Celebrating our working mothers and role models on Mother’s Day

Mothers are redefining the relationship between motherhood and their career. We chat to some of our new mothers in the School of Biomedical Sciences about their challenges – and greatest joys.

Pursuing a career in STEMM and raising children is both challenging and immensely rewarding. Finding the balance between making a meaningful contribution at work and enjoying time with family is key, as is a family friendly working environment.

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Dr Marie Greyer (Senior Research Officer/Bedoui Lab Manager & Coordinator, Bonn & Melbourne Research and Graduate School, Dept of Microbiology & Immunology) says the thought of returning to work after maternity leave was daunting but she was grateful for the flexible work arrangements and the supportive environment.

“I think attitudes towards women and motherhood in the workforce are changing, and it is incredibly important. I have a very supportive supervisor and this helps me to juggle the typical challenges that life throws, often unannounced (like a sick child). This support I have received as a new mum has made a huge difference as I navigate my way through parenthood,” Marie says.

"Being a mum is the most rewarding experience – from seeing your child grow to watching them experience the world and learn new things every day. It is a privilege I cherish every day."

Image [right]: Dr Marie Greyer with son Jamie

It is well known that our jobs can impact our personal lives but a recent study shows that a parents experience at work can also impact their children – and that what we learn from our parents can influence our approach to work-life balance throughout our lives.

Dr Natasha Zamudio, Lab Manager in Prof Laura Mackay's research group, Dept of Microbiology & Immunology, says her parents had a very strong influence in her career decision.

“They were both very hard working however always made time for family on the weekends - this is how I aspire to be when bringing up my son," she says.

Natasha, who returned to work after taking six months of maternity leave says the most challenging aspect to motherhood has been getting used to the change in lifestyle.

"No longer having spare time to myself is hard but the reward is seeing my baby grow up and reach different milestones."

Image [above right]: Dr Natasha Zamudio and son Phoenix 

Working mothers as role models

Other studies also suggest that independent, working mothers generate similar qualities in their daughters.

"Girls whose mothers work have higher self-esteem and career aspirations than girls whose mothers don't work."
New York Times

Another research study looking at role models in the workplace found that female students are more likely to choose a major in STEM when they are assigned a female professor instead of a male one.

Dr Elena Schneider-Futschik, research group leader in the Department Biochemistry and Pharmacology agrees.

“I want my two daughters to see they can have it all - family and a career,” she says.

Elena who returned to work on a part time basis this year says she feels very supported by her team, colleagues and Head of Department.

"Conferences have also become more motherhood friendly, allowing people to bring their babies and support person, and some even offering child caring options or travel grants for support people.

“My husband and I share the workload as we both have meaningful careers. He recently took 4 days off work to travel to the Thoracic Society Conference with me and our kids, which allowed me to speak in the ‘Game Changing’ research session and accept an award."

(Elena is hoping  to get a sleep in past 7.30am on Mother's Day).

Image [above right]: Dr Elena Schneider-Futschik with husband and two daughters Emilia and Louisa.

Gender equity grant support

Dr Laura Edgington-Mitchell, Head of Laboratory in the Bio21 Institute, Dept Biochemistry and Pharmacology, was the inaugural recipient of the Fabienne Mackay Award - an award introduced to help high performing, independent researchers to maintain research momentum following the birth or adoption of a child.

“My work-life balance was previously skewed toward work and the thought of having children was worrying because I knew that it would impact my research and career trajectory."

Image:  Dr Laura Edgington-Mitchell with her family

Being able to discuss these fears with other colleagues has given me the confidence that it is possible to do both successfully - it has been inspiring to see that you can navigate having a family while running a ground-breaking research program and maintaining upward career trajectory.

Prof Emeritus Mary-Jane Gething AO, is a passionate advocate for young female researchers working in the biomedical sciences. She established the MJ Gething Gender Equality Award in 2019 to help early career researchers continue career momentum while having significant caring responsibilities.

In the 1970s she joined a child care action group after noticing that of the small number of senior women academics she’d come across, were either unmarried or childless.

I hoped then, that in future female researchers would be able to pursue a career in science that was compatible with raising a family.

Mother's Day is the opportunity to celebrate the special women in our lives, the contribution of mothers and the role of mothers in our community. Happy Mother's Day to all our mothers and role models - and THANK YOU!

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