December 6, 2023

Equity to mothers in university research

Ms. Stanikowski, There are fewer women in leadership positions in the natural sciences at universities and research institutes around the world than one would expect based on the proportion of female students. They believe discrimination against mothers is the reason. What does an academic work environment that treats mothers fairly look like?

We need a profound change in our academic culture: the academic world must recognize and respect the differences in life and professional paths. Flexibility, especially towards mothers with young children, is essential. This also means that commitment and productivity can be expressed differently than the number of posts, and that success stories do not always follow a straight line. A truly equitable academic environment takes mothers’ requirements into account, provides support such as on-campus childcare, flexible working hours or mobile work, and promotes understanding of the parents’ situation. This goes beyond superficial commitments to diversity; Institutions must actively promote it.

Fernanda Staniskowski, a molecular biologist at the University of Rio Grande do Sul, launched an initiative

Fernanda Staniskowski, a molecular biologist at the University of Rio Grande do Sul, launched the Fathers in Science initiative.

Photo: Gustavo Diehl

As a professor of molecular biology at the University of Rio Grande do Sul, you founded the Parent in Science network after having children yourself and experiencing all the difficulties that college mothers face. What obstacles did you face? Is this percentage particularly high in Brazil?

They are similar to those in many parts of the world: there is a lack of support mechanisms, no strategies to retain mothers at universities, and few opportunities for women to continue their careers with children. There is often a lack of funds for research or scholarships to return to work. In addition, mothers’ commitment and abilities are often questioned.

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