It’s no secret that the lack of affordable child care poses a big threat to the retention of studying moms, especially those of color. Thankfully, a new series of childcare crowdfunding campaigns are here to help keep moms studying without unwanted interruption. This is a game-changer when it comes to retaining scientist students and parents across the academic divide.
Moms are already disproportionately affected by the ongoing child care crisis in the US, which has continued to keep mothers out of the workforce more than two years into the pandemic. These new childcare campaigns will not only help moms stay on track with their academics but also ensure more of them join the workforce in the coming years.
The dire need for financial support, if not affordable childcare options
Many postgraduate student parents at Ivy League and other top-layer universities are struggling to keep their academic ambitions alive while caring for their little ones. Take Laura, for instance, a mom of a 3-month-old bundle of joy and a postdoctoral research student at one of the elite universities in Chicago.
Like many other mom students, Laura is worried about whether she’ll manage to finish her studies and become a biotech researcher. The biggest hurdle to realizing her ambition of becoming a Ph.D. holder and renowned scientist is the lack of affordable childcare options. One of the best daycare centers will set her back around $1,250 per month, which is roughly a third of her monthly income, not to mention the daily commute to and from school will cost another $450.
For Laura, spending a big chunk of her salary on childcare while missing out on numerous milestones made by her tot doesn’t make either emotional or financial sense. It’s a predicament that many studying and working moms face. After all, why would you want to work if almost all your income will end up paying for childcare?
Like many working and student mothers, Laura’s biggest wish is to be the best mom she can be while putting her best foot forward when it comes to her career, education, and wellness. The last thing she wants is the dream of completing her postdoc to end up on the backburner. But there’s light at the end of the tunnel!
Frankie Heyward, a postdoctoral student researcher at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, has a solution for Laura and many other scientist parents & moms sailing on the same boat: daycare crowdfunding. Inspired by Laura and similar stories from scientist moms struggling to find affordable childcare, folks like Frankie have kick-started multiple childcare crowdfunding campaigns in Brazil, the US, and other nations.
It takes a village to raise a child
These initiatives are powered by ordinary people and aimed at helping boost the retention of moms, especially those of color, in the world of academics. The loss of this demographic from academia will spell doom for the small strides that women of color have made in academic science. In a small (and big way), the crowdfunding campaigns help foster accountability, one of the most crucial factors in combating a long-standing legacy of anti-blackness in academia, according to Forbes Magazine.
What Frankie and other crowd funders are doing is much akin to the proverbial saying: “it takes a village to raise a child.” Derailing the career ambitions of hard-working, well-educated moms like Laura is a major loss for the whole society.
And it’s happening every year – many talented women, most of whom are of color, leave academia to take care of their little ones, much to the chagrin of their colleagues. This is especially devastating when commitment to diversity and equity in academic research and medicine is dwindling off the back of political hoodwinking and polarization.
One of the few consolations is that around 50 percent of public institutions of higher learning that offer bachelor’s degrees have childcare on-site for their faculty and students, according to a study published in the journal Nature. However, far fewer private colleges do offer on-site children. It’s already highly challenging for parents in the US to find decent childcare services because of understaffing and other pandemic-induced factors, as per Fortune Magazine.
Where on-site childcare is available, the daycares are usually prohibitively expensive and have limited spots available, with waiting lists of weeks, if not months or years. Yet, working moms say good childcare options and paid parental leaves are among their top decision factors for applying for and sticking to a job.
Childcare crowdfunding during the pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic magnified the existing childcare crisis and hurdles to women’s career advancements. Nearly 600,000 moms left the workforce to assume full-time childcare responsibilities, not to mention most daycare centers closed down. Thankfully, many crowdfunding initiatives have been started on Facebook, GoFundMe, and other donation platforms.
Lack of access to affordable childcare options is a troubling concern for scientist moms while studying. This is especially unrelenting amid efforts to boost inclusivity, equity, and diversity in academic science. Childcare crowdfunding campaigns have proven to be quite effective when it comes to supporting and retaining women of color in academics.
About the Author
Sandra Chiu works as Director at LadyBug & Friends Daycare and Preschool.