‘The Baby Penalty,’ and What to do About It
Is there a “baby penalty” for women scientists? The Working Group of Mothers in Science believes the answer is yes, especially when it comes to being able to attend scientific conferences and proceedings, which are crucial to career advancement.
Sarah DuRant, an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, is a member of Mothers in Science and a coauthor of “How to Tackle a Childcare-Conference Conundrum,” written by Rebecca M. Calisi of the University of California, Davis, and published May 2 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The opinion piece lays out the case for the baby penalty – research that shows having young children negatively affects women’s career mobility but not men’s, and that women of color suffer the largest penalties – and offers possible solutions to the problem. Steps such as providing childcare at home or the event, providing travel money so caregivers can attend, allowing “babywearing” (keeping infants close during proceedings), family-friendly dates and venues, etc., could help diversity conferences and ultimately improve science itself, the authors argue.
“It (would send) the clear message to future generations of researchers that science is a place for everyone, one that takes equity seriously, and one that recognizes the multifaceted roles and responsibilities researchers bring with them to conferences,” the article concludes.