WH backs bid to encourage more female scientists

WASHINGTON (AP) ? First lady Michelle Obama and top officials in her husband’s administration are embracing new rules designed to make it easier for scientists ? especially women ? to balance work and family.

“You shouldn’t be penalized or lose a chance to advance in your career because you are taking care of a new child, or a mom or dad who has gotten sick,” Mrs. Obama said Monday at an East Room announcement.

The new rules drafted by the National Science Foundation would let both men and women delay or suspend research grants for up to a year to tend to urgent family needs. Other steps include electronic ? rather than in-person ? reviews for grant proposals and increased flexibility in tenure decisions and the hiring of replacements.

The first lady said too often, women pursuing science or technology careers have to compromise or give up on them entirely because of the demands of family.

“If we take some practical, common-sense steps, we can keep these women in the (science and math) pipeline where we so desperately need them,” she said.

Tina Tchen, who heads the White House Council on Women and Girls, says the new rules will boost the percentage of women in science and engineering, which she calls “the smart thing to do for America’s future and the economy.”