Archive | August, 2014

It’s not just about persuading girls to follow careers in science but keeping them there and returning them after career breaks

1 Aug

by Jill Stocks Research Fellow in Core theme of the Greater Manchester PSTRC


It’s a great aim to encourage girls to follow a career in science, technology, engineering or maths (STEM) but are we forcing them to ultimately make a choice between a career and family? A female STEM researcher is most likely to be lost during the transition from PhD to research around the time they start a family. Women can become discouraged; they find research too adversarial, the difficulties of combining career and family daunting and the lack of role models isolating.

The Daphne Jackson trust is a leader in the arena of returning people to careers in STEM following a break for family or health reasons and of course, that applies to men equally as women. Indeed in the words of Professor Athene Donald “…it is important to move towards the position where families feel children are a joint responsibility and not just a problem for women

I am a former Daphne Jackson Fellow and I imagine my story is typical. I was working as a post-doctoral scientist then along came a family. Perhaps if I had had just one child a nursery place would have been affordable but with 3 children and a post-doctoral salary it was impossible. Indeed I remember looking at the staff childcare rates at a university nursery and thinking “well that’s the end of my career”. My friend, also previously a post-doctoral chemist, was working in Tesco in the evening and that seemed to be the limit of what I could expect. As the children grew I knew I must make some sort of life for myself but what can a scientist with no experience or publications in the past 5 years do? Then a helpful person told me that there were fellowships for people to return to science. A search on the internet soon revealed the Daphne Jackson Trust website and from that moment the DJT supported and encouraged me in returning to a career as a scientist.

Now I work in the Greater Manchester PSTRC who are sponsoring and recruiting a Daphne Jackson Fellow. I would like to help somebody return to a career in STEM. If you are wondering how to get back to work in STEM research we love to hear from you.