First a Woman, then a Mother - Maternal Wall in STEM.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 17:56
Oral Presentation
Natasza KOSAKOWSKA-BEREZECKA, University of Gdansk, Poland
Magdalena ZADKOWSKA, University of Gdansk, Poland
The research done among women working in Bio-technology at the Univwreisty of Gdansk shows that: 1) cultural stereotypes that make women more responsible for family life and childcare are very strong and 2) power relations between women and men who in a way make it uncommon for a woman to be the authority and have power over men is still existing (Bourdieu, 2004). The study's participants strongly emphasized the visibility and strength of the so- called "maternal wall" – before the birth of the child no significant differences between women and men academics are visible, though they are fully aware of difficulties in managing work-life balance when leading a career of a passionate scientist. However when the baby appears they indicate that:

  • they are torn between enough family time (childcare) and working time - they lose their chance to develop and to be competitive in their field
  • their careers are at risk
  • the sense of guilt is often "unbearable" if you are a committed mother
  • negative social assessment and backlash for being a devoted researcher instead of devoted parent affects both women and men
  • they lack to support from the institution in managing their career and managing their work-life balance (as opposed to their colleagues in other countries).

Female academics still confront workplace barriers that hinder their advancement at the upper levels of organizations and their academic careers. However, most people fail to recognize that such gender barriers still exist. Mothers decision to quit academia or become less involved are not a matter of personal choice which undermines potential systematic actions that need to be taken to tackle the gender gap. It is important to note that when people think this is women’s choice they might be less willing to do something about it.