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Family-Friendly Resources for Postdocs
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This page offers information and resources for postdocs on managing their family lives while furthering their research careers. Some of these resources were developed as part of NPA ADVANCE, a National Science Foundation-funded project to foster the advancement of postdoc women into faculty careers.

Below are resources relating to:

If you have other resources to suggest, please let us know.


Pregnancy and Maternity/Paternity Leave


Featured Resources:

A Postdoc's Guide to Pregnancy and Maternity Leave

A general guide to pregnancy and maternity leave for women who are pregnant or are planning for pregnancy during their postdoc. Includes: "Your Basic Right to Maternity Leave;" "Research Concerns for your Pregnancy," such as research safety; "Make a Maternity Research Plan;" and "Tips for Talking with your Postdoctoral Supervisor."

A Postdoc's Guide to Paternity Leave

A companion guide for postdoc men planning for the birth of a child, including "Creating a Paternity Leave Salary Plan;" "Make a Paternity Research Plan;" and "Tips for Talking with your Postdoctoral Supervisor."


Pregnancy and Research Safety General Resources:

"Alone in the Lab" by Jim Kling,
Article on lab safety and pregnancy, including advice on how to assess your own personal risks.

"The Effects of Workplace Hazards on Female Reproductive Health"
National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) pamphlet about pregnancy hazards for women

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Safety and Health Topics: Reproductive Hazards
OSHA provides a very detailed summary of specific hazards, how to identify them and additional sources of information.

FAQ-Pregnant Workers/Trainees in the Research Laboratory Setting
FAQ from UC San Francisco's Office of Environmental Health on research hazards for pregnant women. Most of the information is general enough for women at any research institution.


Pregnancy and Research Safety -- Examples of Some Specific Hazards:


U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Instruction Concerning Prenatal Radiation Exposure


"Noise and the Pregnant Woman,"Now Hear This (Fall 2003) 6:3 Quarterly Newsletter of the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, Occupational and Environmental Medicine

American Academy of Pediatrics. 1997. "Noise: A Hazard for the Fetus and Newborn."Pediatrics 100:724-727.


Heather E. Held and Neal W. Pollock. 2007. "The Risks of Pregnancy and Diving,"Alert Diver. The online magazine of the Divers Alert Network. (March/April 2007)
(PDF version that includes references from review of research)


OSHA Directorate of Technical Support and Emergency Management, 2000 "Anesthetic Gases: Guidelines for Workplace Exposures," July 20, 1999; Revised May 18, 2000

Cohen, E.N., Brown, B.W., Wu, M.L., Whitcher, C.E., Brodsky, J.B., Gift, H.C., Greenfield, W., Jones, T.W., and Driscoll, E.J. 1980. Occupational Disease in Dentistry and Chronic Exposure to Trace Anesthetic Gases. J Am Dent Assoc 101: 21-31.

Rowland, A.S., Baird, D.D., Weinberg, C.R., Shore, D.L., Shy, C.M., and Wilcox, A.J. 1992. Reduced Fertility Among Women Employed as Dental Assistants exposed to High Levels of Nitrous Oxide. N Engl J Med 327: 993-997.


NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards


Tapp, L. 2000. "Pregnancy and Ergonomics," Professional Safety. Journal of the American Society of Safety Engineers. (August 2000) You can find a copy of it here.

Federal and State Laws Regarding Pregnancy and Parental Leave:

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Federal Laws Prohibiting Job Discrimination Questions And Answers
Summarizes the applicability of both Title VII and FMLA.

EEOC Facts about Pregnancy Discrimination

Department of Labor on Family and Medical Leave

Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) fact sheet from EEOC

"Navigating a Complex Landscape to Foster Greater Faculty and Student Diversity in Higher Education"
AAU/AAAS handbook that includes a discussion of the employment classification of postdocs for legal purposes, including some discussion of Title VII.

"Expecting Better: A State-by-State Analysis of Parental Leave Programs" by Jodi Grant, Taylor Hatcher and Nirali Patel


A 2005 review and evaluation of parental leave programs in every U.S. state from the National Partnership for Women & Families.

"Staying Competitive: Patching America's Leaky Pipeline in the Sciences" by Marc Goulden, Karie Frasch, and Mary Ann Mason


This report presents the results of several studies of the reasons scientist women leave the academic career pipeline, including a spotlight on graduate students and postdocs. In particular, it discusses the applicability of Title IX to maternity leave (see pg 26) for researchers at federally-funded institutions as well as the availability of parental leave for postdocs (see pg 18).

Paternity Leave and FMLA
A discussion from of the legal issues involved with paternity leave in the U.S.

Further reading:

"Solutions for Pregnant Postdocs" by Emily Klotz,

"Mixing Science and Motherhood: A Postdoc's View" by Lynn Smith,

Pregnancy and the Lab - article series

Pregnancy, Maternity Leave, and Child Care Experiences at Los Alamos National Laboratory
While specific to Los Alamos National Lab, this document sums up nicely some of the issues involved with working in a national lab while pregnant.

"Scientist Dads Step Up" by Vijaysree Venkatraman,

"Paternity Leave Options Give Dads a Break from Work, Too" by John Rossheim,

"Planning Tips: First Day Back at Work" by Barbara Turvett,
Useful tips for that first day back to work after maternity leave.

"Taking Time for Baby" by Bob Grant, The Scientist
Suggestions for keeping your research going through maternity and paternity leave.

Childcare, Breastfeeding and Parenting

Berkeley Parents Network
Archived repository of parenting advice from UC Berkeley parents, much of which is not specific to the Berkeley, California, area.

Childcare Tax Credit and Postdocs
The NPA's article on postdoc taxes describes some limitations on childcare tax benefits for postdocs funded on fellowships.

National Conference of State Legislatures Breastfeeding State Laws
Provides a quick summary of 2010 changes to federal law protecting some employees' rights to express breast milk at work, then provides links to relevant state laws and resources.

Further reading:

Scientists as Parents - article series, which includes: "Postdoc and Grad School Parents" by Jim Austin

"Solutions to Postdoc Parenting Problems" by Emily Klotz,

"Scientist Dads Step Up" by Vijaysree Venkatraman,

"Tax Victory For Breast-Feeding Mothers" by Ashlea Ebeling,
News article on February 2011 IRS change to allow breast pump accessories as an allowable medical expense for flexible spending accounts (FSAs).

IRS Announcement 2011-14

Dual-Career Couples

Job Search Tips for Postdocs in Dual-Career Couples - Coming Soon!

"Dual-Career Academic Couples: What Universities Need to Know" by Londa Schiebinger, Andrea Davies Henderson and Shannon K. Gilmartin

The Michelle R. Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University's 2008 report summarizes their study of faculty dual-career hiring and makes recommendations to institutions. See also their "Resources for Faculty and Graduate Students" page, which includes resources like "Raising the Partner Issue" with advice on when to bring up your partner during a hiring process

National Higher Education Research Consortium (HERC)
HERC provides resources, information and job listings for dual-career partners, primarily through local regional consortia. The national Web page includes links to the individual regional pages (scroll to the bottom).

InsideHigherEd Dual-Career Job Search
InsideHigherEd's job search engine can simultaneously search for two jobs located within a certain distance of each other.

Further reading:

Dual-Career Couples - article series

"Dual Career Couples - Problem or Opportunity?" by Marc Sher, American Physical Society's Committee on the Status of Women in the Profession newsletter, Fall 2006. See also the other articles in this issue.

McNeil and Sher Dual-Career Survey Report
Survey is from 1998 about physicist dual-career couples, but is still very useful and relevant

Preparing for an Academic Career in the Geosciences: Dual-career couples
This resource includes a series of case studies of academic couples in the geosciences as well as general dual-career information and resources.

"The A-to-Z of Dual-Career" by Female Science Professor, The Chronicle of Higher Education
A nice summary of the various (positive and negative) issues involved in finding jobs as a dual-career academic couple.

"The Logistics of a Dual-Career Search" by Julie Miller Vick and Jennifer S. Furlong, The Chronicle of Higher Education

Career columnists respond to a question about getting started with a dual-career job search.

Family-Friendly Policies

Institutional Policy:

NPA Institutional Policy Database
Postdocs can use this database to peruse the policy offerings of institutions at which they might consider working. Among the institutional information included are the availability of some family-friendly policies: Part-time employment policy; Family-health insurance; Maternity/paternity leave; and Childcare assistance (which includes such offerings as childcare subsidies and on-site childcare centers).

This database is still newly being repopulated since its re-opening in 2010, at which time it had information on postdoctoral policies from over 200 institutions. The best way to use it is to browse an individual institution's entries which often include a number of annotations from the institution. You can query based on a certain characteristic of interest or by institution name. Some policies are different depending on how postdocs are classified at a given institution. Institutions will have their own appointment titles for each classification, but the three general postdoc appointment classifications used in this database are:

  • Institute funded (typically grant funded)
  • Individually funded (typically funded on an individual fellowship, paid through the institute), and
  • Externally funded (typically funded on a fellowship directly paid to the postdoc).

You can start your search here:

NPA ADVANCE Clearinghouse of Promising Practices
This clearinghouse presents potential interventions to aid in the retention of postdoc women in academia.

Selected Examples of Institutional Guidelines on Maternity Leave:

Vanderbilt University Office of Biomedical Research Education and Training

University of North Carolina Chapel Hill

Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health (See handbook pgs 14-15)

Pennsylvania State University's New Parent Accommodation for Graduate Assistants and Postdoctoral Trainees

Stanford University Leave Policy for Postdoctoral Scholars

Policies and Initiatives from Federal Funding Agencies:

National Institutes of Health (NIH) Family-Friendly Initiatives
An overview of all of NIH's family-friendly initiatives in one place, including their Parental Leave/Childcare FAQ, career re-entry supplements and technical assistance supplements to fill in for researchers on caregiving leave.

National Science Foundation (NSF) FAQ Related to Dependent Care

NPA ADVANCE Data on Postdocs and Gender

Selected Examples of Federally-Funded Fellowship Guidelines on Maternity Leave:

NSF Earth Sciences Postdoctoral Fellowships (see Section 11.b. Parental Leave)

NIH National Research Service Award (NRSA) 2008 maternity guideline update

NASA Postdoctoral Fellowship (see section on vacation and sick leave)

Other Work-Life Balance

Work and Life in Balance - article series

"The Balancing Act: A Postdoc's Perspective" by Hannah Jang-Condell
An astronomy postdoc's perspective on managing work and life.

"My Career Break" by Elizabeth Freeland, American Physical Society's Committee on the Status of Women in the Profession newsletter, Fall 2006

"Returning to Science" by Sarah Webb,

"Life-Work Balance. A Father Writes" by David Greaves,

If you have other resources to suggest, please let us know.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0819994. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.