Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Symposium on Graduate Education

Yesterday I went to a symposium on graduate education, which was actually pretty interesting. The plenary speaker was a woman who is the dean of the graduate college at UC-Berkeley. She talked about her research into the effects of family choices on the success of male and female academics. Basically, as expected, men could generally have a whole tribe of offspring, and it didn't change the likelihood of them achieving tenure. For women, on the other hand, it was a completely different story. It was really interesting because she examined the same question from many different angles. I'm certainly not a social science expert, but it seemed like she did a pretty thorough study.

If you define success as achieving tenure, then childless women were the most successful, followed by, amazingly enough, single mothers. Women who had their children before obtaining their Ph.D. came in third. For men, their parental status was not as significantly correlated to their success rate.

Many women Ph.D.'s end up in what she called second-tier jobs, as adjunct, part-time, instructors with no job security and no chance of promotion. An amazing statistic that she gave was that something like 60% of men academics who were married with children had a spouse who worked outside the home only part time or not at all. For women academics, that number shrank to 8%.

She also talked about all the nice policies that Berkeley has implemented, including automatically granting professors a one-year extension of the tenure timeline and 1-2 semesters of no teaching upon the arrival of a new child. And she implemented a policy at Berkeley that grad students who have children get a $5,000-$8,000 grant upon the arrival of their child. Here, our insightful leadership grant us a generous two-week maternity leave.

This dean from Berkeley seemed to be on friendly terms with our Graduate College dean, so it seems like she might be able to influence him to implement some of the reforms she has made at Berkeley. But I'm not going to hold my breath, because I know how slowly the wheels turn around here.


Anonymous said...

2 week maternity leave?!?

May I just say... HOLY FUCK?!?! That is UNbelievable.

Here in Canda, you get 9 months of maternity leave, and then they hold your job another 3 months without pay if you want it. Government subsidized, of course. All those taxes have to go SOMEWHERE!


Anonymous said...

Oh, and -- I was only just able to SIT on my own ASS without a PILLOW, 2 weeks after giving birth. I can't imagine trotting out to teach class that quickly.

Laura said...

Yes, we've had discussions like this at UVA too. I honestly didn't realize, going into it, that this career path was going to be so inhospitable to raising a family. I figured, Dad could do it, why not me? Not that creating a family is high on my list of priorities right now, clearly... but still! It galls me that I can't do... er, what I don't want to do. Yet.

No, seriously, I have friends who are very carefully timing their children, to fall right in between comprehensive exams and searching for jobs, just so they're not pregnant on the job market (sadly, who would hire a pregnant woman? She's about to need maternity leave!)

Yay for advances in this area. If Canada can do it, so can we! Right?

Rebecca said...

Yeah, because you see, being a graduate student isn't a REAL JOB so why would you get REAL JOB BENEFITS?

And WHO CARES if you can't sit on your ass after two weeks? You should STAND UP when you teach, chimpy!

Also, after you have the little munchkin, it's all up to you to take care of it. One woman grad student said that she makes about $17,000, and at that income level she would have to have six children before the state would subsidize child care for her.

They give lip-service to being supportive of women grad students at this university, but there's no actual support going on. I think they would prefer it if we were all just disembodied heads.

The woman who gave the talk said she was branded a traitor to the women's movement for talking about how women may need additional accomodations in order to be successful in academia. The first priority of the leaders of the women's movement was to get some women in the door, despite all the obstacles. That makes some sense, but I don't like the fact that I have to sacrifice the time when I am most able to bear children in order to have a career. Not that I'm regretting my childless state, but I should have the freedom to choose to be in that state, instead of being childless by necessity.

Anonymous said...

May I ask, was there a comparison of those stats between the program at Berkeley and the (non)program elsewhere?


Rebecca said...

Darleen, I think that they just began to implement the new policies at Berkeley, so there are no figures on it yet. We'll find out in ten years how well it worked.

I found a web page about it from Berkeley, which I think is the one she referred to in her talk:


Isabella said...

You might find this piece interesting (if you haven't already read it): http://chronicle.com/free/v51/i15/15a00801.htm

2 weeks' leave is absurd. My sister's employer (World Bank) offers 3 months, and in the U.S. this seems to be considered EXTREMELY generous and progressive.

Many organizations in Canada offer leave to both parents. One mother I know took her 8 months, than dad (who had the same employer, in this case the government) took his 8 months: that's 16 months the kid had someone at home!