PArents in REsearch aNd Technology (PARENT)

PARENT was created with the aim of analyzing the impact of parenthood on scientific careers and whether this impact is gender specific. Moreover PARENT aims to contribute to improve the situation for parents and prospective parents by proposing concrete measures.

Picture of a woman juggling a scientific carreer and parenthood

What was the goal of PARENT?

The primary aim of the PARENT study was to investigate the impact of parenthood on the scientific career development of men and women at the Faculty of Chemistry at the TU Wien.  

Since the first FemChem study showed a decline in the number of women in higher academic positions, the focus was to recognize possible gender-specific differences in career development. As this age often corresponds with the start of a family, the Diversity and Identity team decided to take a closer look at the role that a family-friendly working environment plays. 

Furthermore, the study examines gender-specific differences in parental leave, its duration, and parents’ perceptions and experiences of returning to work. 

The study was initiated, organized, and supervised by FemChem throughout the entire process. The experts Marita Haas and Bettina Stadler were assigned to implement the study.


The results of PARENT are available via the TU Wien reposiTUm.

Further information

What were the main findings of PARENT?

Group Workshops & Online Survey: 
Both female and male scientists expressed difficulties meeting high performance standards as parents, with the pressure to live up to high career standards. The experiences of women and men during the childbearing years are different, highlighting the need to consider and tailor support accordingly. Female scientists at the Faculty of Technical Chemistry face challenges when working with potentially harmful substances during pregnancy and breastfeeding. 
Solutions include the possibility of hiring temporary assistants if the pregnant or breastfeeding scientist is unable to continue work and emphasizing the importance of cooperation between the female employee, her supervisor and colleagues. 
Pre-emptive concerns about pregnancy in the workplace highlight the need for more accessible information. 

Co-Creation Workshops: 
In the co-creation workshops, new ideas for the improvement of working conditions for parents in science were discussed. 
The lack of an institutionalized solution for pregnant and breastfeeding researchers who are unable to carry out laboratory work was identified as a barrier to both individual scientific careers and the overall research output of groups. Participants highlighted a need for streamlined support in managing pregnancy and laboratory work and advocated a centralized ‘single point of contact’ system for (expectant) mothers and group leaders/supervisors. 
Furthermore, the need for better communication about measures already implemented was emphasized. Despite existing support measures at the TU Vienna, participants stressed the importance of continuous promotion and communication throughout the university. 
In order to ensure ongoing research and publication activities for future careers, there was a consensus on the need for workload relief. It was recognized that this would require additional resources but was seen as necessary to encourage young researchers and to improve the situation for parents within the university and faculty. 

Good Practice Research: 
A general literature review found that women in academia, particularly in STEM fields, disproportionately face the negative effects of parenthood. Challenges include the lack of a common pattern of excellence, dependence on supervisors and personal networks and an emphasis on publications as the primary measure of success. The review highlighted the importance of addressing the ‘vicious circle’ of gender bias, lower positions and lower performance. 
The subsequent desktop research focused on Austrian and German universities and research institutions and examined safety regulations for pregnant researchers. 
In-depth interviews with five organizations explored policies to address research interruptions during pregnancy and breastfeeding. 
Measures implemented by other research organizations include institutionalized support, clear and comprehensive pregnancy and career policies and the establishment of pregnancy laboratories. 

Panel Discussion: 
Various aspects of the study results and their implications were discussed at the Parent Study Panel Discussion at TU Vienna. 
The concept of safe labs and protocols for handling substances were discussed, and the panel considered the possibility of opening pregnancy labs to students. 
Challenges of reconciling high research standards with parenthood were addressed, and the discussion touched on flexibility in workload reduction, especially for those with young children. 
Efforts to evaluate research at the group level, taking into account scientific, teaching and community contributions, were highlighted. 
The discussion concluded with reflections on the challenges of the current evaluation system in academia, suggestions for improvement and ongoing efforts to create a more supportive and inclusive environment for scientists with family responsibilities. 

We invite you to be part of the change!

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