It's time to give serious consideration to the notion of job-sharing in science.
Are current efforts to encourage the recruitment of women into science misdirected? Writing in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Stephen Ceci and Wendy Williams suggest that they are (http://go.nature.com/M1ct6f). They argue that too much focus on the reviewing, interviewing and hiring stages of a science career shackles the cause of women in science to the problems of the past. Better, they say, to address today's causes of under-representation by recognizing the “differences in resources attributable to choices” and instituting education and policy changes accordingly.
Meanwhile, in an article for Science Careers in the journal Science, former tenure-track researcher Kathy Weston gives an honest appraisal of what she calls “the sad demise” of her career (http://go.nature.com/ytVszn). Her exhortation to women in science is to play the game that they are often so reluctant to engage in: do the networking, and above all find a mentor. “Every scientist”, says Weston, “needs someone in a position of power who has faith in his or her abilities.”
Weston also echoes Ceci and Williams' notion of 'resources attributable to choices' in her solid suggestion for the retaining of talented women scientists who have children: job-sharing. Weston recognizes that “science has to proceed quickly and efficiently, and that means not much allowance can be made for anyone who wants to work in the slow lane.” Job-sharing with another mother–researcher could have meant that “as a team we would have retained our competitive edge and hence our enthusiasm.” It's an idea that deserves serious consideration.