Balancing the Scale: NSF’s Career-Life Balance Initiative

At a time when other nations are increasingly developing and retaining their own science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) talent, it is critical that the United States develops its own globally competitive, domestic STEM talent in order to ensure future scientific and technological leadership. Although women comprise a significant and growing fraction of the U.S. STEM talent pool, recent studies demonstrate the adverse effects of attempting to balance the often extreme demands of career and life without adequate institutional support. Utilizing women s talent and potential in STEM fields is critical to the nation s future success in science and technology and to economic prosperity.

To address this challenge, NSF s Career-Life Balance Initiative, a set of forward-looking policies and practices, will help to increase the placement, advancement, and retention of women in STEM disciplines, particularly women who are seeking tenure in academe. NSF aims to enhance existing—and implement new gender neutral, family-friendly policies, as it is important that our nation s colleges and universities accommodate the needs of the largest growing segment of our science and engineering workforce. As part of our vision of OneNSF, the Foundation will pursue an agency-level pathway approach across higher education and career levels (i.e., graduate students, postdoctoral students, and early career scientists and engineers). We hope that the Career-Life Balance Initiative will lead to new and innovative ways in which NSF can partner with U.S.
universities, colleges, and research institutions to help attract, nurture, and retain a much greater fraction of women engineers and scientists in the nation s STEM workforce.