Department chair creates room for moms

Since adopting a policy in 2005 that provides 12 weeks of support for pregnant graduate students, Chemistry Department administrators have been fielding a set of relatively new questions from expectant mothers: "Is this like maternity leave?" and "Will I be able to maintain full-time status while I'm away?"

Then, when they return to campus, the questions are more like: "Is there a room that I can duck into for a while to pump some breast milk?"

A graduate student recently asked the department chair, Professor Richard Zare, just that. He has since volunteered his office for moms in the department when they need a little privacy. They simply need to sign up for the room, which locks and is staffed by a receptionist in the department's front office.

This month, a more permanent "special-purpose space" will be established in Room 385 of the Mudd Chemistry Building, once blinds are put up and furniture and a refrigerator are moved in. In addition to graduate students, the room will be available to faculty, staff and postdoctoral scholars for dealing with personal needs, such as a bad headache.

Zare turned to the department's administrative services manager, Ed Caron, for help in turning his office into a special-purpose space. The Law School has had a nursing room on the first floor of its classroom building for years. Access is controlled by key code, and the room has a sofa, refrigerator, CD player and electrical outlets for equipment.

The location of other nursing rooms on campus can be found by calling the WorkLife Office at 723-2660.

"It is in keeping with the declaration we have made that the Stanford Chemistry Department is family friendly," said Zare, the Marguerite Blake Wilbur Professor in Natural Science. "Such arrangements are rather common in industry but seem to be exceptional in an academic setting."

Stanford introduced a similar policy for expectant mothers several months after the Chemistry Department's was established. It provides female graduate students with an academic accommodation period of up to two academic quarters before and after birth.

Such policies are intended to increase the number of women pursuing advanced degrees that will prepare them for leadership positions in academia, industry and government. The university's policy is contained in the Stanford Graduate Student Handbook at http://www.stanford.edu/dept/DoR/GSH/childbirth.html.