President Barbara R. Snyder was among several academic and industry leaders on hand Monday when National Science Foundation (NSF) Director Subra Suresh announced the NSF Career-Life Balance Initiative at the White House.
“Too many young women scientists and engineers get sidetracked or drop their promising careers because they find it too difficult to balance the needs of those careers and the needs of their families,” Suresh said. “This new initiative aims to change that, so that the country can benefit from the full range and diversity of its talent.”
Among other measures, the 10-year plan will allow researchers to delay or suspend grants for up to one year to care for a newborn or newly adopted child or fulfill other family obligations. These measures will ease scientists’ reentry into their professions with minimal loss of momentum, according to a statement from the White House.
In addition, the initiative will provide supplements to cover the costs of research technicians or other staff members who maintain labs while principal investigators are on leaves; publicize the availability of family-friendly opportunities; and promote virtual grant reviews to enable broader participation among talented panelists whose family obligations make regular travel to on-site meetings impractical.
This is the NSF’s first foundation-wide workplace flexibility initiative to help postdoctoral fellows and early-career faculty members more easily care for dependents while continuing their careers. It’s a concerted effort to increase the percentage of women employed in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.
Women currently earn 41 percent of doctoral degrees in STEM fields but make up only 28 percent of tenure-track faculty in those fields, according to the NSF.
Case Western Reserve was the nation’s first private research university to receive an NSF ADVANCE grant aimed at increasing the participation and progress of women in academic science and engineering careers. The university today is amid a second NSF-funded initiative to spread the lessons of the ADVANCE experience with other universities in northern Ohio.
In addition, President Snyder led the university’s adoption of parental leave policies for faculty and staff as well as initiatives to provide emergency child care and child care assistance for employees who must travel for their work.