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Fixing the Leaky Pipeline for Women in Science: Addressing Issues Facing New Moms


Amanda Labuza
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Amanda Labuza

She’s holding back tears while thanking all the people who have supported her. And I am tearing up too learning about all her struggles. Imagine every two hours having to go find a private space where you need to sit for 30-60 minutes and repeating this all day. Now imagine trying to get work done through this. That is exactly what many women are dealing with while working and breastfeeding.

This was one of the many stories discussed at the panel "Fixing the Leaky Pipeline for Women in Science: Addressing Issues Facing New Moms” at the annual meeting this past November. The panel not only told their stories, but gave advice to new mothers. It all mostly echoed one sentiment: be kind to yourself because you can’t do it all alone. Denise Cai @denisecai discussed her paralyzing and conflicting guilt. At work she’d be guilty for not being with her kids, and while with her kids she was guilty she wasn’t working enough. Her advice to others mothers was to “choose to not be guilty”. Jessica Barson @jbarson echoed that idea in her talk as she reminded us “you don’t have to be all things to all people.” You don’t need to be a perfect parent, you need to be a “good enough parent.” Striving for more is impossible. “Realize your limitations” Lauren Drogos @lldrogos reminds us. This seems like good advice for all parents, but I can see it is particularly important for mothers who have extra pressures on them.

I now have a whole new respect for new mothers in science. I never realized how challenging it is for them. According to Anahita Hamidi @hamidi_anahita, married mothers have 27% lower odds to get tenure than married fathers with children. Rebecca Rodriquez discussed how mothers spend 4-8 hours a day breastfeeding. It is so much work that puts you against the odds of success. I suddenly realize I owe an apology to all the new mothers I met in grad school. Your hard work is amazing and I did not do enough to support you through this struggle. You are super heroes.

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The Swedish government says that parents of both sexes are entitled to 480 days (16 months) of paid parental leave at about 80% of their salary (with a cap), plus bonus days for twins, and they must share — Swedish dads must take at least some of those 16 months. I got this off the internet.

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