Yesterday Tina Tchen, executive director of the White House Council on Women and Girls, John P. Holdren, policy director of the White House Office of Science and Technology, and National Science Foundation (NSF) Director Subra Suresh announced their new initiative to promote work place flexibility to women and men involved in research careers. Tina Tchen stated, “Jump-starting girls’ interest in science, technology, engineering and math – the so-called STEM subjects – and boosting the percentage of women employed in science and engineering is not just the right thing to do but is also the smart thing to do for America’s future and the economy.”
The “NSF Career-Life Balance Initiative” includes a provision that will enable parents to delay their grants for up to one year to fulfill family obligations, such as caring for a newborn or newly adopted child. First Lady Michelle Obama remarked in a press conference yesterday, “If we’re going to out-innovate and out-educate the rest of the world, we’ve got to open doors for everyone. We need all hands on deck, and that means clearing hurdles for women and girls as they navigate careers in science, technology, engineering and math.”
Currently, 41 percent of doctoral degrees in STEM field are earned by women, but women only hold 28 percent of tenure track jobs in those fields. This is the first foundation-wide NSF initiative aimed to enable postdoctoral fellows and faculty members who are at the beginning of their career to balance work and family obligations.