Posts Tagged 'Add new tag'

News on the balancing act from the EU

I was scanning the ScienceCareers site today and came across an interesting blog entry – Career vs. Family: An ESOF Smackdown, by Katie Travis. For those (like me) who don’t know, ESOF is the European Open Science Forum.  Having no experience with work-life balance in Europe and elsewhere around the globe – I’d always assumed that motherhood was greener on the other side of the pond.  I’m not referring to wooden toys and cotton diapers – but rather I’d always assumed that the desire to combine work with family was better developed and appreciated over there.  Maybe that’s not so.

Writes Travis, “I heard something I haven’t heard expressed out loud in a while: Women do need to choose between a career and family.”  Baffled by women who suggested that women must choose, Travis kept looking until she found other perspectives, one offered up by a physician, field researcher and mother of four who she writes is “…. a “trailing spouse”–her husband’s diplomatic job takes the lead and takes them around the world. She’s got a self-described service mentality, so even though her husband’s career has been the most consistent, she’s applied her expertise in whatever region she’s in. “I believe it’s my responsibility to prepare myself to say yes to opportunity,” Tokola says. She adds that she’s managed work-life balance by having a husband who’s 100% supportive and by having outside help with childcare.”

For more of Travis’s observations, check out her entry Career vs. Family: An ESOF Smackdown.


Brain drains and alternatives and women – oh my!

As many may know by now there’s a new report out, The Athena Factor: Reversing the Brain Drain in Science, Engineering and Technology, published as a Harvard Business Review research report. While I couldn’t get very far without shelling out $295, there are lots of snippets online. If you go to the Bean Chronicles , where I first found reference to the report you can click on a longer ABC article about the report, which found that:

“Even in the face of a worsening worldwide labor shortage of qualified professionals in the SET fields, 52% of our best and brightest female scientists, engineers and technologists are bailing on hard-earned careers and not looking back — precisely when they should be hitting their professional strides.”

With funding by several major corporations, the report then goes on to discuss details on programs designed to retain women scientists through

“several innovative corporate “antibody” initiatives being instituted by Alcoa, Pfizer and other private sector companies who are looking to reduce and reverse the costly “female brain drain” head on.”

What I tried to find, and couldn’t was where those women went – while there was some reference to men who also leave but who tend to “stay in the sciences” – there are some suggestions that women do not. Yet – without access to the full report it’s hard to tell what boundaries were set. Did “sticking with it” mean setting up the equivalent of a full-time 60-hr intense path – or did it include those who strike out into very different realms, like teaching – perhaps at Community colleges or high school? Or writing? Or part-time? I’d love to know (so if you’ve got access to the full report please let us know!)  Either way – it seems a primary goal of the report is to stanch the flow – or exodus – by providing details on corporate success stories.

Along these lines, the Bean Chronicles also directed me to another great blog, The Alternative Scientist, check it out.  Below is an excerpt from Alternative’s discussion on her own title (I chose this because the topic of wording came up at a recent Motherhood panel.  While I used Alternative to collectively describe the many different career paths described in some of the Motherhood essays – some felt there is a negative connotation to the word. )

Is there resentment at having my career be labelled “alternative”? The word “alternative” does not bother me. In my experience, the people who are most likely to be bitter and resentful about that word are those who are in alternative positions because they tried and failed on the tenure track. As far as I am concerned, “alternative” is a convenient catch-all term for what I view to be choices that do not receive equal and fair coverage in discussions about career options among academics.

Of course, it would be better if there were no “traditional” or “alternative” career paths…just different career paths. But I think quibbling about semantics is a low-yield and impractical activity. For example, we could call this blog “The Everything-But-Academic-Tenure-Track Scientist” or “The Differently-Traditional Scientist” or all sorts of other names that do not include the word “alternative”. I don’t believe that that would change the minds of those who think that people with alternative careers are failures. A much more effective way of changing academic culture with regard to career options is to promote open discussion and to encourage people to make career choices based on what they want to do rather than what they think they are expected to do. And that is precisely what I hope this blog will accomplish.” – From

Alternative is definitely a site to keep track of, thanks Bean!

Jezebel discusses women in science

For those interested, there’s a blog post on Jezebel Why are there so few women scientists? The post reviews an article by Sylvia Ann Hewlett author of a longer report, that’ll be available next month.

It’s a popular item with over 5,000 views (in two days!) and 200 interesting comments (no I didn’t read them all, but I did scan some.) In case you don’t make it to the site (or the comments,) I posted the following, which quotes Hewlett on the impact that family care may have on a career, and some potential solutions:

“Thank you for this post. As a toxicologist, mother of two kids and editor of the recently published Motherhood the Elephant in the Laboratory: women scientists speak out, I would suggest while some women do drop from science – many do not – but seek alternative careers. And while many make significant contributions to science in these different roles – they are not always “counted,” or worse, they are considered science drop-outs. Further, as discussed in a recent Motherhood the Elephant panel at Cornell University, employers would do well to consider creative ways to retain or attract this talented, educated pool of workers.

As Hewlett writes in her Financial Times article,
“Because women still bear the brunt of childcare and the care of elderly relatives, few are able to sustain these pressures. The cumulative result: women find themselves shunted to the sidelines into roles as executors or helpers, while men continue to occupy the more celebrated creator and producer roles.
So what to do? This research allows companies to pinpoint the “fight-or-flight” moment. Women experience a breaking point in their mid to late 30s because they hit career hurdles and encounter family pressures at the same time. Stepping in with targeted support before this happens could lower the female attrition rate significantly. Here are five ways employers can help women scientists and engineers stay on track in their careers….”

Mama PhD: Women write about motherhood and academic life

Hi all – here is an announcement of another new book – focused on combining motherhood with academia, edited by Caroline Grant and Erlena Evans.  There are a couple of blogs associated with it – and the site announced below.

Dear all,

We’re writing to let you know about an exciting new development for Mama, PhD: Women Write about Motherhood and Academic Life! is launching a new Mama PhD blog, and seven of the book’s contributors — Libby Gruner, Megan Kajitani, Susan Bassow, Dana Campbell, Liz Stockwell, Anjalee Nadkarni and Della Fenster — will be blogging regularly for them.  This is a terrific opportunity to bring the discussion of academic work/ family life balance issues out of the book, into the blogosphere and from there into classrooms and campus administrative offices.
Please check out the blog at, leave your comments, and send questions to Megan, who will be writing a weekly advice column (for now, write to; the blog will soon list a more direct address). And then please spread the word! Tell your friends, add the link to your blogroll, and help us build an audience for our bloggers.

Also, in case you missed it, the Berkeley grad student newsletter had a nice write-up of the book, with special mention of our Berkeley alums, Rebecca Steinitz and Angelica Duran. You can read the piece at

The book is available for pre order now at Amazon and other online book sellers; we are starting to schedule readings and campus events for the Fall — we’d love to come to your community, so let us know if you’d like to set something up!

all the best,
Caroline and Elrena

Motherhood, The Elephant Panel at Cornell University

For those of you in the Ithaca area, Cornell University is hosting an afternoon discussion devoted to Motherhood the Elephant on May 9. Participants will include a combination of contributors and Cornell faculty – see specifics below.

I hope you can join us!

Time: 12-5PM

Contributors: Joan Baizer, Emily Monosson, Gina Wesley-Hunt, Marilyn Merritt

Faculty: Shelley Correll, Melissa Thomas-Hunt, Lisa Fortier, Margaret Frey, and Barbara Knuth.

Co-Sponsored by: Cornell University Store, CUAdvance, and Cornell University Press

Women discuss the Elephant on Planetary Science Blog

I’m happy to see that in response to this project, some discussion about balancing science and kids has started!! For more, check out the discussion thread “Our Stories” on the Women in Planetary Science blog.