Portrait 04

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"There is nothing special about taking on a leadership function and working part-time.“
© eveleen007 - stock.adobe.com
© eveleen007 - stock.adobe.com

The portrayed female scientist has been working at her institute for almost 20 years. Almost a year after she took over the leadership of a group, her son was born. Her son is now four years old. The female scientist is still a group leader and works part-time to be able to spend time with her son.

How did it come about that you took over a leadership function?

Female Scientist: The group management position became free. I have always been interested in a leadership function and then seized this opportunity and successfully applied for it.

Were you concerned when you took over the leadership function?

Female Scientist: I had no fundamental concerns about not being able to cope with the leadership task, but I was looking forward to a new task with personnel management in my previous business field. I had the thought of a child, but this did not stop me from deciding to take over the leadership function. I thought I would find a solution. And that was good. In October, I took over the group management and in September of the following year my son was born.

After the birth of your son, you have taken parental leave and have been working part-time since. How many hours do you currently work?

Female Scientist: I took two years of parental leave, of which I was completely home for the first five months. After that, I started working one day a week. After my son’s first birthday, I increased to 24 hours and after the second birthday to 25 hours. Since I have always had so many overtime hours, I have increased to 28 hours after the third birthday. My full-time contract is currently resting and I have a temporary part-time contract.

I usually work five days a week. One of these days is a long working day. On this day I spend up to ten hours at the institute. On the other four days, I leave in the early afternoon to pick up my son from the daycare. However, I often work in the evenings when my son is in bed.

What is special about a part-time leadership function?

Female Scientist: I think there is nothing special about taking on a leadership function and working part-time. At least in my case – with a team of five employees – the part-time does not concern personnel management, but project work and related travel activities. Compared to my previous full-time job, I am more often present at the office and therefore more available – but only at certain times. Predictive planning is important here. In my view, part-time does not have any negative effects in terms of personnel management.

I see the challenge more in part-time as a concept: the difficulty in multi-day business trips, in afternoon/evening appointments and the skepticism of superiors and colleagues. That’s something all those who work in part-time know whether leadership position or not.

What ideas and plans did you have for reconciling work and family when you learned that you were becoming a mother?

Female Scientist: Spontaneously, I had no concrete plan, but it has evolved over time. I definitely wanted to be able to spend active time with my child. In addition, as expectant parents, we had the wish that both parents could work and that I could keep my leadership position.

How did your supervisor react to your plans?

Female Scientist: My suggestion was accepted and my supervisor was glad about my early return. Full-time work would be welcome from the point of view of my supervisor. From my supervisor or my institute, there was no idea how to proceed when a manager is absent for a year.

How did your colleagues react?

Female Scientist: I have not received any feedback from my leadership colleagues. There were uncertainty and ambiguity among my employees about what will happen and who to turn to in the future. It was therefore important to have a clear and fast communication about who will be responsible for the employees and that I am even reachable despite the child.

How did you organize the care of your child?

Female Scientist: In the first year, my husband and I did not want to give our child into third-party care. My husband is an executive at a large company and actually wanted to continue working full time. However, since I want to start working one day a week five months after the birth, my husband took over the care for that day. He worked 30 hours part-time on parental leave for eight months. In addition, he had two months parental leave. If I had not had a leadership position, I would have probably stayed at home for a whole year.

Since our son is one year, he is in the daycare for six to seven hours a day. Usually, my husband takes him there four times and I take him there once a week. I pick him up four days a week and one day my husband picks him up. Only recently, we also have a babysitter who picks up our son from the daycare center once a month. Currently, the kids begin to go along with their friends and are then taken by their parents after the daycare. That way, one can support each other well. In case of longer illnesses or daycare-closing times, I also fall back on my parents who live far away or our son is there a few days for vacation.

How high is your travel activity and how do you organize the care of your child on business trips that last several days?

Female Scientist: My travel activity is varying, but overall much less than before the birth of my son. Currently, I travel about three times a month. These are often one- to two-day trips. My husband plays a major role in the organization of my business trips, as he then takes care of bringing, picking up and caring for our son.

How well do you feel supported by your research organization or your working environment in reconciling family and work?

Female Scientist: I feel supported quite good. However, the support is more acceptance rather than active support. Others do not change their way of working for me, but for scheduling my part-time is taking into account, if possible.

Good support is provided by the flexible work organization and flextime. At my institute, it is also possible to apply to work from home. However, I did not request this because my space situation at home does not meet the formal requirements. I would find it preferable if there were pragmatic rules for mobile working as in other companies.

I also found the seminar of my organization on reconciling work and family life helpful, because it shows different possibilities and above all promotes the exchange among each other. Based on the key questions, I could think twice about what is important to me.

What do your project partners and customers say about your working model?

Female Scientist: So far, I have received rather positive feedback. Some project partners do not realize that I work part-time. Other project partners take a lot of consideration. But I have also heard people say that a mother belongs to her little child. That was expressed without the other knowing that it affected me either.

How satisfied are you with how the reconciliation of work and family life works for you?

Female Scientist: I am satisfied, but there is still room for improvement. My “own” free time does not get its fair share. One challenge is the limited flexibility in business scheduling. I notice that especially with the scheduling in larger groups. I can rarely confirm immediately because I first have to coordinate with my husband. In the end, I renounce salary not to have so many professional commitments.

What are the biggest challenges for you in everyday life?

Female Scientist: The biggest challenge is the unpredictable, such as illness, train cancellations or strikes. The strong accumulation of appointments or deadlines is also a challenge. In the past, I did a lot of overtime and was able to work without interruption. Today I have to stop in the afternoon and go on working in the evening from home.

What advice do you give to other mothers and fathers?

Female Scientist: Inform yourself about different work and care models. Find an individual model that suits you as a parent and your child. Reflect this model from time to time and adjust it if necessary. Overcome stereotypes and thinks more openly.

What do you wish for the future?

Female Scientist: I wish to have a satisfactory job further on, more time for family and hobbies, and more flexibility. Good examples of part-time leadership would be helpful. In addition, I would like to have arrangements for mobile work. Especially desirable would be a daycare center with long opening hours, flexible care concepts – for example, the possibility to bring the child only at 11 o’clock – and enough places at affordable prices.

Role Models

Individual paths for the reconciliation of private and working life

Pictures © eveleen007 - stock.adobe.com

  • "The both of us didn't want the traditional family model."

    The portrayed female scientist started 10 years ago with a PhD scholarship at her institute.
    Six years ago, she was hired as a research associate. She has been deputy head of department
    for four years. Her husband works in the same department. Together they have a daughter in
    toddler age and a son in infancy. Currently, both work 40 percent to look after their
    son at home.

    Read on.
    Portrait 09
  • "Special is that you have responsibility around the clock.
    At the office, you are responsible for the employees and at home,
    you are responsible for your child."

    The portrayed female scientist has been working at her institute for 10 years.
    After the birth of her daughter, the female scientist went for parental leave
    for one year. Shortly after she returned to her old position, the management of
    a department was offered to her. She has been in charge of the department for
    one and a half years now and her daughter is three years old.

    Read on.

    Portrait 08
  • "A tandem only works with good coordination and absolute confidence."

    The portrayed female scientist A and the portrayed female scientist B jointly
    lead a department. Both work part time. Female Scientist A has a doctorate.
    She has been working at her research institute for almost 15 years. She is
    married and has a daughter and a son in primary school age.
    Female Scientist B started working as a research assistant for the research
    institute alongside her studies 8 years ago. She has been a research
    associate for 2 years.

    Read on.

    Portrait 07
  • "Although we work so much,
    we spend a lot of beautiful time with our children."

    The portrayed female scientist has been working at her Institute for more than
    20 years. She began her career as a research assistant. For the last seven years,
    she has been working as a department manager and recently became a professor at
    university. In favor of this new task, she has given up the management of the
    department, but she continues to work for her research institute. She is married,
    has a daughter with Down syndrome and a son.

    Read on.

    Portrait 06
  • "Role models were very important to me."

    The portrayed female scientist has been working at her research institute for
    10 years. The portrayed scientist has a doctorate and is a group leader at a university.
    Both are married and have a 14 months old son, whom they look after together.

    Read on.

    Portrait 05
  • "There is nothing special about taking on a leadership function
    and working part-time."

    The portrayed female scientist has been working at her institute for almost 20 years.
    Almost a year after she took over the leadership of a group, her son was born.
    Her son is now four years old. The female scientist is still a group leader and works
    part-time to be able to spend time with her son.

    Read on.

    Portrait 04
  • "A Dad home alone with a baby is really recommendable."

    The portrayed scientists both work at the same research institute. They are married
    and have two daughters, which are in kindergarten and elementary school age.
    The scientist has been at the Institute for seven years. When she started working
    for the institute, her first daughter was five months old and because of that,
    her father cared for her until her first birthday. The male scientist has a PhD and
    has been working at the Institute for two years.

    Read on.
    Portrait 03
  • "Instead of two bosses the employees now have two contact persons."

    The portrayed female Scientist and the portrayed male scientist lead a department
    of their research Institute jointly. The Institute has several locations. The two
    portrayed scientists work at a location that is rural without connection to an
    university town. The female scientist has a PhD and has been working for the
    institute for almost 10 years. She is married. The male scientist has a diploma
    and has been at the Institute for almost 20 years. He is married and has two
    children in primary school age. His wife works part-time at the same institute.

    Read on.
    Portrait 02
  • "The most beautiful time is when the five of us are together.
    That beats everything."

    The portrayed scientists have been working in the same department of a research
    institute for 10 years. Both are research associates and deputy group leaders.
    Today married, they first met during their studies. Nineteen months ago, they became
    parents of triplets. They organize the everyday family life on an equal footing and
    split all tasks half-half among themselves.

    Read on.
    Portrait 01