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Mothers Being in STEM

by Wensi Wu

In the United States of America, when new parents in STEM have their first baby, 43% of women and 23% of men will switch fields, switch to part-time, or even leave the workforce entirely1. This study was done by the National Science Foundation’s Scientists and Engineers Statistical Data System (SESTAT), and it is based on 629 men and 212 women that were full-time in 2003 but became new parents before the end data collection in 20061. More than 3000 STEM workers were without children in 20061, but by 2010, 78% of new fathers were still in STEM while only 68% of women were still in STEM. For both genders, only 57% worked full time1. 16% of women were working part-time compared to 2% of men who were working part-time1. 15% of women had left the workforce compared to the 3% of men that left the workforce1. For workers without children, 84% of men and 76% of women were still working in STEM full time in 20101.

The reason for the decrease of people working in the STEM field after having their first child is because of stereotypes, society, discrimination, and having to choose between career or parenthood1. Women are pictured to be housewives or work in feminine jobs, jobs that most likely don't require math. Although women are seen to be less suitable for jobs in STEM as compared to men, they can still manage the same workload as a pregnant or a new mother. Society seems to only let parents choose one path; career or parenthood. Being a parent can be seen as a distraction to their career to employers, but women can be workers in STEM and mothers. It can be harder for pregnant women to work due to the increasing size of the baby, but this does not affect the knowledge and skills that the mother has.

Being pregnant during work can be a struggle in STEM, due to certain chemicals or objects being used that could potentially harm the mother and/or the baby. Companies shouldn’t discriminate against women or pregnant women by saying they can’t do this job, or they will ruin the company. However, what they can do instead is provide pregnancy awareness by educating workers on what can be harmful to pregnant women, or employers can hire extra supervisors to assist pregnant women at work. Additionally, there are ways to support new parents. Mothers and fathers are allowed to have a certain amount of time off of work to spend time with their new baby; however, afterward may be a struggle. What some parents do is they bring their kids to childcare in the morning and pick them up at night. At childcare, the baby can learn new things while their parents are at work. A company could offer to help parents bring their children to childcare during the day, so the parents would still be able to work for the company. Instead of telling new parents that they have to choose either being parents or their career, work around it. Parents can have their careers and be parents to their children, too. They will learn over time how to balance their lives over time. Parents in STEM may have to give up some time with their children for work, but eventually, with the right balance, they will find ways to spend as much time as possible with their children, as well as working in a career they love.

Work Cited:

[1] Bernstein, R. (2019, February 18). After a baby, 28% of new parents leave full-time STEM work. American Association for the Advancement of Science. doi:10.1126/science.caredit.aax0346

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