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Lab Life Drives Scientists to Long for More Children

Lab Life Drives Scientists to Long for More Children

"It could be they just think the sacrifices are worth it."

A recently released study indicates that life in the lab is limiting life at home for both male and female scientists. Nearly half of the women and a quarter of men working at top research universities in the United States say they wish they had more children.

What's stopped them? A career.

"In short, academic science careers are tough on family life because of the long hours and the pressure of publishing and grant-getting needed to get tenure," study co-author from Rice University Elaine Howard Ecklund said as reported by Science Daily.

A survey conducted by Rice University and Southern Methodist University was taken by 2,500 scientists at more than 30 research universities. While more women reported having fewer children because of their career choice (45.4 percent of women compared to 24.5 percent of men), women reported being more satisfied with life than their male counterparts. Having less children seemed to have more of an effect on men.

Joan Herbers, president of the Association for Women in Science and former dean of biological science and now professor at Ohio State University, said to The Blaze that she was unsurprised by the study's findings.

"Women have always been underrepresented in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) careers," Herbers said. "Part of this is because women start dropping off during their post-doc years to have families before they have been the field long enough to apply for faculty positions."

The study confirmed this sentiment with 29 percent of graduate student women saying they worried a science career would hamper family life, compared to 7 percent of men.

Herbers' response to the higher satisfaction reported by women: "It could be they just think the sacrifices are worth it."

The study's authors were surprised to find that women did not report working fewer hours than men. Herbers said this is probably because women just work different hours.

"Instead of working 7 to 5," Herbers said. "Women will work 9 to 5 and then 8 to 10 to accommodate their lifestyle."

Herbers says the number one thing -- and number two and three things -- that academia can do to promote better family life for those in STEM disciples is increase availability of high-quality, on-site child care. And there needs to be enough of it. She noted that while her university has on-site childcare,  there is a long waiting list.

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