Achieving a work-life balance in the scientific field

An upcoming debate at Leicester will see esteemed academics lead a discussion on the importance of a work-life balance, designed to illuminate the challenges faced by those who work in the scientific field, and explore how we can make it easier for everyone to improve this balance.

‘Working Lives Debate: ‘This house believes that you can have a work-life balance and a successful career in science’ is an event taking place on Friday 19 January, organised by the University’s Department of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation.

Aimed exclusively at staff and students from the University the debate, led by Professors Melanie Davies and Andrea Cooper, will consider the difficulties that women and men can face when working in academia, which can include unpredictable working hours for research involving experimentation, obtaining funding and publishing work to deadlines. The issues facing women are particularly pertinent with national and global evidence still showing gender inequality in pay, career progression and less women in senior posts.

Other pressures such as balancing work life with family or caring responsibilities can also come into play when trying to establish an effective balance.

During the debate, discussion will broach further initiatives that could be undertaken in the future, including normalisation of flexible working hours and shared parental leave, with the aim of embedding a culture of listening into the workplace and understanding the variety of priorities that people can have.

In the Department of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation, a number of measures are already in place to tackle these issues, including a Departmental Working Lives Committee, a culture of flexible of working and a high completion rate of annual Personal Development Discussions, ensuring that staff have an opportunity to raise issues around their own work-life balance and personal development. The Department also holds a Silver Athena SWAN Award, which recognises significant and sustained progression and achievement in promoting gender equality.

Head of the Department Professor Andrew Wardlaw said: “Balancing work and home pressures is one of the most challenging aspects of working in the university, and I am excited to hear Andrea and Melanie describe how this can be successfully achieved."