Work-life balance biggest concern for female early career researchers

A survey of early career female researchers by the Academy of Medical Sciences found over half would like support to better manage their work-life balance.

The new information comes from a survey of 103 applicants to the Academy of Medical Science’s pioneering SUSTAIN programme. The programme helps women researchers to thrive in independent research careers by offering an innovative programme of training and support to develop the participants’ leadership potential.

Researchers applying for the programme frequently referred to work-life balance as something they needed to address – with a particular focus on managing a research career and a family. One applicant commented:

“I am finding my schedule quite challenging with new found responsibilities in all three areas of my life – group leader, clinical consultant and new mother of two young children.”

In their responses, over half of applicants said that they would like to improve their management and leadership skills. Another applicant said:

“I have to start thinking about how to keep progressing. This means thinking about a lot of things which have less to do with science but more about management/politics/leadership, things for which I do not feel very well informed and educated.”

The survey shines a light on some of the most pressing issues facing early career researchers, which may prevent them progressing if not addressed. The survey will provide information to shape the 2017 SUSTAIN programme and will feed into other Academy career development activities.

After a successful pilot in 2015-16 the Academy has just selected the next group of SUSTAIN participants. These 20 women researchers from different research disciplines will receive training in leadership, grant writing, people and priority management, professional media training and will receive mentoring from a Fellow of the Academy. Perhaps most importantly they will also come in contact with other researchers facing the same struggles and concerns, giving them the chance to build professional connections and a support network potentially outlasting any of the training's immediate benefits. To further facilitate this peer mentoring, participants will be matched into co-coaching pairs to help them address any challenges they are facing in their career.

2016 SUSTAIN participant Soma Meran, said:

"Young women contemplating careers in academia often feel that they have to choose between success in their careers and a family life. I have chosen both of these paths and feel that with the necessary support structures in place many others can achieve this. However, at times it has been difficult to find the necessary advice, mentorship and empowerment needed. SUSTAIN offers a structured and tailored programme of training and mentorship which will enable me, and others like me, to further develop strategies to continue to progress in this field."

 For more information on SUSTAIN and to hear from previous participants, watch the programme's introductory video.

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