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Childcare Forces Women to Skip Science Conferences

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Childcare is one of the main reasons why many women skip attending scientific conferences that are vital for their career advancement, a new study has found.

A survey of 248 early-career oncologists conducted by the University of Michigan researcher Reshma Jagsi found nearly half of the women respondents dropping out of conferences to take care of their children. Overall, nearly 75 percent of those surveyed included men and women had young children.

Most of the oncologists surveyed practiced at National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers. Published in JAMA Oncology, the study found women oncologist are spending more than 10 hours than men each week on parenting and domestic tasks.

“Our society continues to embrace a gendered division of domestic labor, whereby women bear the greater burden of responsibilities at home, even when they’re highly committed to their careers,” Jagsi, the lead author of the study says.

“Facilitating work-life integration is essential, and this study provides concrete data to support this need.”

Most of the women said they would consider attending conferences if they have onsite childcare options. The study cited the onsite childcare offered during the annual American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in June.

“Women want to attend these meetings. They offer critical opportunities for leadership, networking, education, mentorship, scholarly dissemination and so much more,” Jagsi said. “For our profession to access the full talent pool and reap the demonstrated benefits of diversity, we need to figure out ways to promote work-life integration.”

Another study conducted by Northwestern University and the Chicago Botanic Garden revealed that mistreatment at biology conferences which commonly involves a mixture of power dynamics, social events and alcohol consumption, often leads women and people of color to stop attending conferences or to leave academia completely.

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