It’s right to take a break

March 6, 2014

Rebecca Braun’s article about maternity leave for academics (“She knows, she tried”, Features, 23 January) gave a rather negative view of the experience and detracted from some of the progress that has been made. It also provided a negative role model for women when positive ones are much needed.

We appreciate that there are challenges in combining academic and family life. But the rights for maternity leave have been fought for, and we felt that this article could contribute to eroding them. If women do not take the rights that they are owed, they set a precedent that others will have to challenge once again.

We both work for the University of Leeds, as a postdoc and a lecturer, respectively. We have both recently returned from a period of maternity leave, during which we worked nowhere near as intensively as Braun did. We were able to prioritise work that genuinely could not be done by someone else and to leave the rest to our temporary replacements. Although it is tempting to stay in control, and not trust others to hold the reins, we need to set an example that works for us and for future generations of women.

We are concerned that people feel pressured not to take rights to which they are entitled because they are unaware of them or because they hear of extreme examples such as those in the article.

Kirsty Pringle and Lucie Middlemiss
School of Earth and Environment
University of Leeds

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