Reconciliation of Science and Family
Career planing often competes with private and family interestes. In order to reconcile family and work the Max Planck Society has taken extensive actions to support their employees.
The Max Planck Society is the only German scientific organisation that qualifies for the non-profit-making PLC "work and family" (berufundfamilie) certificate, which acknowledges its family-oriented personnel policy.
Finding ways to support our employees on reconciliation of family and work will not replace the needed social rethinking in this matter, but will provide a contribution to equal opportunities in order to avoid that the question "children or career" will end up in an "either-or decision" for women.
In good hands with Mäxle, Hippos and Co.
If children are looked after well during the day, research can be carried out in a more relaxed atmosphere. The Max Planck Society and Max Planck Institutes cannot, under the terms of their articles of association, run child day-care centres themselves, but they can provide subsidies to facilities owned by external organisations or parent initiatives for reserved places, and so support current infrastructure issues. This ensures that there are a set number of places at the relevant facilities for employees of our institutes.
In the meantime, within 60 Max Planck institutes there is the opportunity to accommodate the youngsters of male and female institute employees. The nurseries are called "Zappel-Philipp“, "Mäxle“, "Topolino“, "Die Hippos“ or "Planckton“ and are aimed at the large number of parents with children of nursery age between six months and three years.
If Help is needed
The Max Planck Society has worked with the service company "pme Familienservice" for many years. The company has information centres throughout Germany and arranges care services – from childminders, nursery places, care if the child is ill, through to organising holiday camps and guidance for the care of elderly dependants. The Family Service also offers an extensive qualification and further education programme for carers.
Employees at the Max Planck Institutes can use this service free of charge; any expenses incurred for advice and administration are paid by the Max Planck Society. All costs for the care itself are paid by the families directly to the person or organisation providing the care, based on the type and scope of the care provided.
Buying time with money
Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology and a Nobel Prize Laureate, knows what it means to be a woman in the world of science. When she became a Scientific Member of the Max Planck Society almost 30 years ago, she was still virtually the only woman among the many male colleagues at this stage in the hierarchy.
In 2004, Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard set up a foundation named after her which the Max Planck Society promotes to the tune of 30,000 Euros per year.
"Money is the most common way to buy time", says the Max Planck Director. "It is nonsense not to have a cleaner, to become worn down by domestic matters and at the same time run a laboratory. We should have the courage to spend more money, and so create some leisure time for ourselves". Young doctoral students are aware of this and try to manage the everyday balancing act between work and family. If, for example, they accept an invitation to a conference and measurement times in the laboratory are again unfavourable after the nurseries have closed, the finely-balanced system of childcare, science and housework can quickly break down.
The monthly grant of up to 400 Euros that the Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard Foundation awards for a maximum of three years during doctoral studies is intended to help here. The proviso is that means of subsistence and full childcare are already guaranteed. Applications can be made twice a year, on June 30 and December 31.
Not only the scientific environment but the general framework conditions have to be considered in order to recruit the best scientist (female and male) for an institute. Therefore MPG supports the welcome strategies of their instituts with concrete actions. Therefore, to also provide a partner with suitable employment at a new location, MPG is working together closely with dual career partners on regional networks. By offering additional immaterial serivces MPG would like to increase their attractiveness to compete for the best scientists as well as to make a contribution to equal opportunities for men and woman and to improve the compatibility of family and work wherever possible.