Work Priorities

Many women are faced with the difficult decision of what to do with their lives—to focus solely on work, dedicate time to their families and children, or take on the challenge of balancing both. We had the opportunity to talk with three amazing women in STEM who were tasked with this difficult decision. 

“There's a historical unrealistic expectation of academia, where you have to live and breathe this role as a professor- not have hobbies, not be present in your children's lives, and everything is just high pressure with a complete lack of work-life balance. And I know that some of the newer hires in our faculty are rebelling against that, regardless of gender.”

     -Amy McMullen Sibul

 This fear of having an unbalanced relationship between work and personal life seems to affect a wide range of people, including college students.  In "College Students’ Views of Work-Life Balance in STEM Research Careers: Addressing Negative Preconceptions," Anna Tan-Wilson and Nancy Stamp allow audiences to learn about college students' concerns when it comes to balancing work and family life: “In career discussions, female undergraduates said that if they were to attend graduate school in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and were to follow a career based on their research training, they would have to give up having a family” (Tan-Wilson, Anna, et al.). 

However, as daunting as the challenge may sound, moms Amy McMullen Sibul, Kirtly Jones, and Cynthia Burrows have all managed to find their own versions of work-life balance. Because work-life balance does not have one exact definition for everyone, these three women represent various perspectives of work-life balance.

Kirtly Parker Jones’ work-life balance is centered around her work. While Dr. Jones may, in a sense, embody the fears of the college students mentioned above, she does exemplify how one can reach immense success within their career while also having a family. Though Kirtly did not necessarily give up on having a family, she did make the decision to focus more of her time on work rather than her family. 

“My son would tell you, you know, that my work, well, my work came first.”

     - Dr. Kirtly Parker Jones 

Work life balance for Amy Sibul is strongly dependent on her maternal instincts. 

“I always knew I wanted to be a mother. Even for the five years that I was a stay at home mom and didn't work and was raising babies, I engaged with what I called developmental primatologist signs of development right because it was fascinating to me to watch humans grow from birth through these incredible phases.”

     - Amy McMullen Sibul 

Amy Sibul’s career track may differ from most people, as she did not initially go into academia, nor pursue a tenure-track position once she did enter academia. Despite her maternal instincts, she was able to attain an immense amount of success, and most importantly, she has always done what makes her happy. Yet, that doesn’t mean work and family life are easy to balance. 

“I'm going to say yes more often to my family than I'm going to say to work and that's a hard balance.”

      -Amy McMullen Sibul 

Page researched and written by Micaela Olivares.

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