Today is the day in the US when everyone celebrates their mothers by giving them gifts, food, flowers, etc. It’s a nice reminder of how difficult of a job being a mom is.
Being a mom can be especially difficult in science, at least in academia. To become a tenured professor, usually one must spend long hours in the lab, not to mention the long hours outside of the lab writing up all the results. This can make it difficult to be a ‘normal’ mom, and some people point to motherhood as one of the reasons for the huge gender gap in science. The gender gap in science is actually still sort of a mystery–there tend to be more women than men entering science at the graduate school level, but there are still far fewer tenured female faculty members. Nature even had a special on the gender gap back in March:
But part of that special included stories about successful scientists who are also mothers, and how they’ve dealt with the demands of both jobs. There are myriads of articles out there that say the desire to have a family is the critical factor that holds women back from being equal to men in science, but I don’t really buy it. There are too many examples of successful female scientists who also have families for that to be a good argument, in my mind. But it is likely a factor. There are many challenges facing scientists, and it would seem that women have one extra. So I’m giving scientist mothers an extra shout-out today–keep working hard and inspiring the generations to come!
Also, Happy Mothers’ Day, Mom!