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By Megan Cooley

Megan CooleyYou may have caught the online backlash about women being a distraction in the laboratory earlier this year and the outpouring of hashtags that followed. The recent disinvitation of a conference speaker calls attention to another issue women face in the workplace: pregnancy.

Typically when women talk about starting families, the conversation inevitably includes some version of the comment “There is never a good time to start a family.” This is true, not just for women in the sciences but extending across all professional sectors. That said, it doesn’t always feel so cut and dry.

A number of peers and I have had these discussions during and after graduate school. There are a few things that seems to be of high importance to a number of us starting our professional careers. We all want to have successful careers whether in academia or industry, and so there is this feeling of needing to establish yourself in your career prior to starting a family. To us, this builds in a sense of security, something that is of great value emotionally when you consider that we will be absent from our positions for on average six weeks after birth.

The recent disinvitation of the speaker does not contribute to building a sense of job security; instead, it shows the vulnerability that women face professionally. Case in point, Marissa Mayer. Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo who had the family and career, is now facing more scrutiny with investors questioning whether she is really capable of breathing life back into the multi-faceted company.

Unfortunately, that lack of security is perhaps more real than we would like to admit. Women have to deal with salary adjustments and job reassignments, and yes, those are still very real issues that women are facing. With that said, I also see that a number of organizations are working to make it easier for women to transition back to work after a pregnancy by implementing more time for maternity leave, even introducing paternal leave for fathers and providing women with feeding rooms around the office.

Ideally, the incident in the article is an isolated one and, giving the benefit of the doubt, a faux pas on the part of that organization. At a minimum, this continues to raise awareness on the issues that women struggle with professionally.

Check back for our monthly posts on women in the pharmaceutical sciences!

Meanwhile, what do you think about balancing a professional career and personal or family pursuits?

Megan Cooley is not authorized to speak on behalf of MRIGlobal, and the opinions expressed are my personal opinions and not those of MRIGlobal.

Megan Cooley, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Kansas Medical Center. Her research is focused on understanding the effects of the tumor microenvironment on acquired chemoresistance and metastasis.