Following the joint announcement of an initiative aimed at family-friendly policies and practices for men and women in research careers, the White House and the US National Science Foundation held a webcast in which the agency's Director Subra Suresh spoke about NSF's commitment to supporting work-life balance for the researchers it supports, and First Lady Michelle Obama highlighted the importance of retaining women in the STEM workforce. NSF's Suresh said that female scientists "should not have to choose between their baby and [the] lab bench," and added that "effective immediately, NSF will incorporate family-friendly policies and practices," such as those outlined in this week's White House statement. "Our country shouldn't lose out on its most promising talent because the career path is untenable," Obama said.
In the discussion that followed, panelist Catherine "Katie" Hunt, director of innovation sourcing and sustainable technologies at Dow Chemical Company, said that "women, with their unique experiences and perspectives, bring added value to the table," adding that "diverse teams outperform homogeneous teams" across all disciplines. Hunt noted that legislative changes form the necessary "framework" for supporting women in science, but that the research community as a whole can, and ought to, "construct paradigms for work-life effectiveness."
In a post at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy's blog, Director John Holdren doles out "kudos to NSF and others in the Administration, including staff here at OSTP, for using the convening power of the White House and the Obama Administration to encourage businesses and academic and professional organizations to adopt policies similar to those that NSF is putting into place."