I've seen a couple of interesting articles about the leaky pipeline lately and how despite the great increases in the number of PhDs, women are choosing not to pursue careers in academia at a higher rate then men in science and engineering. So we will never get to parity (even with PhD rates for a given field) unless we address the reasons why women are not choosing academia.
Here is one on why so few parents in graduate school?
Another on how to improve this situation.
The second article comments on how by supplementing grant funds to cover the cost of paid maternity leave we can avoid penalizing women (unpaid maternity leave) or PIs (paid maternity leave -they are left without anyone to do the research during this period). Allowing a supplement for grant for family leave would be a great benefit for both students/post-docs and PIs. It would also help to fight the stigma that women might be more likely to take leave and therefore a PI might hire a male candidate or a female candidate. There are still the details of how to hire someone to work on a project for a few months. Another great solution to this proposed by FSP is extending the duration of grants to allow for the student/postdoc to do the work after their leave (oh and still giving a supplement to allow them to be paid during this time would be great too).
How to be family friendly without compromising grants? It's a hard question. I've only had experience with lab tech's in this area and there is at least a little more guidance on FMLA from our university (not necessarily in a good way). Fortunately we could stretch to find other people in the lab to cover a short leave and get help from the department with some other items (e.g. ordering, etc.).
It's a hard problem.
PS. Sorry for the radio silence here. I have taken on some new responsibilities here which are important to the future of my department. Don't really want to discuss them too much, but they have been occupying much of my mental energy.