With Nuggi and dissertation in the briefcase...

What kind of career opportunities does one have as a parent at UZH? What is the University of Zurich doing to enable a better work-life balance of parenthood and academia? And where is there room for improvement?

These and further questions were addressed at the Postdoc Meetup! on 26 October 2015, organized by the Graduate Campus in cooperation with the Office of Gender Equality.  

As a representative of the Gender Equality Commission, Prof. Dr. Franco Guscetti presented his personal perspectives in a short talk and brought up the question of whether family or work defines life. On behalf of the President of the University of Zurich, the Gender Equality Commission is developing an answer for UZH, which, according to Guscetti, demonstrates the level of importance given to the topic by the University. He made it clear that the University is a highly competitive work environment, in which, however, diversity is the source of creativity, team work as well as self-responsibility.

Subsidized child care offered by UZH in collaboration with kihz was presented by Monika Haetinger, General Manager of kihz, as a good practice, and received positive feedback from the audience.

Tanja Neve-Seyfarth from the Office for Gender Equality further introduced what UZH has to offer in this area, such as informing parents and supervisors about their rights at UZH. The discussion with the audience made it clear that there is a general need for more communication and exchange of experiences from different career stages, such as having the possibility to discuss issues and questions on the topic of parenthood and academia with other PhD candidates, postdocs and young professors.

Guscetti advocated for a greater openness to career tracks with part-time work. A willingness to comprise is thereby necessary on both the part of the researcher and supervisor: If a professorship is awarded based solely on quantitative metrics such as impact factor, then someone who is a dedicated junior researcher and a mother or father has a significantly smaller chance. According to the audience, soft skills such as organizational skills, reliability or efficiency as an advantage of parenthood should be taken into account. Many wish for a greater visibility of role models whom could confirm this. Other questions and issues related to the fear of announcing a pregnancy were also discussed.

Approaches of other institutions were also presented. ETHZ has distinguished itself with the Golden Tricycle Award, an award given to team leaders who enable their team members to reconcile work and family life, whereby individual and flexible solutions are especially important. The University of Bern has also made a good example by offering combined work and play space as a way of taking care of time gaps in child care.       

Which solutions and formats would be fruitful?
The first point made was that there should be more equality in the provision of maternal and paternal leave. Furthermore an important issue of those present was the problem of child care during holidays. The audience addressed a desire for workshops on the compatibility of family and academia on the supervisor level. Solutions for supported mobility of junior researchers as well as more extensive funding of child care at UZH was also desired by the audience. The general sentiment of the audience made it clear that further opportunities to discuss this topic should be made use of. It was generally agreed that there should be meetings on a more regular basis as which solutions can be found together. 

There are many demands and many approaches. The fact is that the University of Zurich has recognized the problems of balancing a briefcase and pacifier.