Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Balancing family life with a science career

Women are underrepresented in the science and engineering fields. Difficulties in balancing family life and work have a big role in women's opting out of scientific career paths. Institutions and funding agencies need to work harder to reverse this disparity.

Your institute does not have access to this article

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Priority plot.
Figure 2: Demographics of general population versus scientists and engineers.


  1. Yale University. Yale University Faculty Handbook (Yale University, 2014).

  2. Schiebinger, L. & Gilmartin, S.K. Academe 96, 39–44 (2010).

    Google Scholar 

  3. National Science Foundation. Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering. (2013).

  4. Martinez, E.D. et al. EMBO Rep. 8, 977–981 (2007).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Shalley, C.E. & Gilson, L.L. Leadersh. Q. 15, 33–53 (2004).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Moss-Racusin, C.A., Dovidio, J.F., Brescoll, V.L., Graham, M.J. & Handelsman, J. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 109, 16474–16479 (2012).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Reuben, E., Sapienza, P. & Zingales, L. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 111, 4403–4408 (2014).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. US National Institutes of Health Office of Extramural Research. Frequently Asked Questions Policies Related to Parental Leave and Child Care. (2011).

Download references


I thank my colleagues and friends (M. Furniss Weisberg, A. Pyle, S. Kaech, O. Colegio, V. Greco, V. Horsley, M. King, K. Politi, S. Eisenbarth, K. Toomre, M. Tokuyama and E. Foxman) for contributing thoughts and experience that helped me formulate the ideas presented here; M.F. Weisberg for editorial advice; my husband and our daughters for supporting my career as a scientist; and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Yale University School of Medicine, in particular R. Alpern, C. Slayman and R. Flavell, for providing a supportive environment.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Akiko Iwasaki.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The author declares no competing financial interests.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Iwasaki, A. Balancing family life with a science career. Nat Immunol 16, 787–790 (2015).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

Further reading


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing