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“Scientific Career and Parenthood 2015”: Proven strategies and new perspectives

“Don´t think too much when it comes to balancing your children and career. It´s not always plannable”, was one of the panel guests’ advices at „Scientific Career and Parenthood”. Nevertheless, a career with children is an interdisciplinary project where the needs and demands of all partners involved have to be coordinated.

Lebhafte Diskussion mit dem Publikum. Foto: DESY/Marta Mayer

Lively discussion with the audience. Photo: DESY/Marta Mayer

“The compatibility of family and career paths remains a relevant topic that has a huge impact on scientific careers and our society as a whole– on our campus and beyond its borders,” remarks Marie Lutz, Equal Opportunity Officer at CUI who moderated the information and discussion evening in the CFEL. Together with Wiebke Kircheisen (Managing Director SFB 676), Nicolli Povijac (Equal Opportunity Officer, CliSAP) and Carolin Steinat (Coordinator, Family Office) she organized the evening that was designed for a wide target group. The audience of the evening was a cross-section of the academic career ladder, where scientists of different research facilities were present, to discuss chances and challenges in balancing family with careers in an open athmosphere. The informative part was presented accordingly: Representatives of the human resource departments of Universität Hamburg and DESY offered information on the legal framework of work contracts and maternity- and parental leave. A new tool was presented with which DESY reacts to the relevance of compatibility issues: With “Stay in Touch” employees are informed about relevant news and information at their workplace throughout the duration of their parental leave. Despite their absence, parents are able to stay up to date, and the contact to their research group is promoted and encouraged.


Different strategies
Throughout the following panel discussion, there was room for different compatibility issues and individual strategies for balancing a family with a scientific career : Benjamin Bechtel (PostDoc, CliSAP), Lana Casselmann (MSc, research training group 1670), Ulrike Frühling (Jun.Prof, CUI) and Lukas Vanelderen (PostDoc, SFB 676) agreed that the management of a scientific career with family life requires strict self-organization and becomes a permanent process of reconciliation with the working environment. Models such as home office and trusted flexitime were considered important models and resources that require the group leaders’ flexibility. Personal discipline in strictly separating work time and family hours was also mentioned – a task both parents are confronted with. “Men in parental leave are nowadays quite common.

Die Podiumsgäste stehen Rede und Antwort. Foto: DESY/Marta Meyer

The panel guests talk and stand answers. Photo: DESY/Marta Meyer

To agree and reconcile with your emancipated partner on equal terms is crucial,” said Benjamin Bechtel. And even more than that: “In a system where the chance to make a career is based on the idea that one partner takes the load off the other one at home, which partially due to age related income imbalance is mostly the woman, there´s nothing more effective for the promotion of female careers in science than a father in parental leave,” added Wiebke Kircheisen, one of the event’s organizers.

Mobility and limited work contracts

Above all, challenges in the equal compatibility-management remain structural: Limited working contracts and the high status of the (inter-) national mobility in the scientific career are considered demanding among the scientist on the panel. At least on the advanced level of the career ladder, these demands have been redefined: Since this year the “Hausberufungen” of Junior Professors on the attractive permanent Professorships are possible within Universität Hamburg. Parents in science need above all one thing: perspectives and reliable partners.


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