Centre for Social Sciences of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Hungary
The proportion of female researchers in R&D compared to men is still low, especially in the field of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). There is still a strong need to explore the reasons why STEM careers and training resist trends that point towards the equalization of genders. The academic ‘pipeline’ looses women mainly after they obtain their PhD. During the early tenure track employment family and childbearing related difficulties have the most significant negative impact on career advancement. In our research we aimed to explore the special life period of PhD attendance, when young academics shoulder heavy workloads and often balance more than two life domains. Our paper is based on 20 qualitative interviews with female PhD students in the field of engineering, conducted in Hungary. In our presentation we will show how doctorate students balance their PhD attendance, work and family life and what facilitating and constraining factors they can identify in relation to it; how training delays their childbearing, how conflicting social norms related to the timing of the first childbirth cause serious tensions in their everyday life, as well as what strategies young researchers seek to avoid or ease this conflict; the special characteristics of education in engineering and of the sector of employment that affect these. Results may give us a better understanding of why women in STEM fields have lower fertility rates than women in other fields and why education-work-family life balance is important even at the very early stages of their careers.