DEWIS is the women’s network of scientists at the TU Delft and our mission is to help TU Delft to attract more women and create an inclusive, safe environment that makes women want to stay, while giving them the opportunity to grow and flourish in their academic careers. Another important goal for DEWIS is to reach a male-female ratio that more accurately reflects society.
08 juni 2023
Parents and caregivers Networking Lunch sessionsFamily caregiving is part of the fabric of life. Many scientists (m/f) have children or are starting a family at the same time as maintaining and building a career. Juggling teaching, publishing, finding a new (or permanent) job, relocating, attending conferences, and actually doing research sometimes requires more hours in the day than exist. So, how do colleagues combine this with parenting? What challenges do parents face in the different job levels? Where do they find support? And what can the organisation do to create a more inclusive working environment where parents can grow and flourish in their careers? DEWIS is talking with scientists (m/f) with caregiving responsibilities, and we aim to start a dialogue to support the working lives of colleagues who also have off-campus parenting and/or caring responsibilities. On 22 May, we organized our first Parenting Networking Lunch session. We discussed the challenges (future and current) parents experience when pursuing an academic career, shared positive experiences and formulated suggestions for different internal stakeholders. The most important suggestion was to create a support structure, including guidelines for supervisors and event organizers. Because of the overwhelming interest for the session, we have decided to organize more sessions and continue to do so. This also contributes to the need for a networking community for academic parents. The second session will on 23 June. However, this session is already fully booked. The third session will be organized after the summer, so your eye open for the invitation. Valuable links from the HR-presentation can be found on the intranet.
02 juni 2023
Parents and caregivers: an interview with two PhD candidatesFamily caregiving is part of the fabric of life. Many scientists (m/f) have children or are starting a family at the same time as maintaining and building a career. Juggling teaching, publishing, finding a new (or permanent) job, relocating, attending conferences, and actually doing research sometimes requires more hours in the day than exist. So, how do colleagues combine this with parenting? What challenges do parents face in the different job levels? Where do they find support? And what can the organisation do to create a more inclusive working environment where parents can grow and flourish in their careers? DEWIS is talking with scientists (m/f) with caregiving responsibilities, and we aim to start a dialogue around how we can make changes within the TU Delft to support those scientists who are also parents. Antragama Abbas is a PhD researcher at the faculty of TPM and has a new-born son of four months old. Raquel Hädrich Silva is from Brazil and is a PhD researcher at the faculty of Arch+BE and has a 2-year-old boy. Raquel Hädrich Silva Antragama Abbas Can you describe your situation? Antra : “Our son was too young for day-care when circumstances required my wife to return to work earlier than we expected. So, we took turns caring for our baby, just the two of us, without any family support. It was tough, with me trying to complete my dissertation and preparing my career’s next steps. However, the support and confidence given by my understanding supervisors helped immensely. Now, I can say that those challenges make me stronger. I am grateful for the journey, and things have started to improve. We are doing well!” Raquel : “Yes, the first months are challenging. It does make an enormous difference that my son is going to day-care now. I am happy to say that my partner and I divide the caregiving responsibilities in a very flexible way. We are both actively engaged. If I need to work longer, my partner picks him up and gives him diner. I feel more rooted here in Holland since my son is born. I feel less homesick, and I have more work-life balance. My life is not only about doing my PhD. When I come home, I play with him. This gives me energy which in turn has positive influence on my work.” Did you have any doubts to start a family during this phase of your career? Antra : “In life, perfect timing for major events like starting a family is elusive. If we overthink it, we might end up missing the beautiful experiences that parenthood brings. So, despite the critical phase of my career, I embraced the journey without having any regrets.’ Raquel : “I wanted to become a mother, and this was the right moment: during my PhD. I saw the women around me in academia and it was not getting any easier for them to have a baby later in their career journey. As a PhD, I have less responsibilities. Once the baby was born, I could come back and start where I left off with my research.” What challenges do you face in this phase of you PhD? Antra : “My biggest challenge was the absence of a fixed work structure. The initial months were particularly challenging - I was tired, could not focus, and felt a decline in my productivity, which led to a lot of stress and uncertainty about my work. Again, if it were not for my understanding and supportive supervisors, I cannot even begin to imagine how difficult it would have been.” Raquel : “It is shocking to me that people expect you to come back after three months of maternity leave or a few weeks of parental leave and work full for 100%. I can relate to what Antra shared. Starting work after maternity leave felt overwhelming. It was an uncertain period where both my body and mind were adjusting to the new situation. My supervisor supported me greatly: I could negotiate how I would work during the first year. It was nice to have that respect from her.” Where did you go for support? Antra : “My supervisors were a pillar of support during this period, helping me not just by understanding my situation but also by assisting in re-adjusting my work rhythms and deadlines. In parallel, the secretarial team was helpful, providing essential information such as details on available leave options. The support from my fellow Indonesian community in Delft also played an essential role in my journey. This combined support significantly eased my journey during this challenging period.” Raquel : “It really helps to talk to people. Because you might think: ‘I am not capable; I cannot do this; Academia is not for me.’ But as soon as you talk to other people you will find this is about the phase you are in. Having the right support during this phase can make an immense difference in regaining your rhythm. I learnt to work more efficiently, for example.” What can a supervisor do to support (future and current) parents? Mark: “My first goal is to help the parent to enjoy this new phase in life. What’s needed for that depends on the situation, so it’s important to discuss that openly. Offer your support, be kind and flexible. Often, PhD students worry about their planning. Here, I try to help by being realistic and pragmatic. It’s no use to stick to an unfeasible planning and add more pressure. But it’s also not good to postpone tasks in ways that create problems later. All about balancing here!” What advice would you give to (future and current) parents? Mark: “You will be overwhelmed. Give it time and embrace the changes. You will find a new balance. Prioritize your family. Find the time to be with your newborn and support your partner. Most academics love their job and are thinking about it all the time. So, with this, I also mean that you should find the mental space to really be with them. This is a period that doesn’t come back. Anything you invest now in creating a basis for your family, will pay off massively in the future. And finally: discuss it with your supervisor. Be open and ask for the support you need. It’s special becoming a parent, but also common. So in case of doubt, do speak up and ask support.” Mark de Reuver, Associate Professor at TPM and Antra’s supervisor What can the organisation do more to support parents? Antra : “From my experience, a more proactive approach from the organization towards new parents could be beneficial. After a child arrives, it can be overwhelming, and it is often challenging to actively seek out necessary information. I believe it would be immensely helpful to have a structured support system in place, something like a formalized one-hour meeting or even a home visit, similar to what the midwife or consultatiebureau does. During this meeting, new parents could be guided on what to anticipate in their professional lives during this transformative period.” Raquel : ‘I totally agree. I feel this university is not prepared for mothers who want an academic career. And this is not only my experience. Many others share my feeling. For example, we should not normalize the separation of babies from their mothers. University has pumping rooms, mostly underground or in the back of the faculty somewhere. However, we do not have open welcoming spaces where mothers can breastfeed or where small children can come to work if necessary. Work and family are very separated in university culture and in the Netherlands in general. My mum, who is from Brazil, breastfed her baby at work. It was a celebration!’
03 april 2023
Parents and caregivers: a conversation with three colleaguesDEWIS talked with three young parents about combining parenting with pursuing an academic career. What can we do to create a more inclusive working environment where parents can grow and flourish in their careers? An academic career and a family: can you have both? Samuel Kernan Freire is a PhD-student at the faculty of Industrial Design Engineering. He has a two-year-old daughter and is expecting his second child in August. Samuel: “I wasn’t quite sure if the two were compatible. The positive reaction of my supervisor reassured me. Of course, I need to manage my time well but the most important thing is to have a supportive supervisor.” When I got pregnant during my PhD studies, I was privileged with a supportive promotor. His attitude was very clear: becoming a parent is a fact of life. He supported me in my wish that my children could attend my PhD defence. The youngest was two. I remember my son walking towards me and a family member picked him under his raised arms. All the committee members loved it! Prof. Zofia Lukszo, DEWIS Chair Ema Gusheva moved from North Macedonia to the Netherlands with her husband to do a PhD at the faculty of Technology, Policy and Management and has a one-year-old daughter. Ema : “Having a baby during PhD studies is totally acceptable at my department. I have to say that combining parenting with my academic career is easier than I thought. I work fewer hours but I am very productive. I spend less time on social interactions; less time on my laptop, reading and doubting myself; less time on introspection and I do not have writer’s block. I sit behind my computer typing away and sending drafts full of typos [smile]. I don’t have time to be very self-critical.” Michal Shemesh is from Israel and started working as an Operational Manager after her postdoctoral research at the faculty of Applied Sciences. Her children are eight and twelve years old. Michal : “I never had conscious deliberations about whether to start a family. This decision is very personal to me. Having children is encouraged in Israeli society, so this might be a cultural difference. Children are part of life and you organise your life around the family. During my PhD, when my babies were small, they accompanied me whenever necessary, i.e. when studying or doing labwork. I would take them to the research institute in cases of emergency or after day-care was closed and it was never considered strange.” How do you balance work and private life? Samuel: “People are mostly speaking from a perspective without caregiving responsibilities. I think there could be more awareness around this, so we can be more mindful and inclusive. My supervisor and colleagues have been very accommodating but, in general, there is room for improvement. For example, be more mindful when planning social events. Ema: “My supervisor told me about conferences with day-care facilities but they don’t seem to be in my field. Where are they!? It would be great to have that option. Last time, my mother came with me to take care of my daughter. I can be more proactive in searching for networking opportunities and suggesting collaborations. I already have some ideas for shifting meetings and social gatherings so they better fit my schedule. In addition, I’m inspired to bring my daughter to work if necessary.” Michal: “Social interactions can be important for scientific careers. New collaborations might start or an interesting foreign visitor might attend. Inclusion gives you the freedom to be an excellent scientist. Inclusion means having a mind-set in the working environment where parenting is accepted as an important part of life. Accept mothers bringing their babies to conferences. Plan social events when parents are available.” "Universities are amazing places full of role-models and inspiration for children. It would be great if we had more welcoming spaces, where children could drop by and feel comfortable and not be intimidated by the huge amount of locked doors and unwelcoming messages. Showing our workplaces to our children is an educational experience for them and gives them examples of future possibilities. Flexible work balance is important, but so is the opportunity to bring your children to work because they are part of your life.”
16 maart 2023
Lookback International Women’s Day 2023: #EmbraceEquityOn International Women’s Day 2023 we have had a very delightful event with music, an ‘omdenken show’ and a panel dialogue. We hope all participants had a very inspiring and entertaining afternoon. Rob Mudde, Vice-President of the TU Delft, made clear in his speech that trust, dialogue and social safety are key to equity. “Although progress has been made we do need to feel a sense of urgency”, said Pravesha Ramsundersingh, member of the Faculty Student Counsil of the faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics & Computer Science. “Small steps are not enough.” Rob: “I think in general, we should strive to become a more welcoming, less judgemental, more trusting organisation. Such a culture will foster a working environment where people feel valued, safe, and empowered.” We have passed the stage of ‘fixing the women’ and we know that next to personal development we need structural and cultural changes. However personal development stays important and not only for women but also for men, like adopting aspects of feminine leadership, as Caspar Chorus, Dean of the faculty of Industrial Design, suggested. Merel Vercammen and Dina Ivanova played exquisite music composed by great women, like Lili Boulanger. More information about Merel and Dina can be found here. The ‘omdenken’ show was an ultimate mix of theatre, cabaret and performance where we practiced looking at reality differently. For International Women's Day and beyond, let's all fully #EmbraceEquity .. We hope to see you and many more colleagues and students next year! DELFT - Women in Science Womensday DEWIS TU Delft. - FOTO GUUS SCHOONEWILLE DELFT - Women in Science Womensday DEWIS TU Delft. - FOTO GUUS SCHOONEWILLE
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