© Courtesy European Researchers’ Night – Greece cat.2
© Courtesy European Researchers’ Night – Greece cat.2

Miguel and Silvana, two researchers, two children

“I met Silvana in Sweden, where we were both attending a summer university. We were then both doing post-docs, me in Berlin, her in Paris. One year later I received an assistantship in Portugal and Silvana received a permanent post in Paris. We tried to find a solution to be able to work in the same place and, after a few years spent living half in Paris and half in Portugal, I finally got a post in Lyon and we both moved there. It’s very difficult being a researcher couple, given that one generally has to change city or country every two years before getting a permanent post – not to speak about both getting it in the same place. It’s generally around age 35 that one finds a fixed job and, in most cases, as in many other professions, it’s the wives who follow their husbands and look after the children. This wasn’t exactly our case. Silvana and I ended up in the same lab and the same office. We work together on many projects and have published together several times, even if we want to remain independent, each with our own specific line of research. It’s stimulating to be able to discuss our work together, even if my wife says I exaggerate sometimes and that I talk about nothing other than physics at home. I don’t think that, in our case, we can become competitors since we work together. It’s more interesting to collaborate and to help each other.

Samuel is three and goes to English pre-school in Lyon. Sara is one and a half months, but she’ll go to the crèche when she’s three months old. Since Samuel was born, we’ve moved six times. He speaks four languages, even if not yet all very well. We can’t say it’s a very relaxed way of life. We travel a lot. We have no family or friends in Lyon who can help us with the children. So sometimes we take them with us to work or to conferences. I look after them as much as their mother.”

Miguel Marques, LPMCN, University of Lyon

Integration in Zurich

You’ve just been appointed a lecturer at the Zurich Federal Polytechnic School, and arrive from abroad with your family. You don’t know where your children will go to school and your wife or husband would like to find work… The Dual Career (DCA) service takes care of everything. Everything is done here to enable teaching staff to reconcile their timetables with their private life and to adapt to the ambient culture. Children are happy, as the Polytechnic has three crèches. “I help the entire family integrate in Zurich”, says Madeleine Luethy, in charge of the DCA. Here there’s no fee to pay, but a service that is worth its weight in gold.

The mentor advantage

Want to be supported by a mentor? Apparently this is one of the most effective solutions for women researchers looking for strategic advice at key career turning points. No only do mentors help them resolve the practical difficulties of organising academic life and undertaking their scientific projects, the mentors themselves also find these relationships a stimulus for their own work and social involvement. Different mentoring associations have created networks in order to establish European contacts and to approach questions posed to mentors and ‘mentorees’ with a more international vision.

TANDEMplusIDEA is the first programme of this type. Supported by the EU and covering the period 2007-2010, it brings together British, Dutch, Swiss, German and French universities. The aim is to promote women researchers’ high scientific potential and to increase their number in strategic posts – in particular senior teaching positions. It will end with an evaluation of its career development objectives and the dissemination of good practices drawn from its conclusions. A more recent project, entitled Eument-net (European network of mentoring programmes for women in academia and research) and made up of four partners (Austria, Bulgaria, Germany and Switzerland), is counting heavily on this network aspect to promote connections between mentors and intergenerational relationships between female researchers.