I was alerted to an article published in The New York Times on "Keeping Women in Science on a Tenure Track" by dr becca and drdrA. Don't worry, it was written by a man so you can take it seriously and all. Heh. Actually, this is just a distillation of an interesting report entitled “Keeping Women in the Science Pipeline,”. From the NYT bit:
women Ph.D.’s with young children are 27 percent less likely than men with children to receive tenure after entering a tenure-track job in the sciences. The report notes that single women without young children are roughly as successful as married men with children in attaining tenure-track jobs.
According to the report, plans to have children affect women postdoctoral scholars more than their male counterparts. Women who had children after becoming postdoctoral scholars in the University of California system were twice as likely as their male counterparts to shift their career goals away from being professors with a research emphasis — a 41 percent shift for women versus 20 percent for men.
Go read, there's more.
Anyway, I have a new favorite plan to help with this little problem, thanks to Cath of VWXYNot who commented:
The CIHR (Canadian equivalent of the NIH) and some of our other funding agencies have CV formats that include a dedicated “Interruptions and Delays” section.
This is brilliant! The NIH needs to adopt this right away as a required line on their Biosketch. Don't worry, they have several other line items that are supposed to be included even if the response is Not Applicable. The point is to make it default and a part of every application so that the applications of those who feel it necessary to use it will not stick out as unusual.
There are a number of upsides. First, it will be a subtle and insidious statement that it is expected that NIH applicants will have had delays in their career progress or scientific projects due to certain personal and family-related factors. The CIHR does specify a number of obvious scenarios beyond just childbearing, see Cath's comment. Expected and therefore accepted. From the point of view of the funding agency. And, as we've noted on occasion, the NIH reviewer is supposed to be working for the NIH to help with their priorities. Not the reviewer's personal and idiosyncratic viewpoints, but to help with the job that is expected of them by the NIH. They don't always do this, of course, but having expectations laid out relatively explicitly can't but help.
The second upside is a bit more specific. My usual advice for these types of delays is that it is dangerous to bring it up in your application before anyone has criticized you for it. Since in the old days you got two rounds of revision and at least one round of revision was pretty much necessary, no biggie. You submit your app, take your criticisms for apparent delays (if any, they are not inevitable) and come back with your response in the revised application. As always, the point is to explain, not to excuse. The advocating reviewer can then use your supplied reason to beat back criticism from anyone else. Yes I have seen this work very favorably on more than one occasion. Something along the lines of "My productivity was reduced in the past five years because I bore two children in that interval" or similar as a response to a criticism about productivity. Trouble is, now that we're down to a single revision and ICs are steepening the paylines for even the A1 revision, this isn't a great strategy anymore. I think you have to face it head on in the original application if you judge your "Delay" to be so obvious as to entail a good chance of drawing reviewer fire.
Wouldn't it be nice if there was a nice custom made section (which didn't take away from your precious 12 pages) for this?
I think so.
And I would think that on a NIH-wide basis it would result in a few more meritorious grants being funded despite the apparent "Delay" introduced by a woman PI bearing children, a PI of either sex undergoing a health crisis or caring for a sick family member...or even a lab experiencing a natural disaster.
Erratum: the original version mistakenly referenced the Chronicle of Higher Ed as the source rather than the NYT.