I’m being applauded for taking parental leave, yet my partner – also a scientist – faces the usual obstacles for her maternity leave.
Yep. I had the same experience.
My own daughter arrived a month after I got tenure. I didn’t take official parental leave, but for about 6 months I was barely seen at my institute. “I’ll work from home,” I claimed (correctly, since changing nappies is work) and my department head just said “You got tenure, you can do whatever you want.” (Thanks boss, that’s the spirit!) So I was definitely not as brave as David, who took time off right at the start of his PI career.
I had been completely open with my colleagues and my group. I did video conferences with my daughter sleeping on my shoulder and had students sitting in my kitchen to write papers. For me it worked, my group didn’t seem to mind, and all comments I got were positive.
But it was much harder for my wife, who took much more time off and doesn’t have tenure yet. She gets no kudos and feels a much stronger impact on her career.
Overall, if universities want more women in science, then the way we handle babies and families needs to change – men need to be as “risky” to hire as women.
But change does not come overnight and it does not come easy. As a start, more countries (and institutions) need to have “use it or lose it” policies, such as exists in Quebec – the father is given a block of time that the mother cannot use.
Universities and individuals need to fight for this.
In my opinion this change needs to come top-down, with full support by university leadership, funding agencies, and department heads. But maybe that’s just me, I’m not a grassroots type of person …