Science Careers Blog

November 19, 2009

Family Plans

Last month we ran Returning to Science by Sarah Webb, an article about women returning to science after extended family leaves. The same week we also published A Life Lived Backwards by Angela Saini, about Patricia Alireza, the University College-London physicist who didn't even start graduate school until her family was grown.

In connection with those articles we conducted an online poll to figure out how our readers -- overwhelmingly postdocs and graduate students -- are planning to balance family and career. Of those who took the survey, 49% were graduate students and 43% were postdocs. The remaining 8% were split evenly between "undergraduate student" and "other".

The result of the survey was, to me, both surprising and pleasing: The most popular approach, it seems, is not to wait. Nearly half of our readers "expect/plan to have children while still in training." More than a quarter of respondents already have children. About a quarter -- 24.5% -- plan to wait until after their careers are established before having children. 2% don't intend to have children at all.

All these choices are valid, but with the training phase getting longer and scientific independence happening later, it's good to see that among those who want children, nearly half feel they don't have to wait. The results follow in graphical form.

My thanks to Managing Editor Alan Kotok for designing and setting up the online poll.

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