sharing! How to combine kids with any career is a difficult and fascinating topic.

  4. 4 Sarah Simon November 27, 2008 at 2:18 am

    Good topic and discussion. Always discouraging to see this “news” that was so similar 40 years ago.

    But, this time we’ll talk about it in a woman’s voice. Women are getting even. (or can get even if we work together and expose and confront the barriers.)

    Evelyn Murphy leads a project and in the book “Getting Even” pulls out the modern statistic that a working mother on average makes 60 cents on the dollar that a “similar man” makes. A penalty of another 13 cents from the average woman (at 77 cents on the dollar).

  5. 5 clare weiner aka Mari Howard October 12, 2010 at 11:37 am

    Have just found your website (on recommendation). Brilliant. There remain so many questions on the topic of “equality” – is this in pay, conditions, or respect for the work produced? Another question: women get the same education: but we can’t deny it, our bodies are the ones which carry the babies, first inside then outside,if we want children as well as the stimulation, excitement, acknowledgement, of contributing to our field. Can there be “an” answer?

    My interest is actually as a stay at home mum, who gave up rather too soon on the cost-of-childcare issue. But, I;m about to buy the book, I remain alertly interested, and having tackled the science/religion (ouch!) question in one novel, am about to launch into the follow-up – where my successful scientific woman graduate of Cambridge University (UK) is about to try to juggle marriage, babies and a PhD. Maybe this blogsite is interested? I shall certainly be keeping in touch with you – and have various friends who commute between lab/surgery and nursery school, etc. so will pass on the URL.

    • 6 Emily October 12, 2010 at 1:12 pm

      Hi Clare, Glad you found the site. As you can see, maybe, the site it didn’t turn out quite as I’d wanted it. I had envisioned an active site where women would share their stories and whatever solutions worked for them (or not.) There are a few who have but not too many, and I’m glad that at least they were willing to share. I think the more the topic is discussed perhaps solutions will be revealed, and as you suggest, there is no one solution. I’m hopeful however, that given options, more creative and imaginative work spaces and places – that those who wish to continue with science or whatever career will be able to continue to do so – even while being the mom (both inside and out.)

      Your first book sounds interesting are there copies available? As does your second. So please do keep in touch – there are two essays in the Motherhood book by graduate students, and a few by women who had their kids while in grad school. It’s all so different for everyone. A lot of different personal choices. And I guess that’s the best situation, when you are able to make personal choices and they are not imposed upon you!

      Good luck – and keep in touch,


      • 7 Clare Weiner July 19, 2013 at 9:17 pm

        Hi Emily, I thought I’d write as my novel, Baby, Baby is listed for something we have here called the People’s Book Prize (… do please take a look, and maybe you couldgive me a vote too? There’s a small extract on the site. The follow-up (when I have needed to think about Mothers in science careers, and have found your book helpful) is at the editing stage. Baby, Baby is availbale from Amazon UK and I think also Amazon USA though they say “out of print’ which is NOT so! Also from the Hodge website, (
        Hope life is going well for you, your kids and your career!
        Clare (aka Mari Howard – pen name for the writing)

  6. 8 Lenora July 17, 2013 at 11:58 pm

    You really make it seem really easy together with your presentation however I find this matter to be
    actually one thing that I believe I would never understand.

    It seems too complex and very vast for me. I am having a
    look forward to your subsequent put up, I’ll try to get the hang of it!

  7. 9 Kevin Collins July 7, 2015 at 5:25 am

    Hi. I really enjoyed my brief visit on your site and I’ll be sure to be back for more.
    Can I contact your through your email?

    Please email me back.


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