Women in Science, Women at the Faculty of Science, Masaryk University

Words from our own scientists on the issue of reconciling family and work life 

I think it is difficult for a woman to combine a working career and family life. However, if you have a great partner next to you, everything can be handled and obstacles overcome with joint efforts, mutual understanding and tolerance. My husband was such a great partner. He was dedicated, responsible and empathetic with a sense for family. Women scientists don't have it easy these days either, as it takes a lot of commitment to split time for family responsibilities and for scientific work. Moreover, the limit to combining scientific work and motherhood is often finances and young women scientists postpone motherhood. We all know that academia requires a high workload. We need to create an environment and systemic measures for young women scientists to be able to start a family without fear and to be able to work part-time (address this with confidence and flexibility). Not to burden them with unnecessary agenda and administration. Young mothers should have the support of a supervisor and co-workers who should not be afraid to involve them in projects. Which means trusting them. Unlike when we were mothers, today's women in science have far more opportunities, they have the chance to take advantage of projects "tailored" to women scientists and all parents, such as the Experientia Foundation's three-year start-up grants. I think that there is still room for improvement in this respect and that we should look for inspiration for systemic solutions in universities that have successfully "tackled" the problem of women in science.

prof. RNDr. Libuše Trnková, CSc.
Professor − Department of Chemistry
Head of the Laboratory of Biophysical Chemistry and Electrochemistry (LABIFEL)

You can read the whole interview here.

Photo: Irina Matusevich

How have you managed to combine your family and professional life since 1990, when you had a small daughter and you and your husband (Jan Šmarda) took the opportunity to go to the USA? Your husband had a job at the State University of New York; did you also get to do scientific work in the laboratory?

I went to the U.S. with the idea that I would spend my parental leave there and stay at home, just as if I were at home here. But as it happens, I ended up working. At my interview for Paula Enrietto’s laboratory, I was completely open with my future boss and told her I had a two-year-old daughter. She also had a child of about five, so she understood me completely. She also had positive experience with “people from the East”, as she called it, which proved to be very useful. She gave me confidence, encouragement and understanding, both personally and professionally. I told her honestly what I could and could not do. She said if I had the knowledge, I would learn the techniques in the laboratory and in three months I would be back teaching new people. And that’s exactly what happened. The focus of my work led me to study the eukaryotic cell and its cancerous transformation, a topic that I continue to work on.

How did you manage taking care of your child and working in the laboratory?

It was a tremendous challenge. My husband worked from day-to-day, which was impossible for me. I had a precisely set time for work, between bringing and picking up my daughter from kindergarten. My daughter was two years and three months old when she started kindergarten, which was perfect. Though I gave more or less everything I earned to the kindergarten, my daughter was very happy there, and that was the main thing for me.

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prof. RNDr. Jana Šmardová, CSc.
profesorka – Section of Genetics and Molecular Biology
Department of Experimental Biology

Photo: Irina Matusevich
Translation: Kevin Frances Roche, Jana Šmardová

We should offer young parents a range of opportunities, respect their decisions and support them in their choices.

prof. RNDr. Jana Klánová, Ph.D.
Director of the RECETOX centre

You can read the whole interview here.


Photo: Martin Kopáček
Banner photo: RECETOX

The academic world is not an ideal environment for working in a managerial position or conducting high-quality research and, at the same time, leading a fully-fledged family or personal life. Prioritisation is a key prerequisite for creating a balance that is sustainable in the long-run. Priorities are arranged differently for each employee. I see my role as a leader mainly in trying to find a compromise that will suit employees but, at the same time, will not affect work performance or disrupt the workplace. Home office working or remote access currently in force are two of possible strategies. In addition, various communication channels help to maintain contacts and links for solving tasks without the need to physically meet or share the workplace. In the past, the ability to take my family with me on long-term work-stays abroad also helped me a lot.

doc. RNDr. Petra Urbanová, Ph.D.
Director of the Department of Anthropology
Department of Anthropology

You can read the whole interview here.

Photo: Oliver Staša

I think having a woman in a leadership position can be an advantage in several ways. For example, she is likely to make a greater effort to make it easier for other women scientists to return to work after parental leave. I know that the Director of RECETOX, Prof. Jana Klánová, allows women to work part-time after parental leave. I think that many women want to start working as soon as possible after maternity leave, perhaps on a part-time basis, but they are not allowed to do so. What I do know from colleagues that lead other research groups is that employing a woman after she has become a parent can be mutually beneficial. They say that such women never leave unfinished work, that they can organise their time precisely and that they are good at multi-tasking, which can also be a benefit.

The possibility of working from home, which Enantis allows, makes it a lot easier for my colleagues with very young children to cope with both. Just saving the hour or two that people normally spend getting to work is a big time-saver. Also, having the possibility of flexible working hours, and especially a kindergarten, also helps a lot. It is great that the Faculty of Science MU and the various faculties on the Bohunice campus manage to have a kindergarten available not far from the place of employment.

doc. Mgr. Radka Chaloupková, Ph.D.
Head of Research at the spin-off company Enantis
Associate Professor, Department of Experimental Biology

You can read the whole interview here.

Photo: Helena Brunnerová


Employee benefits at the Faculty of Science, MU

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