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Making Research Careers More Family-Friendly: White House and Nsf Announce New Policies

The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) announced the Career-Life Balance Initiative, which gives researchers more flexibility in the workplace and helps remove some of the hurdles to women's advancement and retention in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers.

Under the 10-year plan, researchers will be able to delay or suspend their NSF grants for up to one year to take care of young children or fulfill other family responsibilities. Although NSF already had workplace flexibility policies in place, this will be the first time a plan is applied across the foundation to help postdoctoral fellows and early-career faculty members more easily care for dependents while continuing their careers.

"Unfortunately too many young women drop out of promising careers in science and engineering and math because of conflicts between their desire to start families and the needs of trying to rapidly ramp up their careers," says White House Office of Science and Technology Policy director John Holdren.

Holdren notes that women in STEM fields currently earn 41% of Ph.D.s but make up just 28% of tenure-track faculty.

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