Today, women make up about half our workforce. But they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment. A woman deserves equal pay for equal work. She deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job. A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship – and you know what, a father does, too. It’s time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a Mad Men episode.

- President Barack Obama, January 28, 2014

While women continue to face many challenges in balancing their careers with motherhood, here at UC Davis there are numerous examples of successful women physicians and scientists who are mothers as well.  Earlier this month Women in Medicine and Health Science (WIMHS) organized a luncheon on “Balancing Your Academic Career and Motherhood” to address the challenges facing working mothers here at the UC Davis School of Medicine.  The event was open to all women faculty, residents and postdoctoral fellows (note that WIMHS hosted an event last year on balancing fatherhood and career, so the motherhood lunch event was more focused on issues for our women faculty members).

WIMHS Balancing Motherhood PanelAmparo Villablanca, MDLydia Howell, MDChristine Wu Nordahl, PhDSally Ozonoff, PhDMelissa Bauman, PhD

WIMHS Balancing Motherhood Panel
Amparo Villablanca, MD
Lydia Howell, MD
Christine Wu Nordahl, PhD
Sally Ozonoff, PhD
Melissa Bauman, PhD

WIMHS Co-directors Drs. Villablanca and Howell provided an overview of the progress made in flexible career policies at UCDSOM, highlighting recent findings from their NIH-funded study designed to raise awareness of existing policies and reduce barriers to their use.  Handouts were provided describing maternity leave policies for postdoctoral fellows, residents and faculty – these will also be made available on the WIMHS home page.  Other resources include a list of recommended books: Motherhood, The Elephant in the Laboratory (Monosson), Academic Motherhood (Ward and Wolf-Wendel), Mama PhD (Evans and Grant), Do Babies Matter (Mason, Wolfinger, Goulden) and This Won’t Hurt a Bit (Au).

The panel, moderated by Dr. Amparo Villablanca, consisted of women who have diverse experiences balancing motherhood with their academic careers. The panelists described their own strategies for balancing motherhood with their careers, including tips, advice and strategies that worked for their families.  Some of the suggestions included, creating a family calendar to keep track of busy schedules, hiring help for day care, household chores, drivers for shuttling kids to after school events.  Several panelists and audience members pointed out that work/life balance isn’t something we should expect to achieve each and every day. Some days require more focus on career (grant deadlines or on call duties) while other days require more focus on children (sick days) – it is important to set realistic expectations of ourselves and maintain a sense of humor!

Sally Ozonoff reflected on the challenges of balancing career with younger children:

“It is hard to not feel like you are missing out on field trips and class room activities when you are a working mother.  As my children got older, I began to see that there were also benefits of having a mother who is passionate about her career. My daughters really want to have both careers and families and seem confident that this is possible.  Now, I feel like I have been a good role model.

As the luncheon wrapped up, Dr. Villablanca posed the question, “Are there things that our school should do to better support faculty moms and parents?”  Time ran short, but onsite day care, more flexibility for grant-funded faculty and making the “stop the clock” policy automatic (rather than requiring the women to request this from her department chair) were raised by several audience members.  Let’s continue our discussion here… what other tips you would like to share?  Are there specific questions we did not get a chance to answer?  Is anyone interested in reestablishing the Mommy and Me play group? What else can we do to support working mothers in science and medicine?  Please post your thoughts below (note that you can post as anonymous if you prefer!).