Mind the Gap: Women in STEM Career Breaks

Catherine Mavriplis, Rachelle S. Heller, Cheryl Beil, Kim Dam, Natalya Yassinskaya, Megan Shaw, Charlene Sorensen


There are two issues related to women and pathways to STEM careers. Recruitment to the field is one aspect. The second issue is the retention of women in STEM fields. This paper reports on the structured interviews with 14 women who have taken career breaks sometime after receiving their PhD in order to understand the pressures in place to take such breaks, how women remain connected (or not) to their field during the break and issues related to re-entering the field after a career break. Suggestions based on the interviews include enhancements for women’s preparation for STEM fields and changes to the STEM culture itself. We suggest the inclusion workshops to detail what they might expect in their career and a provision for networking opportunities. We urge changes in the fee structure for society membership, differences in how resumes are reviewed as well as changes in maternity and child care leave.


career breaks; STEM research and education; career pathways; career gender differences; work-life balance; careers in higher education

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.4067/S0718-27242010000100011

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