A National Science Foundation initiative to help retain more women in science careers received the backing of the White House on Monday.
The Career-Life Balance Initiative is a ten-year plan designed to give scientists more flexibility with having a family and still maintaining their careers.
One part of the plan will allow scientists to delay research grant awards for up to a year when they go on parental leave for a newborn or adopted child.
First Lady Michelle Obama praised the initiative, saying "If we’re going to out-innovate and out-educate the rest of the world, then we have to open doors to everyone. We need all hands on deck. And that means clearing hurdles for women and girls as they navigate careers in science, technology, engineering and math.”
The announcement is good news for local scientists like Nadine Gergel-Hackett, an assistant professor of physics at Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, who just had a baby three months ago.
"I think it can help to encourage women to be in fields that can be very time demanding," Gergel-Hackett explained.
It's also good news for students at Mary Baldwin like Kenay Jones, a biology major.
"I think it's great. I think women should be motivated to be in the sciences and if they had that support they'd be more likely to do it," Jones said.
Gergel-Hackett says the initiative may also end up being a domino effect towards getting more women into science careers if it is successful.
"If it does encourage more women to stay in the field then there will be more role models for the young women and then perhaps there will less of the subconscious associations of men with scientists because people will see more women as scientists," Gergel-Hackett explained.
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