• September 5, 2015

The Academic-Motherhood Handicap

Balancing Act Illustration Careers

Brian Taylor

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Brian Taylor

One afternoon in the spring of 2005, after coming up dry in my second year of pursuing a tenure-track position, I typed the following words into Google: "female academic second child effect career." My firstborn was about to turn 2, I wanted him to have a sibling, and I needed guidance on this choice.

What Google made clear: Having children can devastate the career prospects of female academics, but the academic profession seems remarkably complacent about this handicap.

Although some research universities have instituted important family-friendly initiatives (which are economically out of reach for the majority of colleges and universities, especially now), even the most well-endowed universities practice hiring and promotion policies that actively—yet not deliberately—discriminate against academic mothers. Should the best-educated people on the planet simply accept unequal career prospects that clash with academics' own stated values of fairness?

Biology is real. Discrimination against academic mothers differs from other forms of discrimination in important ways. Children and "motherhood" have always been celebrated in American culture in ways that members of minority groups, for example, have decidedly not been. No department that I've ever heard of has any official or tacit policy against hiring or promoting mothers, who are often welcome to bring their children to departmental parties or meetings. In fact, academic mothers are treated no differently than academic fathers on this social level.

But that's the problem. Academic mothers are different than academic fathers. The differences are both sex-specific and time-limited, significant only during the intense years of childbearing and early caregiving—the years that matter most for academic careers.

Research by scholars such as Mary Ann Mason at the University of California at Berkeley paints a grim picture. If a woman wants to get hired as an assistant professor, she is much less likely to succeed if she is a mother. But fathers are actually much more likely to land a position and achieve tenure, even more likely than childless men.

Most academic mothers get stuck in what Mason calls the "second tier"—the low-pay, low-security, low-status, and zero-opportunity part-time and adjunct positions that now constitute a majority of college teaching. Female Ph.D.'s with children are more than twice as likely as men with children to work in this second tier. Therefore, although women are now equally represented in the academic pipeline, men will continue to dominate the senior ranks unless something changes.

Why exactly do the careers of academic fathers advance while academic mothers' stall? Does the difference stem from hiring committees' perceptions? Parental choices? Institutional discrimination? None of the above.

Academic fathers get a tailwind because they can be what the legal scholar Joan Williams calls "ideal workers." The ability of ideal workers to devote long hours and weekends to professional advancement, to attend conferences, to move for both short-term fellowships and jobs, and to drop everything to meet deadlines literally depends on the work of what Williams calls "marginalized caregivers," the supportive partners behind the scenes.

When male academics have children, their partners almost always pause their careers in order to be the main caregiver for periods ranging from three months to years.

Three months is long enough to write a book chapter and a conference paper. Maybe more.

For the duration of a full-time caregiver's occupation of the domestic sphere, not only are the children taken care of, but so most likely are meals, laundry, shopping, trip planning, and other domestic work to which the academic father likely used to contribute more when his partner worked as much as he did.

When a hiring committee expects to see a published book before it will even consider a job candidate for an assistant-professor position, only the childless and parents with full-time caregivers at home are eligible. When a tenure committee expects two books, academic mothers had better start looking for a new job unless they have been extremely lucky with fellowships and helpful grandparents. Even fathers who are committed to gender equity in the division of domestic work simply cannot compensate in the early years for mammary glands and uteri. Academic men shouldn't be penalized for lacking reproductive organs, but neither should academic women be penalized for having—and using—those organs.

Sex versus gender. Current academic policy in pursuit of gender equity rests on a faulty syllogism: Because women are equal to men, academic mothers should be treated the same as academic fathers.

But women during the years—years!—between planning for conception and weaning really are professionally inferior to men. Yes, I wrote inferior—simply unable to work as hard, as long, or as well as childless professors or academic fathers.

Here, the intellectual progress we've made by replacing the concept of sex with that of gender turns out to be an overcorrection. It is not social conditioning that creates this inferiority. It is not institutional discrimination either, although flexible parental-leave policies, tenure-clock stoppage, and child-care accommodations are indeed important. But this inferiority is a biological fact. It is about sex, not gender.

I'm talking about the vita gap. It's somewhat ironic that the name of the document by which academics represent their work has "life" at its root, because when academic women create life they starve their vitas. Time spent on reproduction is time away from scholarship, so mothers' competitors outproduce them on the most-important measure used by hiring committees in this buyers' market: quantity. Given two equally capable teachers with good recommendation letters, the fatter vita wins every time.

The faulty syllogism has led to a widely accepted practice of silence on child-related matters in hiring. For legal reasons, committees are not supposed to ask applicants any questions regarding marital or reproductive status; they are supposed to volunteer information regarding leave policies, local schools, and general family-friendliness to all applicants as a universal standard.

But the vita gap is only compounded by that policy of silence. I see three main problems with it.

Problem No. 1: Silence at the institutional level means that academic women enter their childbearing years blind. They do not know what obstacles they face, and Google is their only guide to surmounting them. Fortune may provide them with a good role model—an assistant professor who bears a child or two in plain view—but that role model has her own problems. As a new mother, she is taxed to capacity and, therefore, unable to be a consistent mentor, for which she gets no professional credit. If she is employed on the tenure track at a research institution, she is likely to get a full semester of paid leave. That is hardly the situation for most female academics of childbearing age.

For example, when I went ahead and had my second child during my third year of teaching in the "second tier" as an adjunct, I got ... a bouquet. That's all. Most new Ph.D.'s, male and female, now spend several years in the second tier, during which they have to work hard to fatten their vitas while teaching more courses than their tenure-track competitors simply in order to survive.

Many of the cash-strapped state universities and teaching-heavy colleges that provide the majority of tenure-track positions don't offer any paid parental leave at all. Academic women who give birth in such tenuous circumstances cannot follow in the footsteps of their wonderful role models. They have to keep teaching, even when their babies are tiny, or else their vitas will be not only skinny but stillborn. And as long as they are combining teaching with the intense care of early childhood, they are not producing scholarship.

Problem No. 2: Silence is hard to enforce. Who is going to blow the whistle on a hiring committee? Who is going to punish that committee for discrimination? How? On my road to the tenure track, I had four on-campus interviews. At three of them, members of the hiring department asked in a friendly way about my family status. I knew that violated protocol, but the code of silence meant that no one had trained me to deal with such questions. I answered honestly in the same friendly tone.

Did I get offered any of those three jobs? No. But I had no way to know whether that was due to discrimination of any sort, and I had no recourse for the ethical breach.

Problem No. 3: Silence makes the vita gap look merely like lesser competence. Academic mothers cannot tell hiring committees that they would have produced more scholarship, been more prepared for their interviews, and polished their job talks more if not for children. No matter how hard academic mothers work, at just the moment when their career potential is being evaluated, they appear less promising than fathers or people without children.

A recent president of the American Historical Association overcame the vita gap with a full-time nanny (who died in her kitchen), four hours of sleep a night, two days a week without lunch, and frequent bouts of bronchitis and pneumonia.

Silence as complicity. Not speaking of family status perpetuates the handicap of academic motherhood, which shouldn't hinder women's careers at all. So let's actually give academic mothers a handicap sticker to paste onto their vitas. Make the work of motherhood visible in women's academic records. By pinpointing only the strictly biological work that belongs to sex instead of gender, this handicap would function like replacing doorknobs with levers. It would make academic success accessible to mothers without creating a barrier for fathers or people without children.

Academic mothers should unblushingly total up the time spent on reproduction and credit it on their vitas. Give it its own category; call it "reproductive allowance." For my two "easy" pregnancies conceived exactly when I planned them with complication-free deliveries, quick recoveries, and no lactation problems, my conservative estimate is 1,810 hours spent. Each. That's a book, right there, and then some.

And that's exactly how it should appear on a vita: "Work that would otherwise be complete: a manuscript and an article." Hiring committees should see the real professional potential of academic mothers whose sex had prevented them from realizing that potential—yet.

For this handicap system to work, it is important to limit allotments to strictly sex-specific expenditures of time. Some tasks related to reproduction belong to the private decision-making of each family. Who does the research on child-care options, who takes the child to the pediatrician, and who mashes the baby food are not academe's responsibility. In other words, women who want to put in a "second shift" at home in perpetuity probably belong in the second tier.

But it is time for academe to acknowledge that women's productivity is slowed by reproduction. No one in the profession wants women to be hampered in their career advancement, so we should stop acting like having children is a problem. And silence is complicity. I daresay few if any male colleagues of mine have spent time Googling "male academic second child effect career." Acknowledging exactly how motherhood affects productivity in ways that fatherhood does not—acknowledging it openly, systematically, and professionwide—will cost nothing, hurt no one, and help thousands.

By the skin of my teeth, I made it onto the tenure track after four years on the job market, and thanks to my first teaching relief in seven years, it looks like I'll finish my first book, too. But for every successful academic mother, there are a good dozen hidden women who have either sacrificed their family plans for their careers or sacrificed their careers for their children. Choicelessly. To end that cycle of unequal academic motherhood, we have to make the personal not only political, but professional, too.

Amy Kittelstrom is an assistant professor of history at Sonoma State University and a visiting fellow at the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University.


1. zagros - February 12, 2010 at 07:15 am

There is a stated assumption here that academic fathers have a supporting spouse who will take care of the children. This is often true but also a societal problem: until we get over this idea that it is the woman's exclusive job to assist in childrearing that it is only the woman who is discriminated against, we will never truly eliminate discrimination.

The fact is that this is not always the case. Although there is a definite biological disadvantage given to women (the actual pregnancy and birth), this biological disadvantage DOES NOT continue post-pregnancy. At that point, it becomes a societal disadvantage since women have traditionally been the primary caregiver and have chosen not to submit their children to the vagrancies of institutionalized child care.

However, there are fathers out there who met out EQUAL child care responsibilities or even have EXCLUSIVE care of children due to divorces, spousal deaths, and other factors. To argue that biology is destiny and therefore should require unequal treatment is just as flawed as not acknowledging that unequal treatment is required for fareness when we are dealing with unequals.

The key is to have a flexible policy that assists BOTH parties, that does not discriminate against academic women who choose to have children and that similarly does not discriminate against academic fathers who choose to take their fair share (or more) of the childrearing responsibilities.

I entered academia precisely because I wanted to act as primary caregiver of my children. My wife works as well and it is my flexible time that allows me to devote myself to the lion's share of the childrearing duties. As such, Dr. Kitlestrom's proposal, however nobel, would condemn fathers such as myself to the status of second-class citizens because we are, in the words of Dr. Laura, "doing the right thing."

Still, I object to the notion that either gender automatically has a negative outcome. It all depends on priorities. I have continued to publish A LOT and have simply decided NOT to take conference trips. I schedule my time at school in such a way so as to minimize disruption with handling the childcare responsibilities of my children and rely on childcare (yes, I must but so too must academic mothers who choose to continue their careers) as needed but only at a minimum. My research is conducted when the kids are sleeping and I get very little of it.

According to the US Census, there are 143,000 stay-at-home fathers (who are married), 2.3 million single dads (18% of all single parents), and 20% of all fathers with working wives were the primary caregiver for their preschooler:

To deny biology is certainly foolish but to place it on a pedastal to the exclusion of all else is worse than foolish, it is, in this case, discriminatory and sexist to the extreme, while perpetuating the same institutional structures that condemned women to the status of second-class citizenship in prior generations.

The solution is NOT, as the author suggests, to have differential policies based on sex but rather differential policies based on circumstances. Make all faculty members wishing a variance to the time clock of tenure and other professional responsibilities write a operational plan that can be implemented by the school and allow for "clock stopping" and other methods that do not replace one form of broad-based preference with another.

2. sophieg - February 12, 2010 at 07:15 am

There is a great deal of resistance in academia to admitting what you've written here openly. Occasionally someone will acknowledge that the "vita gap" may be related to childbearing and childcare issues. One colleague on my small campus, when asked how he found time to write a third book, just said - "I don't have any kids." But even women are in denial about this, preferring to internalize the judgment that they are not sufficiently hardworking (!!!), smart, or efficient to do it all. I'm not whiny about it. It is what it is. But for such critical thinkers, we sure lose our edge when we look at certain aspects of our own world.

3. cleverclogs - February 12, 2010 at 09:04 am

I don't know about this. There are all kinds of things that might get in the way of successful progress toward the all-important book: caring for a parent, long-term or frequent illness, chemical imbalance, depression, financial catastrophe. All these things, like pregnancy, can pass. Should everyone get a big sticker for their various roadblocks?

Having children is, in fact, a choice. And as much as no one wants to say it, sometimes you cannot have it all. Maybe having children is the reward you get for not getting to be an academic superstar. My dad was brilliant and worked in a corporation in which he could have easily been a superstar, but he sacrificed climbing the corporate ladder so he could coach our sports teams and be at home every night. It's a choice. If a person is not willing to take an employment hit for having kids, well, then maybe that wasn't the right choice for that person.

Maybe what we should be fighting to change is hiring criteria. I used to be a Human Resources exec, and having watched some serious hiring blunders in my own department - blunders a blind man could see coming a mile away but seemed to take the department completely by surprise - I have come to the conclusion that academics have no idea what they need or what they should be looking for. Maybe it's not a good idea to be looking at actual accomplishments as much as potential accomplishments, as they do in all other "recent grad" hiring. That would give everyone who has hit a roadblock a little leeway.

4. andyj - February 12, 2010 at 09:14 am

The concern is real. Children take time and deserve to be given time. If credit is to be given for child rearing, then it should be given for child rearing - without regard to the parent's gender. There are single fathers and otherwise primary care-giver fathers out here in academia. Not to recognize this would be akin to gender profiling. And while we are crediting our reproduction responsibilities, let's not forget all the time would be fathers and mothers spend copulating. Children don't come from nowhere.

5. profmomof1 - February 12, 2010 at 09:42 am

zagros, you are certainly correct on many points. And I'm happy to hear of a male academic taking primary responsibility for child care (I don't personally know of any on my campus). But one point the author was trying to make is that beyond choices in child care, there are physical consequences to the biological fact that women are the ones who go through pregnancy and birth. These are very real, and have a severe effect, for a short period of time, on women alone.

As with many academic women, I put off childbearing until I completed what I needed to do for tenure. That meant being in my late 30's when I began to get pregnant, which meant more physical problems. I was totally unprepared for how draining it would be. First came several miscarriages, physically and emotionally difficult; then a pregnancy at 39, with complications so I needed to drive into the hospital twice a week for fetal monitoring.

Many hours a week in various medical appointments, plus being so physically drained it was hard to even walk around -- meant virtually no scholarship for the pregnancy period. For a long period afterwards, recovering from a c-section, breastfeeding, hormonal changes that made my brain a fog for months -- meant little scholarship for the first year after birth.

If I'd had two children, I highly doubt I would have made full professor for many years more, if ever. There are physical realities to childbearing that are above and beyond those of childrearing, even if they are shorter lasting. A woman academic has to decide whether to go through them just when it's important to achieve highly in order to get tenure, or to put them off until it may be more difficult or impossible to bear a child.

6. tolerantly - February 12, 2010 at 09:51 am

Cleverclogs: Not so clever. It is normal for women to have children; most do. Most young-to-middle-aged people, on the other hand, do not suffer from crippling depression, live with debilitating chronic illness, or find themselves responsible for a couple decades' worth of caring for parents. To say to women, "Sure, be an academic, but you'll have to give up a major part of adult life that's normal for women to partake in," is unreasonable. I suspect that if you changed the formula to insist that men entering academia be celibates, you'd see how unreasonable your suggestion is.

7. mrmars - February 12, 2010 at 09:55 am

I don't see how anyone could argue with the fact that child bearing and family-related issues create problems for women in regard to advancing in an academic career, and it is certainly tempting to argue, at first glance at least, that the institution of some sort of procedural redress for this problem is long overdue.

Nonetheless, further consideration reveals two points of difficulty with the perspective of this article; the first being the degree to which it claims that this is exclusivity a women's issue, the second being the implication that it is possible to formulate some sort of "effort equivalency" or handicap system that would be fair to all concerned parties.

Based on personal experience, I'd have to agree that such problems often seem disproportionately damaging for women - and significantly so in some cases; but family responsibilities can and do effect men as well. Both men and women who are childless seem to have more time to devote to their careers, as do those without responsibilities for aging parents or a sick spouse, a situation that I am unfortunately very familiar with.

The same year I began my present position, my wife was diagnosed with a terminal illness. An organ transplant (for which I remain supremely grateful - please consider signing a donor card!) and ten years later, I found myself a widower and the single father of two young daughters. Ten years and a second marriage later still, my older daughter is beginning her Ph.D. in Public Health at a major university and the younger has just been accepted into a fine Physical Therapy program for the fall where she will earn a Ph.D as well. These young ladies have been through some complex and trying times, have worked hard in spite of it, and can be justifiably proud of their achievements, as I'm (obviously) very proud of them.

The problem for me, and my academic career, is that my role in all of this doesn't fit into any academically pertinent category. There is no academic equivalency or handicap system that gives credit for learning how to change I.V. medications at home, nor changing enteral feeding bags in the middle of the night, nor making sure your kids are able to navigate through the travails of a single-parented adolescence, get to AAU basketball practice on time, and earn good grades in the process. How many publications is it worth? What discoveries might I have made in the lab under other circumstances? What sort of university-wide committee accomplishments might I by now have to my credit? Perhaps a lot, perhaps not -there is simply no way to know for certain, much less formulate any system of compensation that would be fair not only to me, but to those I would compete with for the limited number of promotion slots that my university has available in any given year.

So in lieu of any defined academic equivalency for being a care-giver and an involved father, I'm faced with the certain knowledge that life is not fair and the strong likelihood that I will retire as an associate professor. The problem of formulating some fair measure of "effort equivalency" or a handicap system would seem to be intractable regardless of the specifics of the underlying cause, or the sex of those involved.

8. strachan - February 12, 2010 at 09:55 am

cleverclogs....look at the statistics. This is not a choice that MEN are required to make. Men with children and traditional families have better publication records than even men without children. If all of these other things are also an impediment, why are women with children the demographic taking the biggest hit in terms of productity and tenure? I can't believe you compared having a child to having a chemical imbalance. Chemical imbalances do not SYSTEMATICALLY affect a particular demographic group precisely during the time period when one must be pulling together a case for tenure.

I am not sure what the solution is, but flexible policies that are supposed to take everyone's circumsances into consideration won't work. Men overwhelmingly don't take advantage of paternity options -- either lack of need or social pressure. As a result, women are discouraged from doing so in order to compete with male "ideal" workers.

As an untenured professor, I raised the topic of how to take a 6 week maternity leave with HR at a division I research school, I was told I had to negotiate the details of course coverage with my chair. I wound up teaching quarter classes -- which gave me time away at the beginning of the semester to recover from an emergency C-section. But I just crammed the teaching hours into the end of the semester. So, technically no leave and lots of stress.

When I broached the possibility of stopping my tenure clock for a year, I had to petition the dean with all sorts of gory details to establish that I had a difficult pregnancy constituting a hardship. I was also explicity told to use the year wisely, as external reviewers would still be expecting 6 years worth of publications, not just 5.

Finally, a short while after I gave birth, my chair (a woman in her 50s with no children) scheduled a meeting to tell me that the department/university was ramping up its expecations. So, I should be prepared to produce a book plus 5 highly ranked articles instead of a book plus 2. (I had the book and lots under review that later hit, but absolutely no shot of producing 5.)

FYI -- I used my time off the clock to go back on the job market, and I left. I feel lucky to have landed a tenure track job with a slightly higher teaching load, closer to family. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have gotten tenure at the Division I, and I would have joined the growing rank of academic mothers who float around as adjuncts.

9. strachan - February 12, 2010 at 10:05 am

mrmars -- I sympathize with your personal circumstances. I don't think we can create policies that make life fair for everyone. But your case is also an outlier, and not something that most married men will have to endure.

Can you see the difference? The negative consequences of having children for women are systematically affecting very large numbers of people. That, I believe, is where a change in HR policies could make a difference.

10. jffoster - February 12, 2010 at 10:08 am

One of the more interesting and thoughtful articles I have seen on this set of problems and issues, particularly in the delineation of them. The proposed solution less so. It will be difficult for instance to come up with a principled basis to keep primarily male household jobs derived from such things as greater upper body strength from being put onto curriculas vitarum (shovelling several inches of heavy global warming, for instance.)

Particularly interesting was the postress's pointing out how the legal proscriptions on raising questions about family status and situation have had unintended consequenses, i.e. partially backfired. I have felt constrained in the last two dozen years or so from raising these with female graduate students or female upperclassmen considering graduate school. However, once a student has raised the question herself, I have considered the door opened and that trying to help her get a sense of the realities of higher education employment fair game and within my duties and responsibilities.

There are some realities of life one had best face, including these:

0. Human reproduction and initial nursing child care is heterosexual.

1. Corporations in general do not and cannot hire people primarily or substantially to bear and raise their own children. Nor can or will universities. Most colleges won't either, although some colleges and small universities with a heavy focus on "community" may come closer to it.

2. Some fields prefer "two books" for tenure; others set more store by a series of articles in journals where the criteria and referee boards are known and not somewhat fuzzy. History tends to be a book preferring field; anthropology and linguistics tend to prefer articles. A prospective apprentice for entry into academia, particularly one with a child-bearing biological clock, needs to consider these things in advance, in the light of an appraisal of the totality of the kind of life she wants to live.

3. It is occasionally possible if one is lucky to have one's cake and eat it too. Usually it is not.

4. Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3.
Corollary: doing things out of time and season may be more difficult and may incur special problems. It is not in general the duty nor obligation of one's employer to solve or "fix" them and render them moot.

5. "job", "career", "profession", and "vocation" mean different things. It is well not to confuse them. I have noticed that the happiest most fulfilled people are those fortunate enough to, whether by analysis and /or accident, seek, discover, and /or land in a 'calling', a vocation, whether it envolves a job, a career, a profession, and / or none or some combination of these.

11. jenniferburcham - February 12, 2010 at 11:30 am

While this is a constant,outloud argument in acedemia, when will we realize that it is an issue in many fields? Everyone has a choice in life. Women are given the ability to reproduce. Reproduction is a choice. For everything there is a trade-off. With the intellectual capacities of an academic, I am surprised that the concept of trade-offs and not being able to have it all is overlooked. If the requirement of a tenured professor is a thick vita, if that is your true desire, you will make the choices appropriate to take you down that path. Should you opt for alternative choices, you must deem them more important, and likewise be subject to the consequences of your decisons. Life is not alway fair or equal. Decide what you really want and plan accordingly.

12. 11242283 - February 12, 2010 at 11:54 am

I'd like to take issue with several of the claims made here before addressing the major issue.

First of all, lots of people (esp. in the current climate) might take 4 or more years to find a tenure track job, and I sincerely doubt that in a field like History which is oversupplied with PhDs except in a few hot fields that this is at all unusual. A historian myself and then single after a brief grad school marriage, without kids, it took me about that length of time (not to mention over 15 oncamps interviews in that time). I won't go into details on the two campuses that invited wives to my job talk in order decide if I was a threat to their marriages or the liberal arts colleges in small towns who made it clear that as a single woman I'd be bored out of my tree and definitely didn't want their jobs (I did, I wanted any job!). I have no doubt that there exist hiring committees who ask illegal questions, etc., but please know that these same committees likely behave badly to everyone.

Second, I am also in the CSU and I highly doubt that Sonoma State requires 2 books for tenure. In fact, I know people there who have gotten tenure in the past 10 years (and even promoted to Full Professor) who have not done this. It may, in fact, be the case that at Research I schools this is the standard but it is not the standard everywhere everywhere by any means. In any case, given the paucity of resources in the CSU and general lack of support for humanities research of any kind these days (no travel funds, forget about needing to spend even a week or two at an archive somewhere, let alone longer -- and increasingly poor library resoureces, etc, I'd be surprised if any assistant professor of history in the CSU had the time to finish a book before tenure).

As someone here has said, even though many women, perhaps even most, want to have children, motherhood is necessarily labor intensive. I think we can ask institutions for some consideration and that they should give it (maternity leave and perhaps some extended parental leave for mothers and/or fathers) but universities have a job to do. The thing about having a job is that you are requird to actually do it. As much as any of us might want more work/life balance, in many critical respects that is for us to find. The author has made a reasonable choice which is both to have children and to accept a job at a lesser institution (ie., not Research I). That job choice might not be what she wanted when leaving grad school but it is more compatible with a larger set of life choices (motherhood) than being at a Research I. Could the CSU do a better job of at least supporting people in the first year of parenthood -- likely so -- but it's never going to be everything this woman appears to want/need.

I think it needs to be said that the standards in place at Research I for tenure are difficult for anyone to meet -- but that's the point, isn't it. I dated a guy for a while at a Research I who during the period before he got tenure (I wasn't involved with him then) went back to the office every night after his kids went to bed and subsisted on 3-4 hours sleep for most of that probationary period). He produced a shitload of stuff in those years articles, a book, etc. and still had a rough time getting tenure. Indeed the whole process broke up his marriage.

I guess the author of this piece would suggest that "well at least he had the choice of going back to the office at night, a mother couldn't do that in most cases" -- and that's probably true, but my point is that this is not healthy for anyone. My friend chose to do this because being a tenured prof at a Research I was the most important thing to him, even, it turned out more important than his family.

In my own case, when I finally got a (actually 2) job offers one year, I thought long and hard about what I wanted my life to look like. I don't have a burning passion to work and write all the time, I like teaching and I like living a very active, outdoor life that takes me away from my office. I didn't turn down a Research I because I wasn't offered a job there, but I did accept the job that would fit with the life I desired. I moderated my ambition to suit my own personal notion of work/life balance. It has worked out well. My dept had/has tenure and promotion standards that reflect the mission of the campus and which acknowledge to some extent the minimal support it offers faculty in the humanities to conduct research. I think of my research accomplishments as modest but I've done things I'm proud of and happy to have done. I know of myself that I would never have survived at a Research I -- maybe not even smart enough, but certainly not driven enough.

I have never remarried and still have no kids,so no, I don't entirely know what the writer is talking about. But most of the women in my dept do have children and are reasonably productive so I've talked about these issues with them for years. But I do know that life is an endless series of choices and sometimes you have to compromise. I try to understand these sorts of essays since I am also interested in work/live balance (and am pretty certain that businesses/universities don't give a shit beyond lip service to it) but often what I read about are people unwilling to make compromises or who have not yet figured out what is most important to them. I guess I'm advocating "settling" in some vague sense but if it gets you the balance you want, so what?

Finally (and I apologize for the length) the gratuitous swipe of #8 at a female colleague with no kids who plays the heavy in the story is really pathetic. Not too bitter, are we? I can promise you that woman had lots of other things competing for her time as achieved tenure and that even if it was somehow "easier" for her because she wasn't living your life, it wasn't easy.

13. camillef - February 12, 2010 at 01:47 pm

I completely agree with the problem as discussed (a very gendered one). I think the handicap solution isn't feasible and is sort of silly. I also agree with the comments about having children being a choice with expected challenges and consequences in terms of life and career.

I'd like to add that some of us who choose not to have children (for various reasons) are also making great sacrifices. I'm 38 and finishing up a PhD. I've spent a good chunk of my 30s in graduate school (an MA program, then the PhD program - with a year off working in a public sector job). My biological clock has been ticking most of this time. However, I'm single and having a child on my own in graduate school just wasn't a reality. I didn't have the financial resources, the time, or the familial support to pull something like that off.

I'm now looking at the private sector for careers as I'm just not interested in the hamster-wheel of academia. In terms of motherhood, I feel as if there will be many of the same concerns. I'm going to need to spend several years kicking off a long-term career - one that will likely involve moving, travel, and long hours - and I just don't see having a child as something that reasonably I can add into that mix.

It's been a difficult reality to face and a situation that in many ways is due to timing and circumstance. I think often about the ifs - if I started graduate school earlier, if I had a partner who could take on part of the burden of childrearing and parenthood, if I had decided not to continue on in a PhD program and started working...if, if, if. Some of these things are the result of decisions I made and others are just due to the way life shakes out.

My point is that women in academia with children do face challenges that in an ideal world should not be there. I just disagree with the perception that those of us who choose not to have children are copping out by taking a simpler path or that we necessarily have it easier. Although I have a few childbearing years left in me, I'm very close to deciding that children (at least biological) are not going to be a reality for me. It's been extremely difficult to get to the point where I feel at peace with that. So, please don't assume that a childless woman with a successful career (academic or other) didn't deal with the emotional and psychological tolls of making some heavy life-altering decisions.

14. strachan - February 12, 2010 at 01:55 pm

#12 Bitter that I was actively discouraged from taking a maternity leave that I was legally entitled to take? That the entire purpose of the stop-the-clock policy was undermined? Yeah, a little. I actually wound up with far more resources at my new school (better salary, a grad assistant, healthy travel funds, summer teaching gigs in Hawaii, closer to family), and I still have a pretty active resarch agenda. So all in all, I'm actually pretty content with the way things turned out.

The "gratuitous swipe" was simply added to provide context about a complete lack of emphathy from someone who had no clue about how long it takes to bounce back from a regular pregnancy, let alone an emergency C-section and premature birth. Gee, does that sound at all familiar? Would you have more empathy for a male colleague who had to undergo major surgery because he hadn't made the *choice* to get pregnant in the first place?

Oddly enough, nen with wives are often far more sympathetic colleagues regarding maternity leave, because they have seen what it takes up close and personal.

15. 11242283 - February 12, 2010 at 02:08 pm

Sorry #14, you're right: single women without children are just heartless bitches. They don't have sisters, friends, mothers to whom any of what happened in your birth happened as well. Guess we're too busy feeding our multiple cats.

At my campus a faculty member treated like you were would either go to the union or threaten to sue. But it's much more fun to whine.

And actually yes, I have seen colleagues (both male and female) recovering from life-threatening illness criticized by colleagues for not getting over it quicker and getting back to work because taking up the slack for them was just too inconvenient.

16. strachan - February 12, 2010 at 03:42 pm


At this point in my career, I certainly would go the union. At that point in time, I didn't fully understand the legal resources at my disposal, and I was preoccupied caring for a premature baby. I was also afraid of repercussions given my untenured status. As it turns out, I'm glad I didn't because I'm happier in my current situation...certainly happier than I would be than if I had gained tenure through a law suit!

Further, I certainly do not construe my original comments as whining. My goal was to point out the difficulty of identifying and implementing HR policies to address an issue that many people in academia believe to be a serious problem -- especially when those policies are not implemented as intended, which is the case more often than people realize. Young female academics need to hear stories like mine so that they can make better decisions when they consider starting a family. I certainly would have appreciated knowing that stopping the clock was not a real option, or that negotiating maternity leave would be like maneuvering through a minefield.

You are the one who took one minor, descriptive phrase in my post and turned it into a personal attack on "women like you." If my chair had been a male without children, I would have noted that as well. Your own post included far more explicit judgments and stereotypes about women who choose to have children.

I don't think that women who choose not to have children are all heartless bitches. I have found them to be valuable colleagues and friends in other areas of my life/career. But, in my experience, male and female colleagues with children have life experiences that enable them to be far more understanding of just how debilitating a pregnancy can be.

Instaead of overreacting, why don't you just try to prove me wrong in your future commentaries and interractions with colleagues?

17. rambo - February 12, 2010 at 05:35 pm

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18. momfirst - February 12, 2010 at 06:06 pm

I have grappled with this issue for a decade and over the time of having two children. I do believe that life is full of choices. I do believe that there are difficulties with having and being the primary caregiver for children while succeeding in an academic career. It has been a road worth travelling, and I am a better and more balanced person for it.

It has been EXTREMELY difficult. The greatest difficulty I have experienced have been with accepting that I can't do or have it all, but I have found a (somewhat)contented spot. I do have periodic twinges of envy when I see my childless female colleagues work with a zeal and committed energy that I am unable to have at this point in life because I want that too. However, my children will not be little forever, and because of this I have decided to work at a slower pace.

Like one of commenter, tenure expectations changed for me half way through the tenure timeline, at the same point in time where I had my first child.

I made choices that I worked as best I could to my advantage. I carefully timed each birth to occur in the summer. I took partial leave (unpaid) for a semester (after each birth). Did I spend this time only focused on healing myself and bonding with my infants as many in the corporate world who take FML do? No. Instead I cared for my babies and became a writing machine. It was a means to an end result. Not optimal by anymeans but it allowed me, at an institution with a 4/4 teaching load, to find the time to meet the more stringent standards I unexpectedly faced while having a family. I found a way to "work" the system to meet my goal. Not optimal by any means but sufficient to gain both tenure and a family.

As a faculty member with young children, overwhelmingly, male colleagues have been very supportive of my place in life. Other than the vast shift I've had to make in my priorities, women colleagues have been the other great struggle. Some with children and some without. Those with children typically have been those who chose to hire a nanny or have a stay at home partner and work with the same rigor as prior to childbirth. They don't appear to respect that I've made choices that are right for me and my family.

I have decided (after MUCH painful reflection) that my kids come first and I will be content that I have "slow tracked" myself. My time will come again when my children are grown and independent. I hope we get to a point in time that we can act compassionately and courteously toward those who have priorities different than our own and find creative solutions to help all manage the struggles of tenure and productivity in academia in a balanced and healthy manner.

Finally, not every institution is unionized which does limit options and recourse when one feels they have not been treated in an equitale manner.

19. skaking - February 12, 2010 at 08:38 pm

There are an awful lot of assumptions in this piece, for example, the 1000+ hours of raising a small child automatically translate into a book and articles? Huh? A potential mother on the tenure tracks's potential easily could have been watching paint dry or picking her nose rather than being a prolific writer.

But that's a minor, unnecessarily snarky point. More broadly the argument that women on the tenure track need more time because their other clocks are ticking... Should the point of comparison be women in other nonacademic fields? Yes some outside of academe do get maternity leave, but many do not -- same like for inside of academe. These nonacademic females work til late in their pregnancies, and go back to work soon after childbirth. What to do with the wee one? Stick it in daycare like everyone else does. If you want to take a term or more off and bond with your child, well, do it. But, unlike the author's assertion, it is a choice. You choose to have kids at specific times in your life, and once born you choose how to care for it. It is pretty simple. In many ways having a kid as an academic is pretty sweet timewise. We have lots of unstructured time to do with as we please. Write, read, raise a kid. Your choice. Will spending a lot of time with an infant impact on your writing you need for tenure? Perhaps. Then sleep less and outsource child care. Figure it out. The author seems content to not take any responsibility and let others figure it out.

20. dr_mo - February 13, 2010 at 06:32 am

zagros got it wrong when he wrote "Although there is a definite biological disadvantage given to women (the actual pregnancy and birth), this biological disadvantage DOES NOT continue post-pregnancy." I breast fed my daughter until she was three years old, which is the recommendation of the WHO. I could not (tried for emergency situations, wasn't successful) and would not have pumped the milk as it is not the same experience for the child (but do applaud mothers who do). I had night feedings do to a blood sugar problem until she was almost 2 1/2. This took a considerable amount of energy and time and produced a very close mother/child bond which I believe has contributed positively to the physical, emotional and mental health of my daughter (which ultimately benefits society at large). Your failure to recognize the special nature of motherhood is part of the problem, and it is biological and not social. The close bond that childbearing, childbirth, and breastfeeding bring to the mother/child relationship often means that it is "mommy" who children call when they awake in the middle night with a fever or who they want by their side when they are home sick. While we applaud intimate fathering, the biological componenent to motherhood continues long after a child is born for large numbers of mothers and their children (even when daddy is home for a large portion of the caregiving). Academia generally holds silent contempt toward this relationship.

21. jffoster - February 13, 2010 at 08:08 am

Isn't "the WHO" a rock group?

The question, "dr_mo" (20) is WHO is to pay the cost of your prolonged nursing and fine bonding?

22. cleverclogs - February 13, 2010 at 09:36 am

@ tolerantly #6 - Let's pass over your use of "normal" - lots of things are social or even biological norms that we would not applaud.

You write: "To say to women, 'Sure, be an academic, but you'll have to give up a major part of adult life that's normal for women to partake in,' is unreasonable. I suspect that if you changed the formula to insist that men entering academia be celibates, you'd see how unreasonable your suggestion is."

First, "celibate" means not engaging in sex. I'm not suggesting that anyone abstain from sex. I'm suggesting they take responsibility for their procreative choices, as many others here have also said. We have the technology to avoid pregnancy. It is not the inevitable result of having sex. Hence, celibacy arguments do not apply.

Second, I suspect if you were to apply your formula to your undergraduate and grad students, you would see how unreasonable it is. If a student does not do the work in a course, how can she expect to get a good grade? Now maybe the student has a good reason (she's a mother of two, as many of mine are, or is struggling with depression, as an even larger number of mine do) and simply cannot get the work done right now but might be able to do so in a year. We might want to make allowances for the student, but we cheapen the course and that student's education, as well as that of her peers, to do so. If you get the good grade without having done the work at the specified time, then what does it mean for those who actually do the work? It means their suckers. It means all the times they would have preferred to go home and be with family, but stayed behind and did the work, were a complete waste of time, and that is unfair.

That is why I would advocate for looking at the standards and adjusting them to be more truly egalitarian, for example, undoing the bizarre stigma against being on the job market for more than 3 years or taking a year out to do something else.

23. scientistmom - February 13, 2010 at 11:28 am

I am surprised that these articles never touch on the biological issues that can impact your career. When I got pregnant for the first time, I was stunned at the crippling exhaustion. I know not every mother gets this; I was spared morning/evening sickness. But my grand plan of getting a bunch done before the birth went out the window in the first trimester when I was falling asleep on my office floor every afternoon.

But almost every mom I have talked to comments on "baby-brain". Who knew that my brain would cease to function correctly when I got pregnant? That was not in "What to Expect". My ability to realy read articles, synthesize arguments, think clearly, remember to complete task, all evaporated.

So after the birth, with the sleep deprivation, the ongoing baby-brain issue, and other concerns, I am STILL not back to my pre-baby days when I was thinking more clearly and producing more regularly.

Honestly, child-care is reasonably simple. You pay for it, but it can be had. What my CV is still struggling to recover from is my inability to get "back into the groove".

When my students ask me about having children I tell them there is no good time, they need to have a partner willing to give more than 50% at times, they need flexibility and commitment, and they need to be aware of the impact it will have on their wallet and their ability to think clearly. Then we smile over pictures of my kids and I tell them it was worth it, and it was, but my career has certainly suffered.

24. keystonegal - February 13, 2010 at 11:40 am

There is no doubt being a caregiving female takes its tool on academic success in ways that male caregivers tend to not see, and yes, it goes beyond the children and into the other family issues.

Part of this is the system, but much more of it has to do with the individual players within a department. I stayed home (by choice) with my children and opted for a non-research position that provided flexibility to be a mom and a professor. That was my choice, and it it working for me (on most days).

However, as I understand the challenges of having newborns and small children, I have been actively supportive of females who are new mothers, actively helping them with research while they are on leave, sharing symposium presentations or co-authoring grants. However, after I did this for a woman who had three children ... and was in trouble for her tenure bid had it not been for activities she co-authored or chaired with me (where I did 70 plus percent of the work consistently) ... then another women in our department took maternity leave, and in the yearly review, the woman with three children bashed the woman on leave in a way that puts the new mother at real jeopordy for tenure.

Women are as much of the problem in this equation ... Do the men in my department understand the challenges of staying on a tenure track with an infant? Of course not, but this woman did ... and instead of lending a hand, she just about buried this new mother.

If women started being nice to other women ... there could be a rapid improvement to this unfair situation.

Woman need to fix this situation (department by department, school by school) and not await a bunch of men to do it for us!

25. dr_mo - February 13, 2010 at 02:26 pm

The World Health Organization, aka the WHO, (I take it you are still young and not yet of childbearing years or don't read a lot) recommends 2-4 years of mother's milk. But of course that doesn't mean a woman can't use her breasts and work too, we do seemt to have a talent for that. Most of Corporate America gives women six to eight paid weeks of maternity leave, VERY few universities do. Why do universities feel they are exempt from this obligation to their female employees, their children and society? Corporations also don't, in fact CANNOT, force women to take UNPAID time off -- if a woman's baby is due in October or March she is pressured either to come back to work within a week (which MOST of my friends did and shame on them!) OR to take the entire semester off UNPAID. This is illegal, but done all the time to female faculty. And THEN they penalize the women for actually having taken the time off. It's not rocket science to figure out how to make up the course work later or beforehand and since so many universities actually have rocket scientists on their staff why are they 35 years behind corporate America in solving the dilemma??? Universities all over the country offer three or four week sessions (usually between semesters or in the summer), why can't this be offered to a professor who will give birth before the 14 week semester is done? Why not? Answer: Total lack of will. Women are left to fend for themselves and two women in the same department are often given completely different options -- again ILLEGAL. But we are still stuck with whiners and skeptics who resist and want to continue with an illegal culture and system that punishes academic women who give birth.

26. perpetual_student - February 13, 2010 at 03:44 pm

As wonderful a job as being a professor is, it is a job. The career path conflicts as much as possible with parenthood in general and motherhood in particular. Most people work to live, and this is a good thing. There's no reason to have only one path to this job.

27. jffoster - February 13, 2010 at 04:15 pm

Dr_mo opens 25 with this: "The World Health Organization, aka the WHO, (I take it you are still young and not yet of childbearing years or don't read a lot) recommends 2-4 years of mother's milk."

Indeed, the World Health Organization. Not a government or government agency, and it's a recommendation. And I take it you are too young to remember the 80s, or didnt watch the Super Bowl last week, or perhaps have become so sngrie it has affected your sense of humor. Wasnt a very good joke anyway, though.

I can't speak for "most", "very few", "often", &c for universities but I have just checked my own and its maternity, sick, and family leave provisions as given in the Bargaining Agreement between the University, a State University in Ohio, and the AAUP. It provides for up to ten weeks maternity sick leave, with a possibility of extension for medical reasons, and a possibility of unpaid leave for child rearing with continuing benefits for up to a year. If leave is ten weeks or longer, the tenure clock can be stopped for a year (except if it is very close to or during the up or out year). Ive just given a summary of a complex contract where several articles are pertinent -- it is the contract that has the force of law, not my summary.
Now, I don't know whether Dr_mo you would ragard any of this as "ILLEGAL" [caps yours] -- but it is a collective bargaining agreement and Id betcha they ran it though the University's General Counsel, the AAUP's counsel, and probably the State Attorney-General.

28. offline - February 13, 2010 at 07:17 pm

An argument based on fairness and equity isn't going to fly in this era. After all, these are the same universities that pay the "2nd tier" an hourly wage lower than that of the janitorial staff, with no health care or job security, let alone maternity leave. Start thinking about justice for adjuncts and I might listen to an argument like this from "first tier" women.

When I was a graduate student, we decided to lobby the administration for better teaching pay. We met with top administrators, and I was quite struck by the way they didn't care about social justice, fairness, decency even. They were open about it. They didn't care how poor we were.

On the other hand, when faculty in my department made the case that they weren't getting their composition teaching needs met because the students could get better pay/hour doing other jobs, the administration listened, and, after it was proved, they increased our pay.

A similar case could be made by and for "first tier" women who want to have children. They could say, in effect: you hired us because we demonstrated the potential to produce work of value to this department. We've demonstrated that we will produce it, but, because we're having children, we will be somewhat slower than our male colleagues. Give us the extra time, perhaps a year for each child?, and the investment will pay off. Make us keep to the same clock and all the resources the university has put into us so far will be wasted.

29. vcascadden - February 13, 2010 at 07:30 pm

And at the other end of the life spectrum -- what about us "second-tier" adjuncts who end up with the responsibility of caring for an elderly parent? Both the care of the children and the elderly call for difficult choices and prioritizing. Life marches on in the classroom despite our family emergencies, and it's those who can juggle everyone who get and keep the job.

30. wej1955 - February 13, 2010 at 07:31 pm

I've seen it from the father's side. My wife got her PhD and tenure line before me. I had flexibility as a doctoral student and post doc to help with the kids. The first problem was trying to get tenure track lines or equivalent career moves in the same place or area. Not so easy, very few can do. So I ended up being one who could be more flexible for child pick up and career time. Doesn't get easier when they get to school Then it becomes who will help at school etc. We've been lucky sometimes to get students who can help with sitting and pick up. Our society is still skewed toward women doing the societal things. If you are not a Dad who is working toward the next book chapter, then soemthing is wrong with you or your wife. Childless couples have no idea about the time and emotional comittment. Unstructured yes but you have to do it at home when the kids are calling. Still we've made it work with maybe a few hundred less publications and grants but happy kids are more fulfilling.

31. liahn99 - February 13, 2010 at 11:44 pm

What about the highly successful academic male who did get tenure at the expense of his marriage and kids? Who then suffers in the end? I guess the whole family suffers then. Male or female, mother or father, I think we all face difficult choices in life when we bring children into this world. Because then, the roles of both parents are equally important to the child. The successful academic male may have his career, but suffer in his marriage and family life. The woman suffers in her career at the expense of raising her children. But what is parenthood even for the best-educated men and women in the world? It is about giving of yourself. You cannot omit sacrifice from parenthood -- and it is demanded from both parents at the expense of self.

32. janewales - February 13, 2010 at 11:52 pm

Does the effect that the author describes appear in other countries with more generous maternity leave? I had my children in Canada. For no. 1, leave was 4 months, mandated and partially paid for by the federal government, and topped up by the university to 95% salary. For the second it had gone up to 6 months on the same terms, and these days, it's a full year, and can be split between mothers and fathers; there are pretty generous adoption leave policies too. The tenure clock stops when one takes leave (whether one is male or female). So in my department at my R1, most people have children, and many have them pre-tenure.

33. dr_mo - February 14, 2010 at 05:12 am

jffoster And at one of the largest universities in Illinois, we had only the option of up to 12 weeks unpaid (which is mandated by the federal government). But more to the point :we are telling you that we don't have these benefits and even where they exist women are pressured not to take them or penalized when they do, why must we waste time trying to convince you of this? That's great that women have these benefits at your institution. Why isn't this standard? (BTW Most schools are not unionized.) This is part of the problem, men protesting about something they are ill-informed on, cynical, skeptical, or dismissive of. And, as pointed above, the women with the "it sucked for me, why should I help to make it better for other women" mentality (which is endemic to academic culture in general from dissertation, to tenure process etc). Why don't you try to be part of the solution and speak up for the standardization of maternaity leave policies across academia instead of being part of the problem?

34. dr_mo - February 14, 2010 at 05:22 am

offline wrote, "Start thinking about justice for adjuncts and I might listen to an argument like this from "first tier" women." So you want to be part of the "as long as it sucks/ed for me, I won't help you" mentality? This is where it all starts. The sexism faced by what you call "first tier" women trickles down the whole institution. That's why some 75% of adjuncts are women, they are seen as an exploitable resource who is notorious for not bonding together to fight for rights. Of course it is frustrating to have a pioneering feminist become Dean and have her become Thatcher and treat "second tier" like servants. But it is better to call her on it and demand she practice what she preaches (ie. in her scholarship). I'm totally with you on the exploitation of graduate students and adjuncts, but the problems will only be solved by dialogue and not drawing a line between the women. At most colleges the "first tier" women do not have it as good as you imagine.

35. dr_mo - February 14, 2010 at 05:40 am

janewales, Yes, American law only guarantees up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave for new parents (and there are many exceptions). Cries of socialism or communism or hitler or whatever would probably follow if we were to propose paid leave for American women. Perhaps you could share with us what happens when a female faculty member is due DURING a semester? Is she given primarily research and service duty until ie. she delivers in February? This is where the mental stumbling block occurs here in the US, thus forcing so many women to work right up to and immediately after the birth or choosing half of the year without a salary (which many cannot afford).

36. offline - February 14, 2010 at 09:23 am

Dr_mo, I agree with you about solidarity. My point was that the author doesn't seem to express any in her essay, which angered me. I agree strongly that women deserve ample maternity leave. But the author was the one who used the expression "second tier," and when she wrote, "In other words, women who want to put in a "second shift" at home in perpetuity probably belong in the second tier," she seemed to me to be saying, not, "let's all stick together," but rather, "I don't deserve to fall in that hellhole. I care about my research."

The real question is what can be done? Maternity leave for the tenure tracked at elite universities isn't going to have the slightest effect on the rest of us, though it may save some women from losing tenure track jobs. How to change the political climate of universities and the country as a whole? That's the question.

37. janewales - February 14, 2010 at 11:26 am

In response to dr_mo: when a woman is due mid-semester, she usually doesn't teach that semester. So, a woman due in February, who takes the full 12 months, technically starts her leave in February (because leave starts officially in the month one delivers). However, she would already have stopped teaching. So yes, leave from the teaching part of the job can extend beyond the period of leave, but one would be on full salary again once the official leave had ended.

It's important that leave is federal law. That means that there is no pressure on women to forego their leaves (that's illegal)-- though the top-up provisions differ from institution to institution (the federal government's contribution to leave salary tops out at a figure less than most professional woman make; my own university tops up to 95% of salary, but only for 6 months. After that, the next 6 months are at the lower, government-funded rate only).

It's hard for me to understand how one could not make reasonable provisions for maternity and parental leave. Note the parental part-- partners can split the leave, so men can also stay home for some of the time. My male colleagues have certainly also taken advantage of this provision.

38. jffoster - February 14, 2010 at 01:04 pm

Dr_mo in 33 closes her verbal tantrum with "Why don't you try to be part of the solution and speak up for the standardization of maternaity leave policies across academia instead of being part of the problem?"

Because I don't believe in it. I don't believe it should necessarily be standardized in every college or university, public or private, across the length and breadth of the realm.

39. dr_mo - February 14, 2010 at 03:57 pm

janewales, what you suggest simply makes too much sense and drives all these people into a frenzy.

40. dr_mo - February 14, 2010 at 04:00 pm

jffoster Now you are just being disingenuous; beforehand you thought everybody had the same policy as your generous union-bargained university agreement, now you play semantics and goading. So I waste no more time with you.

41. jffoster - February 14, 2010 at 06:55 pm

Dr_mo,, now you are being for the moment an illiterate idiot; your're obviously not one generally, though you seem so angrie it may be clouding your comprehension. I specifically said in 27 that "I can't speak for "most", "very few", "often", &c for universities but I have just checked my own ....".

42. maja_mikkels - February 15, 2010 at 12:40 am

The elephant in the room? Why do these mothers shoulder the majority of child-caring obligations?

The first thing a woman who wants to be successful academically has to get is equal support from the father for household, "social work" and children. I think it's unethical to ask other people for support when you are not asking your husband first.

Second, you need to buy support if necessary, for cleaning, childcare, dog grooming, and/ or gardening.

Third, you need to build up a strong system of parents who support each other, for example: swapping children, driving, sharing responsibilities.

Fourth, you need to cut back your expectations. Your house will be messy, or your children will not play multiple instruments, speak French and fence in their leisure time, after NOT having been nursed exclusively for three years!!, or maybe you can't quite host the parties you like to throw, or you eat fast food three times a week, there will be no delightful home-made Easter cards either, and your clothes are of the kind that needs no ironing, and your make-up is basic.

Fifth, you need to be very strategic with your time. Writing is your priority, teaching no. 2. Being on the parking committee, sponsoring a second student club, throwing baby-showers for your students, these things have to wait a few years until your kids are grown-up.

Sixth, you must never forget that many of your colleagues have the same or other issues, for example health problems, other types of care responsibilities (and a demented mother might cost as much nerve and time as a two-year old!), financial woes, substance dependencies, relationship trouble.

I'm a tenured professor with 3 children, and my husband is a big part of that success. As I see it, there is really only very little that a mother MUST do for her children, most of it can be done by fathers, grandparents, and hired sitters as well. As long as you MAKE yourself exclusive care-givers, you can't expect things to change.

43. mccaugheym - February 15, 2010 at 11:59 am

Of course having kids is, for both men and women, a routine part of life--not an unusual event that should require someone to sacrifice a tenure-line job. And if universities value the contributions of female faculty as much as those of male faculty, they have got to take seriously the need to accommodate faculty who are parents. Best practices will benefit faculty who are female OR male. Best practices include, in my view, a semester off with full pay for the primary caretaker of an infant just born or of a recently adopted child--with the option to stop the tenure clock at no penalty for that same semester. Such a best practice could also benefit those who've written here who had to contend with their own or a partner or parent's serious illness. Let's call the policy "family and medical leave." In some academic departments, the duties of a faculty member who is affected by a birth or illness are covered by the other faculty members in the unit. In other cases, a higher office (such as Academic Affairs) covers the cost of replacing the faculty member for that semester.

44. sorblasfemia - February 15, 2010 at 09:39 pm

Raising children is a social good --not a lifestyle choice. It is in all of our interests to raise children well and to support those people who do the bulk of that work.

45. jffoster - February 16, 2010 at 07:52 am

44, how does your comment convert to practical action or inaction. Decodomg to nurse an infant for THREE YEARS in this culture is definitely a life-style choice. Who is to pay the cost of that kind of decision? I contend the public and the employer should not. The person who made such a decision, goofy, or rather goofie unless for particular medical reasons, ought to have to pay the cost.

Platitudes rarely accomplish anything.

46. sorblasfemia - February 16, 2010 at 10:59 am

This is where you, jjfoster, are mistaken. While I agree with the author that biological mothers are pretty wiped out for the year of pregnancy and birth, the first 3 years of a child's life are incredibly labor intensive and exhausting for parents, regardless of whether the parent relies on breastmilk or fast food. The author's suggestion that the likely resulting gap in research productivity be taken to account and that, much like an ABD who is hired on "promise," the university invest in the scholarly promise of mother/scholars.

47. offthemarket - February 16, 2010 at 12:05 pm

Dr. Kittelstrom, the sexism in this article is overwhelming. This is the first article I've ever commented on, but I feel like I must because it infuriates me so much.

Has it occurred to you that for some academics, the father spends an equal -- or perhaps greater -- time parenting than the mother? Just because your spouse doesn't carry his weight, doesn't mean that you should get special treatment.

You can claim that academic mothers are different than academic fathers. But you can't make it so. It is just is in your family. Perhaps you picked the wrong guy.

48. jffoster - February 16, 2010 at 12:38 pm

Well, 44 and 46, first, I was talking about prolonged nursing, which "Dr_mo" had introduced. You've expanded the topic.
Second, make up your mind whether your talking about "parents" or "mothers". Or,
Third, do you really think that colleges and universities are going to stop the P&T clock for three years?

49. sorblasfemia - February 16, 2010 at 02:53 pm

I am conceeding the author's point that actually giving birth and nursing matters; however, I wold argue that the initial years of parenting (regardless of adoptive vs. bilogical, "mother" vs. "father")are grueling. What is "sexist" is the refusal of many to recognize the demographic data that demonstrates that a particular group of people, women who mother, by and large assume the cost of that labor. My argument is that social reproduction is a social good whose "cost" should be distributed as equitably as possible. It does seem to be the case that in "our culture" this is no longer an agreed value, which is why U.S.voters overwhelmingly refuse to support public education at any level.

50. sorblasfemia - February 16, 2010 at 03:31 pm

Here's a concrete dimmension of the problem. In my own case and others I know of at research universities, "gaps" in the cvs of tenure candidates are not explained. That is if the tenure clock is stopped for a year --or several in the case of one woman I know who had to take mutiple medical leaves because of numberous miscarriages-- this is not stated in the letter to external reviewers and thus comments about amount of production in relation to the number of years since the diss are permissible. Hence, family leave becomes a dirty secret that sets the candidate up for, in the case of the woman above who was denied tenure on these grounds, damning criticism.

51. timebandit - February 16, 2010 at 04:50 pm

This is such a depressing debate. On the one hand, I think greater flexibility to help with family and medical needs would be a good idea, for all employees. On the other hand, being a research professor is a demanding career, and I am concerned that some women are being a bit unrealistic about being able to "have it all." I watched my mother struggle with time balance as a primary school teacher, with my father putting in a lot of time watching us kids, so I am not personally under any illusion that one can be both a time-intensive mother and a good academic. Do we hear female executives complaining about not being able to have kids? What about consultants? What about medical doctors? Lawyers? Well, yes. The big difference I can see is that many of those professional women could be earning considerably more than academics, so can hire more help, but professional women of all categories have these problems. Of course I don't need my university/department to make hard tradeoffs even harder, but duh, there are always going to be tradeoffs with kids and careers.

52. dcbetty - February 17, 2010 at 12:41 pm

Nusing at 3 years usually means nursing maybe once a day or less, and for only about 1-10 minutes. It's basically for the comfort of the child -- which should not be underestimated, since a toddler about to lose it often quiets almost instantly when they can nurse even for a minute or two. It helps the kid center themselves and relax. The child gets 98% of its food the grownup way by then.

So please keep in mind that nursing a 3-year-old is NOTHING like nursing a newborn. My son weaned himself at 3.5 years, and by then he was nursing maybe once a week or less, and that for about 30 seconds, just if he fell down or something, or if I'd been away from him the whole day. We both pretty much forgot about it at the same time.

53. 11194062 - February 18, 2010 at 09:23 am

The hatred for academic mothers on display in many of these comments really speaks for itself. (And hey, don't hate me--I'm not an academic mother!)

The United States needs universal parental leave, like the kind that civilized countries have. The tenure clock should stop during that time. Problem pretty much solved.

54. kacyl - February 19, 2010 at 09:12 am

You want another kid so your toddler can have a sibling. Um... WHAT?

Not because every fiber of your being craves the experience of nurturing the unique needs of a new, helpless human being, not because you have so much love to give that your cup runneth over or you just don't feel complete until you can share your life with this new precious being.

No, apparently you want a playmate for your current kid (I'm assuming there was an academic study that it's beneficial to the firstborn, somehow?) so you're planning to haphazardly cram 2 decades of its future needs into your already crammed life. Honey, either you missed a day in math class or you're just plain too stupid to be in academia.

Putting aside the all too prevelant assumption that kids don't really need a full time parent, what happens if it's a special needs kid? What choice will you made between work and your children then? It's quite obvious your career is your main focus so just what makes you think you can "have it all"?? The arrogance! That you would blatantly risk neglecting your children's needs while juggling the obligations of your career, knowing you're going to have both a toddler and an infant in your home for the next couple years but also, as they grow, the myriad of other special needs they'll very likely have - everything from asthma to addiction will demand much more attention than someone with your schedule (and priorities) has.

If you don't truly want, with every fiber of your being, to devote your life to being a good mother, it's unbelievably selfish to consider having TWO kids AND a career in academia.

55. sorblasfemia - February 19, 2010 at 04:10 pm

Men do it all the time.

I have four young children (2 with "special needs"), 3 books (plus 2 on the way), and a tenured position at a major research university. Have it all? No. I do not have an adult social life, hobbies, much time for fitness, no vacations, no novels or TV or most other non-child related recreation. That's fine. I'm willing to make _those_ compromises. I do not have or want "it all." Due to a great partner, determination, hard work, and a lot of good fortune I have an incredible family and a rewarding career. I defy anyone to tell me I can't or shouldn't and I will fight for the RIGHT of other women to do so as well.

56. natasha_chart - February 20, 2010 at 05:30 pm

I'm a little surprised to read so many comments to the effect of, 'well, just suck it up and sleep less.' I understand that this is common in many high-pressure filds, especially academia, but it's simply terrible health advice.

Cutting sleep down from the recommended 7 hours to 5 hours or less per night doubles the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and increases the risk of death from all causes 1.7-fold. Might as well tell people to suck it up and start smoking.

And while I agree with the author of the article that women can be proven to bear the brunt of the fact that paid employers are considered to have the right to demand such exorbitant amounts of people's time, everyone suffers from it. I don't just mean people with low incomes, adult-care responsibilities, illnesses, or other unfortunate life situations. I also mean healthy single people with no particular responsibilities.

Anyone in a position to say, 'I can't have a life,' is harmed. It's important to have time to devote to being a good citizen, to making friends, to spending time with relatives, to getting out to stretch your legs now and again, to dither occasionally at the grocery store, to dating if applicable, to going to the movies or engaging in pointless and silly entertainment.

Having a life, like having a family, isn't an afterthought. It isn't something an employer should be able to demand anyone give up for many, many years at a time for the chance at a living wage or intellectually stimulating work.

Not just in academia, but all throughout society, we think in completely backwards ways about life priorities and I'd blame that pretty directly for the complete lack of empathy so many of the commentors here demonstrate.

57. rambling - February 21, 2010 at 02:31 am

I think the discussion got derailed somehow.

My reading of the article was not condescending toward the "second shift", the author had been on that shift for three years or more, and she did not approve of its existence. She was saying that some people make the choice to stay on a slower track, but many are forced to take it. She seemed to me to be defending the right of those who did not want to be on that track forever.

But even if I misunderstood that part, I feel very certain that she was not talking about childrearing but childbearing. Which is different from taking kids to playdates and it does only hit the woman. The parenting issues and duties, sure, those cost a ton of time, too, and mothers will benefit from having a good and supportive partner, or extended family support, or paid help. However the mommy-brain, the incredible exhaustion at the beginning of pregnancy, and the birthing event can and do take a toll, one that is only reflected in the mother.

Like some others who commented above, my pregnancy was "uneventful", my delivery went "easily and smoothly" and my baby was healthy. Nonetheless it still took me about three months after my baby's arrival to be capable of doing real intellectual work. And counting the three months at the beginning of the pregnancy, I lost at least six months of real productive time. (Luckily the remaining six months of the pregnancy, I felt a lot more normal, and could work productively). The brain-fog eventually clears, and then the issues of time management and splitting duties among partners remain, but as all others commente,d these can be negotiated among partners or paid care can be brought in for support or extended family may be asked to chip in or whatever. But the physical costs of pregnancy and birth, those are only for the woman to bear.

I think that this is a good issue to raise: that these issues do really affect the woman and ONLY the woman.

I also want to thank sorblasfemia for saying that having children is not a lifestyle choice, but it is a social good. Whenever I hear others say that having children is a choice, I cringe a little. Even though I feel that kacyl is being a bit too pointed in her remarks, and I do not agree with her conclusions, I do feel that someone had to mention how one can feel every fiber of one's being crave to nurture the unique needs of a new, helpless human being, or how one can have so much love to give that one's cup runneth over or how one just does not feel complete until one can share one's life with this new precious being. These may all be in one's head, but hey, they are very real for some of us, and they do not heed "choice" arguments.

OK, now that my urge to correct the people on the internet who are wrong (http://xkcd.com/386/) is relieved, I should get back to work. A mother's work is never done :)

58. jffoster - February 23, 2010 at 07:36 am

It may or may not be a "social good". It is nonetheless a choice.

59. knmys - February 23, 2010 at 07:27 pm

rambling said: "But the physical costs of pregnancy and birth, those are only for the woman to bear."

Well, that's a simple fix. Just like you can hire daycare services to help with the management of children post-birth, you can hire surrogates that carry fertilized egg and produce a (your) healthy baby FOR you, or adopt a newborn! There you go! Six months of your scholarly life will not have to be wasted on barfing over a toilet and eating pickles and ice cream, and you can still reproduce and/or raise children for society's good (...barf).

What's that? You want to *experience* child birth for yourself, rather than use a surrogate and/or adopt? Because it's a natural process and only women can experience it, you say? Well in that case, that sounds a lot like a choice to me...

60. ajro3894 - February 24, 2010 at 01:07 am

This is an outrageous piece of propagandistic bullshit, written by a person who obviously cannot imagine herself at any place but a top R-1. Yes, you give up some things by being a parent. It's a choice. I have two small children, finished my dissertation in a timely manner, have three publications and two tenure-track offers this year. No, they're not at Yale, Harvard or Berkeley. But if getting one of those jobs meant giving up having kids, it wasn't worth it (at least for me). Having kids, however, DOES NOT mean giving up an academic career, unless you have a completely limited idea of what that means.

61. fener1907 - February 24, 2010 at 02:04 am

I think the author is saying that women are often forced to choose between being a mother and having a highly-successful career in academe. Some end up in R-1 schools, more end up in 2 tier, many more end up as adjuncts. (I think we can all agree that the plight of the adjunct is critical. It is, more or less, an academic migrant worker position. Janitors have better job security.) Men are not as often forced to choose between being a highly-successful academic and being a parent. This seems unfair.

This is not unusual for women in America. It is pretty much par for the course. But don't we expect more from academe?

Don't we want women in academe to have children and successful careers? Shouldn't we try to find ways to make this easier?

I suppose not, from reading the comments. The unbelievable vitriol against having a child and being a female academic is overwhelming. Is it any wonder that women with children feel defensive?

When I read comments like knmys (above), I wonder if it isn't best if most academics don't procreate. May you live the life of a "true" academic: give birth to books that 25 people, all in your own field, will read; live your life in a library covered with dust; and scream from your ivory tower at the degenerate souls having families and living and loving they way they feel fit. Become the Causabon you deserve to be.

62. knmys - February 24, 2010 at 09:31 am

The key point that fener1907 seems to be missing is that having a child and pursing an R1 TT career is just one combination of career/life choices that women get to CHOOSE. Just as there was an article earlier informing prospective Humanities PhD students that the job outlook is horrible, this article should serve as a warning to women who expect to get a PhD, get into an R1 TT career track, have kids after a year or two and expect to breeze through tenure. Doesn't work like that, know that going into the game, make the tough decisions (i.e., CHOICES) that you need to make.

As far as the author of the article is concerned, she should have used her FOUR YEARS ON THE JOB MARKET to be a little more productive and get some research ready for publication when she landed the TT job. That would have given her 11 years of productivity, more than compensating for her ~1800 hours lost to pregnancy. And if she's just now, almost seven years into it, getting a break from teaching, it sounds like she isn't at a school that has a huge research focus anyway.

63. fener1907 - February 24, 2010 at 12:47 pm

I think the point the author is trying to make, knmys, is that female academics SHOULDN'T be asked to choose between being a mother and being a successful academic. (Adjuncting, in my opinion, does not truly count as working as a successful academic.)

We already know that women are asked to make choices when they have families. But perhaps we should try to imagine a better world where this choice isn't necessary for women.

64. knmys - February 24, 2010 at 03:43 pm

I disagree with your interpretation of the main point of the article, fener1907.

To quote the end of the article: "But for every successful academic mother, there are a good dozen hidden women who have either sacrificed their family plans for their careers or sacrificed their careers for their children. Choicelessly."

While this might be nit-picking, the wording the author used is making the statement that it is NOT a choice for women, that it is somehow out of their control to successfully do both. That statement is absolutely incorrect. It IS a choice. It is actually a number of choices: How many kids to have? When exactly to have them? Accept a TT position at an R1, or at another type of school with an 'easier' tenure requirement?

Were this not a choice, then women who get pregnant would be immediately fired from TT positions, or immediately shunted to a career adjunct positions. Instead, women not only can choose to pursue motherhood while in a TT position, and can (generally) choose what type of school to attempt this at, but they also have control over the OUTCOME of their choice. If they want to get tenure at a R1 TT university, they'll stay up even later hours, coauthor even more, and work even more weekends, etc. than those women who choose not to have children, in order to be able to both raise a family and achieve tenure. That's the breaks, and that's how it is under much of the current (and foreseeable future) tenure system.

Whether this choice SHOULD ultimately influence how they are judged for tenure by the university is a separate matter. I personally DO feel that women should be given some leeway when pursuing a family while in a TT position. This would be in the form of extending the tenure clock by the amount of time the woman was out (and by that, I mean completely OUT) on maternity leave. This would not, as the author seems to argue, take the form of giving credit for X books and X articles based on the number of baby-birthing-hours that a woman racks up prior to the decision.

[On a side note, the author's productivity math doesn't help her case. If it takes 2 books to get tenure (according to the author), and someone can easily write 1 book chapter AND a conference paper every 3 months (again, according to the author), then even subtracting an entire YEAR of productivity for 'family duties', from the standard 6 years you have to get stuff ready for a tenure decision in the 7th year, leaves 5 years of productivity. That's equivalent, according to the author, to 20 book chapters and 20 conference papers (at a minimum?) that should be produced by such an individual. This is also assuming that the mother/professor does absolutely no work during that 1 year of baby-time, and that work completed in the final 7th year has no bearing on the tenure decision. I would think 10 chapters is enough for a decent book, so that's 2 books and 20 conference papers produced by tenure time. If even half of the conference papers ended up being published, I would think that's a pretty good chance at tenure. To look at it another way, an entire year off should result in 4 book chapters and 4 conference papers less. If you don't get tenure because of that difference, you probably didn't have a good chance going into it.]

While it might be great to 'imagine' a world where making such choices isn't necessary, or where the choice would not ultimately influence the ability to achieve tenure under a normal schedule, it doesn't get around the fact that it is still a choice that is undertaken by intelligent people who can figure out their realistic chances of achieving their goals under such a system. Further, women still have a lot of control over what OUTCOME of their choice ends up being. Conversely, having a child or two while in a TT position, and then later whining about how the rules should be changed for people in their (chosen) position, doesn't speak to either the foresight of the people entering into such a position in the first place, or their time-management ability.

65. fener1907 - February 24, 2010 at 04:18 pm

It sounds like you agree that the system in place makes it difficult for female academics to excel when caring for their family, and that women deserve some leeway for negotiating these two demands on their time. It also sounds like you agree that the system might benefit from some sort of change to aid these women (albeit not in the way the author suggested, which I agree is ludicrous). I agree that extending the time clock is a good idea.

Yet you say: "having a child or two while in a TT position, and then later whining about how the rules should be changed for people in their (chosen) position, doesn't speak to either the foresight of the people entering into such a position in the first place, or their time-management ability." Do all people who ask for change qualify as whiners? Or just women who are looking for a more equitable system to assess tenure requests? One wonders.

I suppose one could enlarge this to all the people who fought for the women's movement in the first place, the civil right movement, the gay rights movement -- are they all whiners?

Inequity is a problem. It doesn't matter if it's 'unrealistic' to believe it will change. There still need to be people out there trying to make equality a reality.

66. knmys - February 24, 2010 at 05:29 pm

In terms of the label "whiners," for me, it comes down to tone and trying to provide useful alternatives instead of asinine ideas and/or simply yelling about how the system is 'broken'.

To me, the author comes off as whiny and demanding, especially considering she apparently will make tenure just fine under the 'broken' system. The idea that women should be given credit (i.e., 1 child = 1 book, etc.) towards tenure for the time they chose to take off to have a child is asinine (compared to the more reasonable suggestion that they should be given extra TIME towards the tenure clock). The author further 'whines' about the lack of help from male partners, and implies that this represents all of society rather than just her experience (as previous comments by others have noted).

Finally, the comparison between women being granted extra time for tenure to have children is orders of magnitude different from issues like women's sufferage, gay rights, etc. Those larger agendas are (largely) based on fighting for EQUAL rights (women voting just like men, women's wages being equal to men, women expecting equal child-rearing support from male partners, gay partners having the same right to marry each other as non-gay partners, etc.). This is different from the current issue, which is whether special accommodations should be given in extremely narrow circumstances to a single group who self-selected themselves (i.e., providing DIFFERENT rules for tenure for women who have children vs. everyone else). Having children is a choice women have and can make freely, just as is pursing a TT position. Being something at birth (being a woman, being a certain race/ethnicity, being gay*) is not a choice.

Yes, inequality/inequity is a problem. Special accommodations do not necessarily equal equity.

*Whether being gay is a trait or a choice is outside the scope of this comment/debate. For this comment, the H0 is that it's not a choice.

67. fener1907 - February 24, 2010 at 08:33 pm

Wow, the 'you're not asking for equal rights, you're asking for special rights' tack. I've heard that somewhere before, right? I'm trying to remember where...

68. knmys - February 24, 2010 at 10:15 pm

Try and 'recall' a similarity all you want. It doesn't change the fact that there is a real and major difference between providing equal opportunities and rights to groups of people, and accommodating the life choices that people fully and willingly choose. I'm actually a little shocked that you don't seem to understand how women's sufferage, civil rights, etc. is completely different from accommodating women who choose to have kids and pursue TT careers. Until you (and others) figure that out, all the righteous indignation in the world won't change the current tenure system.

69. fener1907 - February 24, 2010 at 11:00 pm

The problem is not that my thinking is off. The problem is that I disagree with you.

Yes, it is a choice for women to have children. On this, we agree. But I do not believe that women should be forced to choose between highly successful academic careers and motherhood. I belive there needs to be ways to make this easier on women in academe.

The reason I bring up the women's right movement is that being able to have a career and be a mother is a struggle women have faced for many years. And your arguments for not helping women in academe sound to me like words I have heard before: make a "choice," "that's the breaks," if you can't put in "more hours than women who chose not to have to kids" then you're not cut out for this, and any conversation about changing the system qualifies as "whining." These were the same things said to women in the 1950's, when they wanted to enter the workforce. So, yes, for me, this recalls the women's movement.

But I agree the current tenure system won't change -- not until all of us believe that we need to find ways to make the system better for women with children. Or, at the very least, until academics like you resist the urge to express their utter disgust at the idea of other people deriving pleasure from having families and living the way they see fit: "Just like you can hire daycare services to help with the management of children post-birth, you can hire surrogates that carry fertilized egg and produce a (your) healthy baby FOR you, or adopt a newborn! There you go! Six months of your scholarly life will not have to be wasted on barfing over a toilet and eating pickles and ice cream, and you can still reproduce and/or raise children for society's good (...barf)." Your comments reveal your prejudices; there is no need to pretend you believe having a family is a life choice worth accommodating in the tenure system.

70. knmys - February 24, 2010 at 11:36 pm

Your earlier comment about "other people deriving pleasure from having families and living the way they see fit" is not equivalent to the idea of a woman "having children for society's good."

The first is a fairly selfish act that someone choose for personal reasons (i.e., the desire to be a mother, give birth, raise a family, etc). The second is simply a platitude meant to persuade these individuals (and others) that a single woman choosing to have kids is directly benefiting all of society. The second also is, frankly, bunk. That was the context of my comment that you quoted: the idea that the tenure system impacts a woman's scholarly pursuits and/or child-bearing, and thus constitutes some kind of human rights violation and/or a crime to society.

Honestly I hope that women can choose to had kids and get tenure, and giving some reasonable accommodations like extending the clock is not unreasonable. If that doesn't happen, then I hope they can still achieve tenure through hard work, even if that means working harder than others who do not have (and did not choose to have) the same commitments outside work.

However, don't play the victim or try and spin the issue into something that it's not. It's not the civil rights movement. It's not women's suffrage. It's not the ADA. No matter how much you wish it were so, or try and relate it, it's simply a different issue with a different set of circumstances that revolve around choices. It's about giving a specific subgroup of a single sex a different set of rules for achieving tenure in a research-based academic setting based on a choice they make.

So in the end, I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree on this issue, which apparently damns tenure to remain static for ever and ever, much to the lamentations of the (child-rearing) women.

71. fener1907 - February 25, 2010 at 12:04 am

If more people like you start to hope, as you say above, that women can choose to have kids and get tenure, with some reasonable accommodations like extending the clock, then it's possible things will improve eventually.

72. daddyd - February 26, 2010 at 11:07 pm

Academic man has wife who gets preganant. What happens to his scholarship for the next year?

Academic woman gets pregnant. What happens to her scholarship?

Say the man contributes equally in the domestic sphere once the mother returns to work and say she weans and sticks the kid in daycare at three months to do this, the man still comes out ahead on the career track. And the longer the leave, the greater the benefit for the man and the greater the penalty for the woman.

That's all we are talking about here. Just equalizing the dis-equalizing effect of the womb and the mammary glands. The article is not saying a university should subsidize choices that can equally be made by either sex or subsidizing parenthood more generally.

Parenthood is a choice, and it affects everyone with a career, men and women both, and sacrifices must be made to make it work. But those sacrifices should not fall disporportionally on the woman simply because she is a woman.

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