New support schemes for young scientists with family care duties

Female academics are a minority because at each branch point in the academic career a higher proportion of woman than man leaves science. Despite significant efforts made in the past that for example allowed to close the gender gap at the PhD level, recent years have seen little advances in this trend and the continuous loss of female scientists as they progress in their career persists. In the EU, the number of woman full professors is still disproportionally low at around 20% (see Figure).

There are multiple reasons underlying the academia’s leaking pipeline and they are multi-faceted. This is a complex problem and is likely a consequence of obvious (maternity leave for example) and more intangible differences between man and woman. Some of the factors that have hindered women’s career progression are also likely to affect men, for example if they chose to contribute equal amounts of time to the raising of children. The NCCR RNA & Disease Equal Opportunities work package develops activities aiming to promote diversity within our network by providing training and funding schemes to support equal opportunities.

In December 2015 we surveyed the NCCR RNA & Disease community to assess the awareness on equal opportunities issues and identify potential areas of action. The results of this survey (that can be accessed on the NCCR RNA & Disease webpage) were presented at the NCCR retreat in January 2016 and used as the starting point for the lively group discussion that followed. We would like to thank to everyone who participated in the survey and/or the discussions for engaging in this activities and for all the feedback and suggestions. Your contributions have been invaluable to develop the Equal Opportunities activities that we will pursue in the current phase of the NCCR RNA & Disease.

In the past months we focused on the development of two new schemes that will significantly improve our support to NCCR RNA & Disease parents and parents-to-be. Alongside the financial support for female and male researchers with family care duties (120% support grant), we are happy to announce two new schemes available as of July 2016:

Emergency childcare: The NCCR RNA & Disease will reimburse up to 10 hours/per year per parent for emergency childcare.

Pregnancy and maternity leave compensation: To reduce stalling of the project due to maternity leave, the NCCR RNA & Disease will cover the salary of a support person during the last 3 months of pregnancy to ensure appropriate training of a research assistant employed to continue the project of an expectant scientist during her maternity leave.

Both schemes are open to members of NCCR RNA & Disease laboratories and associated groups and are available until allocated funds run out. For detailed information on eligibility criteria and how to apply, please refer to the NCCR RNA & Disease webpage.

We hope this new schemes will support the careers of talented Swiss RNA scientists.

By Ana Marques and Larissa Grolimund