Motherhood, the Elephant in the Laboratory

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 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.

Contributors: A. Pia Abola, biochemist, writer, and editor; Caroline (Cal) Baier-Anderson, University of Maryland, Baltimore; Joan S. Baizer, SUNY Buffalo; Stefi Baum, Rochester Institute of Technology; Aviva Brecher, U.S. Department of Transportation, Volpe Center (Cambridge, Massachusetts); Teresa Capone Cook, American Heritage Academy; Carol B. de Wet, Franklin & Marshall College; Kimberly D'Anna, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Anne Douglass, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center; Elizabeth Douglass, Scripps Institute of Oceanography; Katherine Douglass, George Washington University; Deborah Duffy, University of Pennsylvania; Rebecca A. Efroymson, U.S. government research laboratory; Suzanne Epstein, Food and Drug Administration; Kim M. Fowler, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory; Debra Hanneman, Whitehall Geogroup, Inc. and; Deborah Harris, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory; Andrea L. Kalfoglou, University of Maryland, Baltimore County; Marla S. McIntosh, University of Maryland; Marilyn Wilkey Merritt, George Washington University; Emily Monosson, toxicologist and writer; Heidi Newberg, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Rachel Obbard, British Antarctic Survey; Catherine O'Riordan, Consortium for Ocean Leadership; Nanette J. Pazdernik, independent author and molecular biologist; Devin Reese, National Science Resources Center; Marie Remiker (pseudonym); Deborah Ross, Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne; Christine Seroogy, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Marguerite Toscano, independent geoscientist, writer, and editor; Gina D. Wesley-Hunt, Montgomery College; Theresa M. Wizemann, Merck & Co., Inc.; Sofia Refetoff Zahed, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Gayle Barbin Zydlewski, Cove Brook Watershed Council and University of Maine
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Product details

  • Paperback | 232 pages
  • 149.86 x 226.06 x 15.24mm | 498.95g
  • Cornell University Press
  • ILR Press
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • Reprint
  • 0801476690
  • 9780801476693
  • 1,017,757

Table of contents


Section I. 1970s

Balancing Family and Career Demands with 20/20 Hindsight

by Aviva Brecher

Extreme Motherhood: You Can't Get There from Here

by Joan S. Baizer

Careers versus Child Care in Academia

by Deborah Ross

Identities: Looking Back over Forty Years as a Social Scientist,

Woman, and Mother

by Marilyn Wilkey Merritt

Costs and Rewards of Success in Academia, or Bouncing into

the Rubber Ceiling

by Marla S. McIntosh

One Set of Choices as a Mom and Scientist

by Suzanne Epstein

Section II. 1980s

Three Sides of the Balance

by Anne Douglass

The Accidental Astronomer

by Stefi Baum

At Home with Toxicology: A Career Evolves

by Emily Monosson

Geological Consulting and Kids: An Unpredictable Balancing Act?

by Debra Hanneman

Career Scientists and the Shared Academic Position

by Carol B. de Wet

Section III. 1990s

Less Pay, a Little Less Work

by Heidi Newberg

Reflections of a Female Scientist with Outside Interests

by Christine Seroogy

Part-Time at a National Laboratory: A Split Life

by Rebecca A. Efroymson

The Eternal Quest for Balance: A Career in Five Acts, No Intermission

by Theresa M. Wizemann

Reflections on Motherhood and Science

by Teresa Capone Cook

The Benefits of Four-Dumbbell Support

by Catherine O'Riordan

Extraordinary Commitments of Time and Energy

by Deborah Harris

Finding My Way Back to the Bench: An Unexpectedly Satisfying Destination

by A. Pia Abola

Mothering Primates

by Devin Reese

Finding the Right Balance, Personal and Professional, as a Mother in Science

by Gayle Barbin Zydlewski

What? I Don't Need a PhD to Potty-Train My Children?

by Nanette J. Pazdernik

Variety, Challenge, and Flexibility: The Benefits of Straying from the Narrow Path

by Marguerite Toscano

The Balancing Act

by Kim M. Fowler

Juggling through Life's Transitions

by Cal Baier-Anderson

Having It All, Just Not All at the Same Time

by Andrea L. Kalfoglou

Section IV. 2000s

Exploring Less-Traveled Paths

by Deborah Duffy

Standing Up

by Gina D. Wesley-Hunt

Because of Our Mom, a True Rocket Scientist

by Elizabeth Douglass and Katherine Douglass

On Being What You Love

by Rachel Obbard

Parsimony Is What We Are Taught, Not What We Live

by Sofia Katerina Refetoff Zahed

Role Models: Out with the Old and In with the New

by Marie Remiker

Pursuing Science and Motherhood

by Kimberly D'Anna


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Review quote

"The stories in Motherhood, the Elephant in the Laboratory are captivating and the picture of science as a field was truly sobering. I found myself thinking about the authors' fascinating stories long after I finished reading this book."-Joan C. Williams, Distinguished Professor of Law, University of California Hastings College of the Law "Motherhood, the Elephant in the Laboratory is an engaging, moving, and informative book. It depicts the challenge of combining a career in science with motherhood, using the voices of real women to portray the diversity of possible experiences."-Jo Handelsman, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor and Chair, Department of Bacteriology, University of Wisconsin-Madison "At last-a book to convince women scientists that there is life beyond the professoriate. These brief life stories demonstrate that women professionals do not have to play by men's rules to have a career. They also show the world that women scientists are not only literate but also witty."-Phoebe Leboy, University of Pennsylvania, President, Association for Women in Science "Emily Monosson has edited a very interesting book. She has collected essays written by 34 female scientists on how they managed to combine being a scientist with being a mother. It is regrettable that the subject of this book has continued to be relevant despite many decades of struggle by scientists to find a balance between work and family. The problem remains unsolved."-Alice L. Givan, Industrial and Labor Relations Review, April 2009 "In these heartrending essays, women who are well-trained and well-situated in science detail the compromises they have made in order to raise children and be scientists. . . . The women who succeed-and there are many in this volume-are those whose partners take an equal share of the responsibility for raising a family and making the household function."-American Scientist "Women trying to squeeze a career and family duties into one 24-hour day will gain much affirmation from this collection of essays. The writers, who all balance science careers and motherhood, provide a fascinating insight into a world too often kept hidden. For those without children it should come with a health warning: the juggling and compromises these women have learned to live with may add up to a sobering reality check for those who still think they can have it all. For some it may prove a powerful contraceptive."-New Scientist, June 2008
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Rating details

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