Women in Science
Taking Parental Leave
Video clip: Angela used KIT days in her first maternity leave to see her group and keep in contact with the research. With her second child, she and her husband shared leave.
There is no reason that we, as women, can’t achieve exactly what any man is achieving. And I say that from the perspective that I’ve had two career breaks as well, so I have two young children. One is 3 years old now and the other has just turned one and I can see that, so I can see how that can have affected women’s careers in the past. And you have to accept that taking a career break like that it does inevitably mean that you have, and it should mean that you have fewer publications, that’s absolutely right that you know, you shouldn’t be ashamed that your CV has fewer publications in the year that you had your baby.
But it is changing a little. With my first child I took six months maternity leave because that was employment law, you know, my husband, who’s incredibly supportive, took two weeks leave and then supported me on the odd days that I did, took a KIT (keeping in touch) day so came back in to do, to see my group and keep contact with the research and so on. For my second child employment law had changed and we had the option to take shared parental leave and that I think, even in the short time that has been in place, is going to make a big difference in terms of equality. So I shared leave with my husband and we took more or less equal amounts of time, so it was in blocks, it wasn’t continuous but more or less we took three months each. Of course I still saw a drop in my productivity and so did he, but overall, the impact has been less than it was the first time around and my group is larger this time so that was inevitably more helpful to me to keep on top of things. And I think one of the aspects that is not appreciated very much is that people see a CV and they see a block of six months leave and they think okay so that’s just six months downtime, in reality it’s not that at all of course. It takes a long time to actually get back into a way of working and a way of thinking.
You know, I would say realistically it probably took me the best part of another three, four, five maybe even six months to get properly back up to speed once I returned from maternity leave. A little less time the second time around, perhaps because it was a shorter break. But , and you need to factor that in as well and be prepared for that. I think it’s very easy to put an awful lot of pressure on yourself and thinking you’re back at work, you’re trying to juggle all of these things and you know, you have to deliver, you know of course you have to keep a certain amount of pressure on yourself, because it’s important in any academic career that you are making progress, but you do, you don’t want to be too hard on yourself because it is tough and you do have to settle back in and take things at the right pace.