Precarious Task Author: Ricki Lewis

In the days of TV's June Cleaver -- stay-at-home-mom extraordinaire -- the idea of the female parent spending hours each day lecturing undergraduates or directing laboratory research bordered on absurd. Women were rare among the ranks of academic scientists, and those who were also mothers rarer still.

Today women are prominent players in the academic life sciences, and many are mothers, too. Like their counterparts in industry (R. Lewis, The Scientist, Jan. 9, 1995, page 21), they are finding their university employers more "mom-friendly" than in years past. Things are getting easier because of changes in law, policy, and campus culture.

Under prompting from the Clinton administration, Congress passed the Family and Medical Leave Act in 1993, which mandates some allowance in the workplace for the demands of new parenthood. And women scientists in academia report that the act -- combined with sick leave,...

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