National Science Foundation (NSF) Director Subra Suresh recently announced the NSF Career-Life Balance Initiative, which lays the groundwork for a ten-year plan to expand work-related flexibility to women and men in research careers. Partnering with the White House Council on Women and Girls, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and First Lady Michelle Obama, this announcement signifies the first NSF-wide initiative to assist postdoctoral fellows and early-career faculty members with caring for dependents while pursuing their careers.
“Too many young women scientists and engineers get sidetracked or drop their promising careers because they find it too difficult to balance the needs of those careers and the needs of their families,” said Suresh. “This new initiative aims to change that, so that the country can benefit from the full range and diversity of its talent.”
This all comes as part of a continuing effort to increase the number of women and girls employed in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. Women currently earn 41 percent of Ph.D.’s in STEM fields, but comprise only 28 percent of tenure-track faculty in those fields. Council of Women and Girls Director Tina Tchen explains, “Jump-starting girls’ interest in science, technology, engineering, and math subjects, and boosting the percentage of women employed in science and engineering is not just the right thing to do but is also the smart thing to do for America’s future and the economy.” Mrs. Obama added, “We need all hands on deck, and that means clearing hurdles for women and girls as they navigate careers in science, technology, engineering, and math.”
NSF hopes the Career-Life Balance Initiative will become a successful model, and they are encouraging other universities and research institutions to adopt similar strategies. The new NSF guidelines include:
- Allow up to a year postponement of grants for childbirth or adoption.
- Allow grant suspension for parental leave.
- Provide supplements to fund research technicians while principal investigators are on family leave.
- Publicize the availability of family friendly opportunities.
- Promote virtual reviews, rather than having panel reviewers travel to a central location.
For more information pertaining to the Career-Life Balance Initiative please refer to http://www.nsf.gov/career-life-balance/brochure.pdf?WT.mcid=USNSF80.
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