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Motherhood, the Elephant in the Laboratory

Last night, I went to a panel discussion sponsored by the Association for Women in Science featuring some of the authors from the recent released book Motherhood, the Elephant in the Laboratory: Women Scientists Speak Out (I linked to amazon, use your bookseller of choice) by Emily Monosson. I bought this book several months ago, but hadn’t yet had the time to read it.  After last night’s discussion, the book has moved to the stop of my stack.

The discussion was both informative and reassuring.  The women on the panel–Anne Douglass of NASA, Katherine Douglass of The George Washington University, Marla McIntosh of the University of Maryland, and Catherine O’Riordan of the American Institute of Physics–have all found ways to combine their professional lives with motherhood. Several times, the women pointed out how important their partners’ support was in finding ways to do this.  They argued that the issue needs to be framed as a parenting issue rather than as a women’s issue because men with children (especially those with working wives) are in the same boat.  McIntosh said something I hadn’t thought of: motherhood, she said, hasn’t stopped just because her kids are off at college.  When her son called and her phone rang during the discussion, it was a clear reminder of that.

If you’re interested in becoming a parent–or just interested in the issue–you might want to pick up the book. Also, Emily Monosson has established an accompanying website and online community to discuss issues of motherhood in science, which can be found at

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