Global Call to Action for Mothers in STEMM

01/25/2023
By AWIS National

We represent a global movement for mothers in science led by Mothers in Science (MiS). We are a coalition of individuals and organizations from all around the world with a common goal: to demand our leaders for immediate action to support mothers in science and enact policies to eliminate systemic inequities and increase retention of women in the STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine) sector.

We support the action plan for funding agencies outlining a set of specific and actionable strategies to promote inclusion of caregivers and close the gender gap in research funding.

Despite constituting half of the STEMM cohort at the training and graduate level in many fields, women are still vastly underrepresented in faculty and STEMM leadership positions. A recent US study reported that 43% of mothers and 23% of fathers leave their full-time positions after having their first child (1). A global survey conducted by MiS and partners found that 34% of mothers and 12% of fathers globally leave full-time STEMM employment after becoming parents (2).

Thus, systemic barriers related to motherhood—collectively known as the ‘maternal wall’ or ‘motherhood penalty’—contribute to the well-documented gender disparities in STEMM. The COVID-19 pandemic compounded this situation, with a long-lasting negative impact on the career advancement of mothers, especially mothers of color (3).

Although considerable progress has been made over past decades to attract more women into the STEMM sector, the persistent underrepresentation of women in many fields and disciplines, and particularly in leadership positions, reveals a chronic problem of women’s retention caused by a systemic culture of bias and discrimination.

We urge funding agencies to take immediate action to implement new policies, and improve existing ones, for promoting gender equity and ensuring that mothers and other caregivers have equal opportunities for career advancement at the most critical stages of their careers.

Funding agencies are key players for systemic change and for closing the gender gap in STEMM, as access to research funding is fundamental for scientific production and career advancement. However, studies show that women have lower success rates in research funding due to gender bias, highlighting the urgent need for action.

The action plan for funding agencies proposes policy recommendations to 1) eliminate unconscious bias in the grant evaluation process, 2) ensure an equitable distribution of research funding resources, and 3) promote inclusion of caregivers.

Finally, we believe that meaningfully addressing the issues of equity and inclusion in STEMM requires acting on the unequal and biased treatment of all underrepresented groups and considering intersectional identities, including race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and disability.

To download the Action Plan for Funding Agencies visit: www.mothersinscience.com/action-plan-funding-agencies

To contact the authors of the report and/or discuss the policy recommendations: isabel.torres@mothersinscience.com