Our second mum of our “Mums in tech”-serie is Liwah Wong. She is living and working as a climate scientist for the mercator research institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC) in Germany. She is working on circular economy and is related to both Climate KIC and EIT RawMaterial in her work. She has a little one year old at home, Kaya, brightening up her everyday life to the fullest.

“I am not stopping and never will be, I am just slowing down a bit. Just hold your breath.”

The first biggest highlight from the conversation with Liwah, is that she mentions she is lucky to be in the academic world. She tells me that the academic world is able to provide you with a good work-life balance, at least to her and around the time she became a mum. She also let me know she worked in Singapore before and that there, it isn’t a big thing with work-life balance and her friends working outside the academia got only 2 months maternity leave while her university where she used to work, provided four. So why is it more flexible in academia? Is it because research has a longer process and work in a different phace? And what can other sectors learn from academia?

She tells me a wonderful story on how she could pursue her career and participate in being a co-author of a paper while on maternity leave:  —until here it looks nice in the newsletter, not to long not too short and after this mentioning that if they’d like to read the whole interview chekc the website

“I always worked in academia, for the reason that I love scientific research on one hand, and on the other hand, I enjoy the flexibility (workplace/time). My job is pretty much result oriented – for instance – I was invited to be a coauthor of a journal paper two months before my due date. My team acknowledged that and still welcomed me on board. I initiated the first step of the journey (extracted 3244 papers from Web of Science and Scopus using Machine Learning) and went straight into my mandatory time-off 6 weeks before the due date. My teammates took care of all the subsequent tedious work until 6 weeks after my delivery and then I took time to take over some work mainly according to my own willingness and wellness, as the final boost to the submission before 2019 ended. The whole publication journey officially ended on 6 October when our paper was accepted as a report to the IPCC AR6, and to be honest, my teammates did most of the ‘dirty works’ during my maternity leave. The fact is, being part of the IPCC report has been my dream since the Paris Agreement in 2015, I am very grateful that my pregnancy and motherhood are not the stumbling block, but indeed the endorsement of my milestone. My baby is the youngest witness. I will definitely stick with academia unless corporations offer comparable flexibility.”

Another thing I find fascinating that she is mentioning is the role models – the female leaders showing the way. She first mentioned when New-Zealand’s sitting prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, brought her kid to work. New Zealand current prime minister Jacinda Ardern also gave birth to her first child, while in office. The first woman in history giving birth as head of office – Pakistan’s late two.-time prime minister Benazir Bhutto gave birth while in office, back in 1990.

“I won’t give up my ambition, and not by any means I shall jeopardize my child(ren). So I actually became a wee bit more visionary – if a female world leader can bring her baby to the parliament, other women can bring their babies to work too. Thanks to COVID, I have the best unintended testbed. It has not been easy but it has not been impossible. I know it is still very controversial to bring babies to work, but I hope this pandemic does evolve humanity. Women’s capability can never be judged on motherhood. If one puts the blame on a baby, s/he has a problem, it’s time to reflect on her/his ability.”

She afterwards mentioned another European female leader – Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany.

Germany is doing relatively good compared to many countries around the world. When Angela Merkel became the Chancellor, I already made up my mind to go to Germany for my studies. My gut feeling has been telling me that a country with a female leader can’t go wrong. I have been right so far. My potential next destination is New Zealand.”

Finally, I am very fascinated by Liwah also mentioning the mental health of mothers and how important it is to acknowledge and enable more possibilities for help. Do companies provide any support for women with regard to this aspect? Please hit me with an email if your company does.

Tips for Companies: 

  • In Belin it is very hard to find a nursery but there is an in-house nursery in some companies where parents can leave their kid while at work. Big corporations and companies could provide some relief to parents with kids in that way.
  • Otherwise, there could be a private room for parents who need to bring their kid to work for one or the other reason to not disturb the colleagues. But ultimately after COVID, there should be a possibility to work from home. 
  • More companies can give the opportunity to parents on parental leave to take a leadership course or extend their studies during their parental leave. The parent can then come back to work with a new certificate and knowledge and even get a promotion. 
  • Finally, if you haven’t done so yet, change the word mother and father to parent in any of the internal policies. Then mothers and fathers will automatically have the same benefits.

Tips to a woman who want a career and a family

  • Only when you are sure it’s the right thing for you, everything will work itself out. No one is getting in the way of anyone. Your life, your choice. 
  • Motherhood might take away quite a bit from you but it will give back triple. A baby’s world is very simple – only you & me. The kid is loving you so much more than you can ever imagine. For this one and only time in your life, you are his/her everything. You have all their trust. There is no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy and embrace the moment. Everything else can wait. 

Author: Camilla Wikström