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“Take parental leave“

To be well organized is essential when talking about connecting a scientific career and family life. Nonetheless, it appears to be hardly possible to be perfectly settled in both. The event “Scientific Career and Parenthood” offered some useful advice how to balance the two domains and described the legal framework.

Henning Rockmann, corporate council of the German Rectors’ Conference, explained the legal framework of limited working contracts. Credit: Michael Grefe, SFB 676

“When I was younger, nobody would have thought about fathers in parental leave,” Prof. Jan Louis, Vice President of Universität Hamburg, said in his welcome speech and right away appealed especially to young fathers: “Take parental leave!”

Apart from the demand for mobility in science and the high expectations to publish results, temporary limited working contracts impede the balance between family requirements and professional tasks. Henning Rockmann, corporate council of the German Rectors’ Conference, explained the legal framework of limited working contracts especially with regard to parental leave periods under the Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz (WissZeitVG) (= “law about limited contracts in science”). In the case of parental leave for example, an entitlement to extend the contract does exist – however, in the framework of funded projects this entitlement exists only under particular conditions.

Marie Lutz, CUI equal opportunities officer, moderated a lively “Scientific Career and Parenthood” event. Credit: Michael Grefe, SFB 676

During the following panel discussion, Prof. Erika Garutti (Institute of Experimental Physics), Dr. Christiane Fröhlich (CliSAP/CEN) and MSc. Martin Ranke (CUI) complemented the legal framework with examples from daily work routine. Erika Garutti reported how she as the group leader asserted a controlling room at DESY, to be able to supervise experiments at the American Fermilab that she was responsible for, despite being heavily pregnant. When having children, many things would depend on good organization, but it might be impossible to be a perfect mother and a perfect scientist at the same time. Erika Garutti: “Accept yourself as you are.” “Everybody tells you what to do – just don’t listen,” Christiane Fröhlich added, “children never fit but always fit.” During her PhD period the scientist worked in home-office to combine parenthood and research. Her conclusion: As father or mother one will get substantially more focussed.

Marie Lutz, CUI equal opportunities officer, who moderated the event, asked the only father within the panel if he takes 100 % of the time of during parental leave. He would check his mails but promised his wife not to go into the laboratory, Martin Ranke assured.

“Scientific Career and Parenthood” is a common event of the clusters of excellence CliSAP and CUI, the special research area SFB 676, the MIN-faculty and the family office of Universität Hamburg. The event takes place at different locations – this time for example at the Deutsches Klimarechenzentrum (DKRZ) (=German Climate Computing Centre).