Monash to help mums in science

March 14, 2003

Pregnant scientists at Monash University in Melbourne will be encouraged to return to their research after taking maternity leave with the help of a A$15,000 (£5,738) grant.

Monash dubbed the scheme, the first of its kind in Australian higher education, a "populate and publish" initiative.

It was devised by the science faculty. Science dean Rob Norris said: "We hope this will assist women to get back on the research track by giving them the funds to hire an assistant to work on projects while they are away or to buy a piece of equipment."

He estimated that 15 per cent of the 120 or so academic staff in his faculty on Monash's main campus were women - of these two were full professors. Yet across Australia, up to 60 per cent of science graduates are female.

"The real issue is that we lose the women who take maternity leave; they just disappear or they take on solely teaching roles instead of being all-round academics," Professor Norris said.

Across all university faculties in Australia, 83 per cent of professors and associate professors are male, as are 70 per cent of senior lecturers. Only at the tutor level do females outnumber males.

The Monash scheme was raised at an equity and access committee meeting and put to Professor Norris by the convener, Margaret Clayton.

She said: "The faculty recognised that the experimental work of science disciplines placed a particularly high demand on staff members' time. This grant will make it easier for them to take maternity leave without any adverse impact on their careers."

Education department statistics show that Monash, overall, has slightly more females than males employed in research-only positions among the full and fractional full-time staff. Of the academics engaged in teaching and research, however, there are twice as many males as females.

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