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Motherhood, the Elephant in the Laboratory: Women Scientists Speak Out Hardcover – April 11, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-0801446641 ISBN-10: 0801446643

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Motherhood, the Elephant in the Laboratory: Women Scientists Speak Out + Women and Science: Social Impact and Interaction (Science and Society Series) + Their Day In The Sun: Women Of The Manhattan Project (Labor And Social Change)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 232 pages
  • Publisher: ILR Press (April 11, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801446643
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801446641
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #662,521 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the very personal side of the struggles and opportunities that accompany the decision of a collection of women scientists to have children. But the book also gets at a larger issue that goes beyond the topic of motherhood: the failure of our scientific culture, particularly in our academic institutions, to embrace and value the full range of career options beyond the professoriate that can lead to rewarding and satisfying professional and personal lives. For both reasons the book is a good read­ even for those readers who will never be mothers." --Chemical and Engineering News

In eloquent and often witty essays, these women directly address the challenges of being mothers in the scientific workforce. -- The Scientist

The writers, who all balance science careers and motherhood, provide a fascinating insight into a world too often kept hidden. -- New Scientist

When toxicologist Rebecca Efroymson flew to Washington D.C. to defend a grant proposal before a federal agency, she lacked child care options and was forced to bring along her sick toddler. On the day of her presentation, she left her feverish, screaming son in a hotel room in the care of his grandparents, who had taken a train down from Philadelphia to babysit. Fatigued by lack of sleep, Efroymson did not give her best presentation, and her grant was not funded. "This was the first time that my split life might really have impacted my work and the viability of my job," she writes.

The "split life" between work and child rearing is one familiar to millions of working parents. For women, balancing work and family can present particularly difficult challenges in the highly competitive, often male-dominated world of research science. Efroymson's story is one of many told in a timely new book, Motherhood, the Elephant in the Laboratory: Women Scientists Speak Out.

Contributors to this volume include biologists, physicists, geologists, and oceanographers. They are professors, writers, independent consultants, science policy experts, teachers, and government researchers. For those who fear that motherhood is incompatible with traditional scientific research careers, this book offers some stunning examples to the contrary. An atmospheric chemist writes of raising five children as she works and rises to a position of leadership at NASA. Other women seek non-traditional careers in a quest for balance, and forge new paths for themselves. The editor of the anthology, Emily Monosson, is a prime example: a toxicologist with a Ph.D from Cornell, she has established a career as an independent consultant, researcher, and writer.

The diversity of career paths described is impressive and eye-opening. Even for those who eventually end up in traditional careers, the road may be circuitous. Some of the women in these pages drop out of the workforce for a few years while their children are young, or work part-time. Some eventually return to the lab and tenure-track careers; testament that these traditional careers - often thought of as rigid, unyielding pathways - may have more flexibility than we have been led to believe. Indeed, the fluidity of scientific careers - the shifts between home life, academia, industry, government, and back again - becomes a major theme.

The book opens with scientists who received their PhDs in the 1970s, and marches through the 80s and 90s, ending with the voices of women who are in graduate school today.

It is often said that motherhood is not for the faint of heart. The same could be said for a career in science. The pace of institutional and cultural change can seem glacial. In the mean-time, scientists who are also mothers can find support by sharing their stories with one another. As one woman writes in the opening pages of Motherhood: "In the final analysis, every woman finds her own way. It's just good to know that none of us is alone." -- American Scientist, August 22, 2008

"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."

Review

"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."

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Mother Scientist on November 13, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I'm sorry, but this book was so disappointing. Not what I was hoping for at all. I feel very bad giving this book a negative review, because the intention behind it is SO good. And I do not mean to criticize the editor or the women's stories. Some stories were engaging, but not all. I think perhaps these mother scientists weren't given enough direction for their essays.

I am a mother scientist. I graduated with a PhD from MIT Biology (and a 1 and a half year old), and I am now doing post-doctoral research at Harvard. I am well-familiar with the struggles of being a mother in the laboratory. And I was looking for shared understanding and some stories of women who have done it as I am doing so. I recently read the book, Mama PhD, and THAT book was WONDERFUL!! I would highly recommend it to all looking at this book. That book had meaning and inspiration. This book was just discouraging and disappointing. It needed more "traditionally" successful mother scientists sharing their stories to help even it out. Almost none of the stories were women who maintained full-time academic work after maternity leave (which is what I intend to do, and which will help bring more policy changes from inside the system). While non-traditional paths are great and important to discuss, there should at least have been inclusion of some other more traditional stories. This book leaves the reader with the impression that it is impossible to be a successful full-time academic with children, or, if there is career success, the woman is tired and stressed and unhealthy much of the time. Too many of these stories were of incredibly disgruntled women with negative experiences. Those stories SHOULD be shared, but in combination with POSITIVE stories as well, which I know exist out there.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Nicola Bowler on February 20, 2010
Format: Hardcover
In contrast to the comments of `Mother Scientist', I certainly recommend this book to women intending to stay in academia, as well as other scientific professions. Here we have a book containing a summary of the experiences of 34 females as they attempt to be both good mothers and good scientists. As in any group of people, some of these women's stories will resonate more strongly with one reader (for me those of the physicists) than with another. Taken as a whole, this book provides many nuggets of advice that are available for the reader to mull over, digest, and accept or reject.

As a female-tenure-track-engineering-professor-mother-of-three (girls), I value the insights provided by these writers in the way that I value conversations with others whose lives and challenges somewhat resemble mine. For me, this collection of essays fills a gap that exists due to the fact that women scientists form a dilute system in which we don't often have chance to interact.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Story Circle Book Reviews on December 8, 2008
Format: Hardcover
We often praise mothers, but what's behind the words? Sometimes little in the way of support, financial assistance, day care, or flextime. Yet mothers prove that not only can they manage all their responsibilities, they can learn more, produce more, participate more, volunteer more, and give more.

That's the thesis of Emily Monosson's superbly edited book written by thirty-four scientists who also chose to be mothers in the midst of their quest for a Ph.D. These women tell what it's like to spend their child-bearing years studying, doing research, defending their research, writing grant proposals, publishing their research, teaching, working all hours in a lab, doing a post-doc, and deciding to have or not to have children.

All the women in this collection had children at some time in the process. They related how others either supported or did not support their decision. Most of the husbands, family and friends supported them. Many of the advisors, institutions, employers, and supervisors did not.

Already experienced writers, these women wrote short, beautifully expressed personal essays that make up this enlightening book. As in the title of Theresa M. Wizemann's essay, "The Eternal Quest for Balance--A Career in Five Acts, No Intermission," these women spent or are spending their lives contributing to improving society while balancing a career, family, and even hobbies. With few concessions, they are doing it all in spite of poor working situations, low pay, and often inadequate child-care facilities. But these women see their lives as enriched through making the choice to have children.

As women, each of us has chosen different career paths, but these essays remind us that we're not alone.
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By Joan S. Baizer on January 20, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
well, actually I am one of the authors buying an additional copy for a friend...hardly disinterested reviewer...would recommend to women in science/medicine/law issues still pertinent
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Brings to light the challenges of combining an academic research career with motherhood. Also gives several possible suggestions for balancing.
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