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Motherhood, the Elephant in the Laboratory: Women Scientists Speak Out

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About half of the undergraduate and roughly 40 percent of graduate degree recipients in science and engineering are women. As increasing numbers of these women pursue research careers in science, many who choose to have children discover the unique difficulties of balancing a professional life in these highly competitive (and often male-dominated) fields with the demands o About half of the undergraduate and roughly 40 percent of graduate degree recipients in science and engineering are women. As increasing numbers of these women pursue research careers in science, many who choose to have children discover the unique difficulties of balancing a professional life in these highly competitive (and often male-dominated) fields with the demands of motherhood. Although this issue directly affects the career advancement of women scientists, it is rarely discussed as a professional concern, leaving individuals to face the dilemma on their own. To address this obvious but unacknowledged crisis--the elephant in the laboratory, according to one scientist--Emily Monosson, an independent toxicologist, has brought together 34 women scientists from overlapping generations and several fields of research--including physics, chemistry, geography, paleontology, and ecology, among others--to share their experiences. From women who began their careers in the 1970s and brought their newborns to work, breastfeeding them under ponchos, to graduate students today, the authors of the candid essays written for this groundbreaking volume reveal a range of career choices: the authors work part-time and full-time; they opt out and then opt back in; they become entrepreneurs and job share; they teach high school and have achieved tenure. The personal stories that comprise Motherhood, the Elephant in the Laboratory not only show the many ways in which women can successfully combine motherhood and a career in science but also address and redefine what it means to be a successful scientist. These valuable narratives encourage institutions of higher education and scientific research to accommodate the needs of scientists who decide to have children.


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About half of the undergraduate and roughly 40 percent of graduate degree recipients in science and engineering are women. As increasing numbers of these women pursue research careers in science, many who choose to have children discover the unique difficulties of balancing a professional life in these highly competitive (and often male-dominated) fields with the demands o About half of the undergraduate and roughly 40 percent of graduate degree recipients in science and engineering are women. As increasing numbers of these women pursue research careers in science, many who choose to have children discover the unique difficulties of balancing a professional life in these highly competitive (and often male-dominated) fields with the demands of motherhood. Although this issue directly affects the career advancement of women scientists, it is rarely discussed as a professional concern, leaving individuals to face the dilemma on their own. To address this obvious but unacknowledged crisis--the elephant in the laboratory, according to one scientist--Emily Monosson, an independent toxicologist, has brought together 34 women scientists from overlapping generations and several fields of research--including physics, chemistry, geography, paleontology, and ecology, among others--to share their experiences. From women who began their careers in the 1970s and brought their newborns to work, breastfeeding them under ponchos, to graduate students today, the authors of the candid essays written for this groundbreaking volume reveal a range of career choices: the authors work part-time and full-time; they opt out and then opt back in; they become entrepreneurs and job share; they teach high school and have achieved tenure. The personal stories that comprise Motherhood, the Elephant in the Laboratory not only show the many ways in which women can successfully combine motherhood and a career in science but also address and redefine what it means to be a successful scientist. These valuable narratives encourage institutions of higher education and scientific research to accommodate the needs of scientists who decide to have children.

30 review for Motherhood, the Elephant in the Laboratory: Women Scientists Speak Out

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kristen

    I think that this topic deserves much more attention than it receives and am thrilled that such a useful book exists. Stories range from women scientists about to retire (my god, the crap they put up with) to women who are currently pursuing their PhDs. Sadly, the overall message confirmed my worst suspicions: the way to have kids and a career is to find a really awesome nanny and GOD HELP YOU if you actually take any time off after a baby is born. Regardless, the book offers a really fascinatin I think that this topic deserves much more attention than it receives and am thrilled that such a useful book exists. Stories range from women scientists about to retire (my god, the crap they put up with) to women who are currently pursuing their PhDs. Sadly, the overall message confirmed my worst suspicions: the way to have kids and a career is to find a really awesome nanny and GOD HELP YOU if you actually take any time off after a baby is born. Regardless, the book offers a really fascinating profile of the careers of some remarkable women in all areas of professional science. Certainly worth a read if, like me, these topics are on your mind and you wonder why no one ever talks about them.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kara

    I absolutely LOVE this book! It's a life changer in terms of being excited about other women doing really great things with both their intellectual and personal lives. I can't express just how great this book is. Every female and male scientist interested in work life balance should read it for perspective. I absolutely LOVE this book! It's a life changer in terms of being excited about other women doing really great things with both their intellectual and personal lives. I can't express just how great this book is. Every female and male scientist interested in work life balance should read it for perspective.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Julia

    I read this when my daughter was a baby and I was in grad school. It helped me get through the guilt of having a baby at that time, and helped me to realize that others have made parenting and science work together.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Read this with some of my classmates. Kind of stressful but a great and interesting read for women scientists, and good for women in any demanding job and for men!

  5. 4 out of 5

    ReImagine Science

    This book is an excellent monograph, sharing several women's viewpoints, discussing the world of being a mother and being a scientist, both. This book is an excellent monograph, sharing several women's viewpoints, discussing the world of being a mother and being a scientist, both.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kaylee

    I was hoping for some stories about women who chose to work in industry, or who were returning to employment after "opting out" of a science career for a while. Perhaps on how they tried to stay current with their specialty. Cuz cutting edge science changes alot in 5 years. However, most of the stories are written by women in academia, and were not specific to science. Their peers in the English department have similar stories to tell. I definitely preferred Mama, PhD, which scored points for co I was hoping for some stories about women who chose to work in industry, or who were returning to employment after "opting out" of a science career for a while. Perhaps on how they tried to stay current with their specialty. Cuz cutting edge science changes alot in 5 years. However, most of the stories are written by women in academia, and were not specific to science. Their peers in the English department have similar stories to tell. I definitely preferred Mama, PhD, which scored points for containing more engaging writing styles and not being so darn depressing.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Thuyen

    Didn't reveal anything about balancing work and parenting I didn't already know, but that speaks to how far society has progressed--I've already weighed and considered the options open to me because they have been a part of the conversation of my growing up. It was shocking reading about the discrimination women faced, even in this decade. Didn't reveal anything about balancing work and parenting I didn't already know, but that speaks to how far society has progressed--I've already weighed and considered the options open to me because they have been a part of the conversation of my growing up. It was shocking reading about the discrimination women faced, even in this decade.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    As seen on the Science Careers Blog. As seen on the Science Careers Blog.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Christina Othon

  10. 4 out of 5

    Amber Hall

  11. 5 out of 5

    Marla S. McIntosh

  12. 5 out of 5

    Heather Anderson

  13. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  14. 5 out of 5

    Genevieve

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kelley

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kay

  17. 4 out of 5

    Yevgenia

  18. 5 out of 5

    Anne Rosenwald

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

  20. 5 out of 5

    Laurel

  21. 5 out of 5

    Cherity

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sara Smith

  23. 5 out of 5

    Amanda Beth

  24. 5 out of 5

    Darcy

  25. 5 out of 5

    Katie

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kara

  27. 5 out of 5

    Margaret Steward

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jeanne

  29. 5 out of 5

    Erica

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Cooley

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