Gretchen Goldman, director for the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, is an in-demand scientists, and also a mom. When CNN asked Goldman to comment on President Trump’s appointment of a climate change denier to the The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Goldman was up for the challenge. In the interview, she spoke passionately and professionally, but afterward, she stood in solidarity with every mom trying to do it all when she posted a behind-the-scenes snap of what the interview really looked like.
“Just so I’m being honest,” she wrote in the Tweet, adding #SciMomJourneys.
— Gretchen Goldman, PhD (@GretchenTG) September 15, 2020
The post — showing the polished and professional Goldman in one clip and the mom in bike shorts, surrounded by toys in the other — instantly got a big reaction online. Now, it has nearly 300,000 “likes” and 3,000 comments. Goldman realized that she had tapped into something that parents, and especially moms, can relate to.
“This is going viral because of the comic relief. But I want to be clear that parents are being put in an impossible situation now and it will derail entire careers, especially for moms. Some thoughts…,” she tweeted. “The pandemic is exacerbating inequities and struggles that parents — especially moms and especially moms of color — have long felt. Our entire support network has been ripped from under us.”
While the side-by-side photos are funny and relatable, Goldman also wants people to think about the bigger issues at play.
“Parents shouldn’t be gaslit into thinking they can hack their way out of this. We can create a facade of professional Zoom backgrounds but the problem is much bigger and it shouldn’t be on us to fix it,” she wrote. “Our political leaders, our institutions, our employers must step up and ensure that parents in STEM and other fields aren’t taking career penalties.”
She included a link to a series of recommendations that she made about how to reduce the impact of COVID on parents who are working in STEM fields. The recommendations include providing more flexibility, hiring more people, allowing parents to work from home or bring a child to work and encouraging leaders to model stepping away from work for family time.
This isn’t the first time that Goldman’s career and motherhood have come together in the public spotlight. During 2018, she was supposed to be on maternity leave, but instead was testifying before the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), wearing her infant in a carrier.
Goldman’s post, unsurprisingly, got some trolling. People didn’t like that she was showing what being a working mom is really like. However, many of the comments were from women who related.
Gema Zamaro, an education economist, posted her own side-by-side. In one screenshot, she’s on-air with CNCB, commenting on how the pandemic has disproportionately affected women. The other photo shows her in her home office, surrounded by legos strewn around the floor.
Same here pic.twitter.com/KEe6KCx9eK
— Gema Zamarro (@gema_zamarro) September 16, 2020
Some moms offered tips for video-meetings from home (like using your ironing board, with its adjustable height, to hold the computer — genius!). But most who commented on the post expressed that seeing others dealing with the same struggle made them feel better.
“This unfiltered glimpse into your reality is so important for the mental health of working moms in a pandemic. If they only see the left image it can be very disheartening. The right image allows them to have a knowing laugh and cut themselves some slack,” a Twitter user called QONDI wrote.
That camaraderie is exactly what Goldman wanted to inspire.
“Shout out to my fellow moms getting it done, with or without the support we need,” she wrote.