Post provided by Kirsty Nash
Most researchers I know are passionately invested in their research. Work consumes a significant amount of their focus, energy and time. But, researchers are so much more than that! Most of us have a life outside work that involves family, friends, even the odd hobby (if this isn’t the case and your life is purely about work, then read this).
Balancing or, more precisely, juggling the different parts of life can be taxing. Often academics and researchers face the competing demands of caring responsibilities, and the need to attend conferences, go on field trips or relocate for the next fixed-term contract. There are lots of resources out there to help researchers balance their home and work life, but, let’s be honest, who has the time to search for those resources?
This is where aKIDemic Life comes in. aKIDemic Life is a website built by academics for academics to empower parents and carers to navigate life and work. We curate free advice, tools and training, using the experience of researchers who have been through it. We want you to know that you’re not alone and to be able to quickly find the help you need, whatever your story.
How Can aKIDemic Life Help You?
First, aKIDemic Life provides advice and help in relation to different career situations and journeys. Whether you’re a graduate student struggling to make ends meet, an ECR trying to plan your career, a post-doc going to a conference and taking your children, or a tenured professor returning to work after a break to care for a sick relative, there are targeted resources to assist you.
Second, aKIDemic Life has three reference databases. In the first, you can search for peer-reviewed research exploring the intersection between academia and caring responsibilities, and equality and diversity in academic settings. The second provides links to policies, rules and regulations that relate to your rights. All you have to do is click on the link for your country or region to find the relevant information. And finally, there’s an ever-growing database of funding opportunities to help researchers who are trying to balance work and home demands.
Who is aKIDemic Life for?
Women take on the majority of caring responsibilities, as a result, many of the resources on the website target women. For example, you can access support groups on Facebook and information on planning for parental leave. The website also has posts to help to improve your financial security. These can be really useful at a time when there’s still much to do to close the gender pay gap and address the significant differences in retirement savings between men and women.
If we want to increase the participation of women in research, and plug the leaky pipeline as you move up the academic hierarchy, it’s critical to move beyond simply engaging with women. Increasing the number of men accessing their entitlements for parental leave or working flexibly, and then talking about this increase is essential. Doing this will help us (as a society) to shift the balance in the distribution of caring responsibilities. So, on the website there are resources aimed at supporting men with their caring responsibilities. We’re also trying to help reduce the stigma around men who do take on more family responsibilities that impact on their work.
I also want to note that the website is not just targeting parents – many people have responsibility for sick, elderly or disabled relatives. So, while a lot of the resources do explicitly mention parenting, there’s information specifically focused on support for carers with other types of family responsibilities as well.
Finally, we hope that over time, aKIDemic Life can develop resources to advise institutions on the best way to support their employees. Often management and HR would like to do more to help their staff juggle work and home life, but they don’t know where to begin. So, we’ll be developing resources around creating an enabling culture that actively encourages diversity in the workforce.
Who is Behind aKIDemic Life?
aKIDemic Life is made up of a small but passionate team of academics. I’m a Research Fellow at the University of Tasmania. I developed the website in response to the struggles I faced after my daughter was born. I had moved to a new city, away from friends and family shortly before becoming pregnant, and quickly found life pretty tough. After being diagnosed with postnatal depression, I received amazing help from colleagues and health professionals. But on talking to other academics, I realised that this sort of help is the exception rather than the rule. As a result, aKIDemic Life was born and the website was launched by the Governor of Tasmania in March 2019.
aKIDemic Life is partnered with the MotherScholar Project. The MotherScholar Project is a program to raise the awareness of women working in academia. It was founded by Anna CohenMiller, an Assistant Professor based at Nazarbayev University in Kazakhstan.
We also have an amazing advisory board of academics who have helped shape the website. Behind their impressive titles are academics who know the challenges of dealing with family responsibilities while building a successful career:
- Jeremy Brownlie – Deputy Head, School of Environment and Science, Griffith University, Australia,
- Alan Duffy – Lead Scientist of the Royal Institution of Australia
- Christina Hicks – Professor at Lancaster University, UK
- Sanam Mustafa – Senior Research Associate at University, of Adelaide, Australia,
- Emily Nicholson – Associate Professor at Deakin University, Australia
- Gretta Pecl – Director of the Centre for Marine Socioecology, Australia
- Kerrie Walkem – Lecturer at the University of Tasmania, Australia
How Can You Get Involved?
So, what now? Please check out the website, subscribe or follow us on Twitter or Facebook. If you find the resources helpful, spread the word and make sure your colleagues and students know about aKIDemic Life. And finally, we’re here to create a resource that is helpful to you, so if you have suggestions for content, please get in touch!