groups » Training and Career Development » Women in Careers in Research - specific issues (Ask the Expert)
Please post here specific questions on careers in clinical research for women, which will be answered by our panels of experts and especially Professor Rose Leke in Cameroon, Professor of Immunology and Parasitology (Head of Department) at the Faculty of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences of the Université de Yaoundé I, and director of the Biotechnology Centre of the same university. Professor Leke is running a workshop specifically related to women in research (more info here: https://globalhealthtrials.tghn.org/community/blogs/post/383/2015/04/call-for-applications-women-scientists-researc/)
Good day. A research career often involves a great deal of traveling for both short (conferences, workshops) and longer (trainee-ships, fellowships) periods.
1. I would like to know how colleagues with younger children have managed family commitments.
2. Are there any resources you are aware of that that are dedicated to assist mobility for researcher, particularly women, with family both short term and long term.
In my case, the support from my family and close friends has been key in my career development. Whenever possible, I have tried to incorporate them in some activities related to field work or academy. It is not easy to deal with family issues but you have to try to find a balance. I know I have not been very good at this, but I continue trying to find a balance. I have tried to keep my family updated with important issues related to my work.
Hi Tsitsi, nice to see you online! Yes, also for me I couldn't do the travel without my family's support (actually only my husband as I don't have other family in this country).My kids got used to me being away for multiple short trips from very young and I took one of them with me on occasions, when older, to stay with family overseas while I was at work. I have seen people bring nannies along to international meetings to look after their child which is an option I haven't tried. The flip side is that I rarely stay late at work/work weekends, which can feel like not contributing as much as others who can do that, an underlying anxiety for me actually but the balance I have chosen.
NB Some grants do make provision for family to join, I will try to locate an example. The Wellcome Trust is also particularly keen to recognise and support those who have family commitments (e.g. those who have taken time out of a career or need flexible hours).
Thank you for your questions and the interesting discussion so far!
1. Managing career and family is definitely challenging. There is doubt that competing priorities fill up your agenda some of which require urgent attention. As a woman with potentials you want to succeed in your career, as well as in your home. Being a mother does not change your performance. It does not reduce your capabilities. As a mother, you want to succeed as a parent and give your child the best. In my opinion, it is a matter of organisation, and women are generally gifted with organising and multitasking. Taking a holiday to take care of your neonate is absolutely essential. Even some health research funding bodies (such as European Union) have recognised this and made allowances within their funding strategy. For example, a gap in your CV related to family responsibilities does not disqualify you for competition. I recognise that attending to family commitments can be culture sensitive, but in general, making time for family commitments and being a committed and productive scientist depends on how organised you are.
A hardworking scientist with a 2-year old had this to say: “I have known for many years that in order to keep a somewhat balanced life (professional vs family), I needed to get help and a lot of help. At the moment, I have a live-in Nanny. Four years ago, I was lucky enough to find a Nanny that is very good at her job and I don’t worry when I leave the children with her. So, while I am travelling, I have peace of mind. However, I sometimes worry that my two year-old son will feel the distance and disengage from me when I return from a long trip (over 1 week long). Thank God for the age of Skype. I keep in touch with my kids, practically every evening, with video skype calls. That seems to work. When I return from a trip, it seems as if I never left because my son stays just as attached to me, his “Mommy”.
I must say it is not everywhere that one can be lucky to be able to pay for a live-in nanny. But in these areas, there are very good day-care centres. Good organization, prioritization and planning are necessary.
2. In today’s globalised world, it is increasingly recognised that mobility plays an important part in health research development, especially for young women who have disproportionately suffered from lack of career development opportunities in the past. It is not news that today, females are particularly encouraged to apply for various grants to support their work in health research. Depending on your level of education and experience in health research, there are different mobility packages available, and women are strongly encouraged to apply. One key resource is the European Commission funding strategy. Marie Curie Funding for early stage researchers involves a key mobility component (http://ec.europa.eu/research/mariecurieactions/about-mca/actions/index_en.htm ). The WHO/TDR website provides information on opportunities for health research and mobility can be incorporated in some of the proposals (http://www.who.int/tdr/grants/empowerment/en/ ). The third world academy of sciences is another place to start (http://twas.org/opportunity/twas-fellowships-research-and-advanced-training ) organisation for women in research (TWOWS) is a dedicated funding for early stage women in science (http://www.twows.org.cn/templates/T_second_english/index.aspx?nodeid=43 ). The Multilaterial Initiative on Malaria(MIM) website( www.mimalaria.org ) provides regular updates on health research funding opportunities and career development programs around malaria and other diseases. Please register by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to receive regular updates. Other mobility schemes are designed between European and/ or African countries such as http://eacea.ec.europa.eu/intra_acp_mobility/funding/students_scholarship_en.php (Also check www.afimegq.org for examples of mobility opportunities). These programs are regularly updated and you can send an email to the contact person on these websites to get regular updates. Regular checks and interaction with this growing open web platform (www.tghn.org ) will give you opportunities that may come up regularly. Helping women stay and contribute to health research is one priority we cannot neglect anymore.