Something that is very important to me is to be open about being a scientist – a woman scientist, in particular – who has children. The data don’t paint a rosy picture for scientist mothers, and this is in part because of the biases we all have related to women in science (and especially regarding women in science with children). My hope is that, by being open about being a scientist mother, I can do my small part to normalize the idea of women scientists having children.
How do I try to achieve this? I mention my children in class sometimes (even though I’m sure this makes me seem less serious to some students.) I have artwork by my kids in my office. I tweet about my children and the germs they all-too-frequently bring home from daycare. If a student group asks me to give a talk in the evening, I tell them that I can’t make it because I will be home with my kids. I mention my kids sometimes on this blog.
Another thing that I did in the past is have my children* in my Twitter avatar. At some point, I changed to the little red Daphnia**. I think the little red Daphnia is fun and distinctive. But, thinking about all this more recently, I’ve decided to go back to the avatar of me with my son. In some ways it feels silly, since it’s such a small gesture. But then I am reminded, that sometimes those small gestures matter. I was recently told that seeing the juxtaposition of me tweeting that I got tenure with my avatar (at that time, a picture of me holding my daughter) really resonated with some younger women scientists and gave them hope that it is possible to be a women in science and have children.
So, Happy Mother’s Day, a day late***, to all the #scimoms out there! To celebrate, I’m going back to an avatar showing me with one of my kids:
* Usually only one at a time, because it’s nearly impossible to get me and both of them all looking at the camera at the same time!
** No, it’s NOT a bird!
*** At least, for the US Mother’s Day. I know it’s not the same day in all countries.