Newswise — Jessica L. Malisch, St. Mary’s College assistant professor of biology, was a member of a working group of academic mothers who, with lead writer Rebecca M. Calisi (University of California), compiled a list of methods for conference organizers to facilitate attendance at conferences by primary caregivers.

“This was an important collaborative project conducted by 46 mothers in academia who noticed the challenges of conference attendance imposed on primary caregivers and how this was disproportionately affecting early career females,” said Malisch.

One major challenge is referred to as the childcare–conference conundrum. According to the article, “Parent-researchers face a conundrum as they struggle to attend key conferences and further their careers while finding care for their children. Conferences face a conundrum as they assess how to better accommodate mothers and families.”

Research showed that primary caretakers face hurdles if they wish to attend and participate in conferences because of responsibilities related to pregnancy, breastfeeding, and caretaking.

According to the article, “Research reveals that this “baby penalty” negatively affects women’s, but not men’s, career mobility, with even larger penalties for women of color.”

“We wanted to not only raise awareness but provide tangible solutions to conference organizers to improve equity and reduce the gender gap in academia,” said Malisch.  

Some of those solutions include, organizations allocating funds in order to support efforts of parents or offer discount registration to parents who can attend only a portion of the conference. If parents wished to bring a caregiver, organizations could support the caregivers financially and logistically by offering grants to fund travel and housing for a caregiver.

Many more solutions are included in the full article, available for viewing at Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

St. Mary’s College of Maryland is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education through 2024-2025. St. Mary’s College, designated the Maryland state honors college in 1992, is ranked one of the best public liberal arts schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Approximately 1,600 students attend the college, nestled on the St. Mary’s River in Southern Maryland.

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