Join Fernanda Staniscuaski on a transformative journey as this Brazilian biologist addresses gender inequality for mothers in academia. With a Ph.D. in Cellular and Molecular Biology, Fernanda’s expertise is matched by her commitment to inclusivity. Explore her role as an Associate Professor at Brazil’s Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, and her pioneering “Parent in Science Movement” that aims to promote a reasonable work-life balance and provide support systems for parents in academia. Discover how she’s breaking down walls to empower women, especially mothers, in the scientific arena.

Which wall does your research break?

My research aims to break the wall of gender inequality and the limited opportunities faced by mothers in academia. The wall that my work seeks to dismantle is the systemic barrier that hinders the progression and success of women, particularly mothers, in scientific careers.

One of the key barriers that my research addresses is the perception that motherhood is incompatible with a thriving career in academia. Many talented and ambitious women are forced to make difficult choices between pursuing their academic passions and fulfilling their responsibilities as mothers. This deeply ingrained societal belief perpetuates gender inequality and limits the potential of these individuals to contribute to scientific advancements.

Moreover, my research aims to challenge the lack of support systems and institutional policies in place to assist mothers in navigating the academic landscape. I seek to shed light on the unique challenges faced by mothers, including limited access to flexible working arrangements, insufficient childcare facilities, and a lack of mentorship opportunities. By identifying and understanding these barriers, I aim to develop evidence-based strategies and advocate for policy changes that foster a more inclusive and supportive environment for mothers in academia.

The benefit for society is immense. By breaking down the wall of gender inequality and creating a more equitable academic environment, we unlock the full potential of talented individuals who might otherwise be sidelined or discouraged from pursuing scientific careers. This means tapping into a wealth of diverse perspectives, experiences, and talents that can drive groundbreaking research and innovation. Also, by providing the necessary support and resources for mothers in academia, we ensure that their valuable contributions are not lost due to outdated societal norms or limited opportunities. Empowering mothers in their academic pursuits not only benefits them personally but also has ripple effects on their families and communities. It sets a precedent for future generations, showing that motherhood and a successful scientific career are not mutually exclusive.

By dismantling these barriers and fostering a more inclusive and supportive environment, we can unlock the full potential of talented individuals and drive scientific advancements that benefit society as a whole. It is my mission to create lasting change and pave the way for a more equitable and inclusive future in the scientific community.

What inspired or motivated you to work on your current research or project?

Becoming a mom has made me acutely aware of the numerous barriers and challenges faced by women in science. It deepened my understanding of the societal expectations, biases, and structural limitations that hinder women’s professional growth and development. I personally experienced the struggle of balancing motherhood with my passion for research and academia. The expectations and societal norms placed on women to prioritize caregiving responsibilities often clash with the demanding nature of scientific careers. As I navigated through my own journey, I connected with other mothers in academia who shared similar experiences and frustrations. Their stories of sacrifices missed opportunities, and the immense pressure they faced further fueled my determination to address the systemic inequalities that hold back talented women in science. My experiences as a mom and the insights gained from connecting with other mothers have shaped my research agenda and fueled my commitment to promoting gender equity in science. I realized that to bring about meaningful change, I needed to focus my research and advocacy efforts on breaking down these barriers and fostering a more supportive and inclusive environment that benefits everyone. And that is what inspired me to initiate the Parent in Science movement, aiming to raise awareness, provide support, and advocate for policies that enable mothers to thrive in their scientific careers. Through this project, I have seen the transformative power of collective action and the strength that comes from a supportive community. And this has empowered me to continue to fight for a more equitable future where motherhood is not a hindrance but rather a celebrated aspect of a scientist’s journey.

In what ways does society benefit from your research?

My work with the Parent in Science Movement has the potential to bring significant benefits to society on multiple levels. Firstly, by addressing the barriers and inequalities faced by mothers in science, we can tap into a vast pool of untapped talent and expertise. By providing the necessary support and opportunities, we empower these women to contribute their unique perspectives and insights to scientific research and innovation. This, in turn, leads to a broader range of ideas and solutions that can drive advancements and discoveries with far-reaching impacts. Fostering a more inclusive and supportive environment for mothers in science promotes diversity in the scientific community. Diversity is a catalyst for innovation, as it brings together individuals with different backgrounds, experiences, and ways of thinking. By breaking down barriers and increasing the representation of mothers in academia, we foster a richer and more diverse scientific workforce, which can result in more comprehensive and holistic approaches to solving complex societal challenges.

Additionally, my work has practical applications in shaping policies and institutional practices. By conducting research and providing evidence-based recommendations, we can advocate for changes in the academic and research sectors that support work-life balance, flexible working arrangements, and access to resources for parents in science. These changes not only benefit mothers but also create a more inclusive and family-friendly environment for all individuals pursuing scientific careers. This can help retain talented scientists, reduce attrition rates, and ensure the longevity of their contributions to scientific progress.

Lastly, my work promotes gender equality and challenges societal norms that perpetuate gender biases not only in science, but in all our society. By raising awareness of the unique challenges faced by mothers and advocating for equal opportunities, we contribute to breaking down gender barriers in academia and beyond. This fosters a more equitable society where individuals are not limited by their gender or caregiving responsibilities, but rather are evaluated based on their skills, expertise, and contributions.

Looking ahead, what are your hopes or aspirations for the future based on your research or project?

My hopes and aspirations for the future are centered around fostering lasting change and creating a more equitable and inclusive scientific landscape.

I aspire to see a significant shift in societal perceptions and attitudes toward motherhood and professional careers. I hope that my research will continue to challenge the notion that motherhood is incompatible with a successful career (in academia or anywhere else). By raising awareness, advocating for policy changes, and providing support to mothers in science, I aim to inspire a cultural shift where motherhood is seen as a strength rather than a barrier, and where the contributions of mothers are valued and celebrated.

I envision a future where institutions and organizations proactively implement policies and practices that support work-life balance, flexible working arrangements, and childcare provisions. By advocating for these changes, I hope to create an environment where talented individuals, regardless of their parental status, can thrive and reach their full potential in all their pursuits.

I aspire to see an increased representation of women, particularly mothers, in leadership positions within academia and research. It is crucial to have diverse voices and perspectives at decision-making tables to shape policies, drive change, and create an inclusive environment for all scientists. Through my work, I aim to empower and mentor aspiring researchers, nurturing a new generation of leaders who will continue to promote gender equity and support mothers in science.

Lastly, I hope to inspire and empower other countries and institutions to replicate the Parent in Science model and implement similar initiatives that address the challenges faced by mothers in academia. By sharing best practices, collaborating with like-minded individuals and organizations, and advocating for global change, we can create a collective impact that extends beyond national boundaries.

I am confident that we can shape a future where motherhood and scientific excellence go hand in hand.

Further information

Recent publications:

Other links
Meet The Parent in Science Movement:

The history of the Parent in Science Movement:

Interview for Forbes:

Interview for Nature, about the Tomorrow Program:

Links to all media covering Fernanda’s and the PiS work can be found here (most are in portuguese):

Further Activities to have a look at