The issue of childcare can put women in STEM at a huge disadvantage compared to their peers. Women are usually given greater responsibility for the care of children than men. Their children can affect many of the decisions women make about their careers. The article Cumulative Disadvantage: Effects of Early Childcare Issues on Faculty Research Travel illustrates the effects of this issue. It focuses on the impact of young children on women scientists’ ability to travel for work. This 2016 article reviews research which shows that women are expected to choose between a career and a family. This is a huge issue in STEM, where women are expected to wait to have children until after getting tenure. This expectation leads many women to choose not to have children, even if they want them. The many small setbacks women experience early in their careers can build up over time. This can lead to massive problems, including disparities in advancement. The authors conducted a survey of faculty and staff at an anonymous university. They asked about childcare and eldercare needs, and their impact on ability to travel. Of the ninety-three respondents with children, half indicated that childcare issues had harmed their ability to travel for research, submit to conferences, or give talks in the past.
This article does a good job of showing the importance of equity. Everyone has different lives and needs. If everyone gets exactly the same treatment, certain people will still be at a disadvantage. Equity means accounting for differences between people and providing help where needed. That way everyone has the same chance of succeeding.