Friday, April 24, 2009

Mothers in Science: 64 Ways to Have it All

I recently had my attention drawn to Mothers in Science: 64 Ways to Have it All (pdf download) which is a Royal Society publication made up of one page career/family timelines and profiles of 64 different mothers in science.

The idea behind the book I think is a great one - that we spend a lot of time with depressing statistics about women in science, and often "blame" the disproportionate burden of childcare women often face for the lack of women at the higher levels of science. This has given young women the idea that if they want children they cannot have a science career, or that they must have children at only very specific times to succeed (I cannot count the number of times I have heard that having babies as a postdoc is a death sentence for your career). This book then presents a random selection of women with children who work in science as a move towards "dispelling these myths" and being more encouraging (it's all written a lot more fluently in the introduction to the book).

I encourage you to read these profiles, and if you're based in the UK you can request your department to be sent a hard copy (let me know and I'll send you the email address of the person to ask).

I'm always very uncomfortable to be put up as a role model for mothers in astronomy. I think this is because there seems to be so much uncertainty still over my continuing career in research (by the way I have funding until Sept 2010 - my post on my disappointing funding news was about a chance to stay here basically permanently.... I probably got a bit over dramatic - should remember not to post on days I get bad news!). I also feel that it's cheating a bit - I think I look a lot more together on the surface than I feel on any given day, when I'm quite often absolutely exhausted and working at the absolute capacity to get everything done. On the other hand it is clearly important for students and younger girls to see women in science who have "normal" family lives.... and only by having an increasing number of mothers and truly involved fathers will the culture of research change sufficiently to make it "easier to have it all". I think it'll never be easy.

3 comments:

Mrs. CH said...

I think I look a lot more together on the surface than I feel on any given day...I have a feeling many mothers feel that way. It's a very hard thing to do, and I applaud anyone that can find a way to do both!

Thanks for the link - it sounds very interesting and I'll definitely read it!

Sally said...

The web link for 64 ways to have it all is now at the side of
http://bioltfws1.york.ac.uk/biostaff/staffdetail.php?id=hmol

Sally said...

The link is broken - but can be found as a link at the side of
http://bioltfws1.york.ac.uk/biostaff/staffdetail.php?id=hmol