The question of children, and other concerns

Jill Helms jhelms at
Mon Oct 26 16:19:11 EST 1992

I think the issue of whether (or when) to have children when you are a woman in 
science is of critical import.  My SO and I have repeatedly discussed
this issue and come to the same tenative conclusion: if either one of us felt more
passionately about having the little buggers, we probably would.  But since we
are both in science (full-time, so what does that work out to?  About 90-100 hours
per week?), neither of us feel that we can give up the necessary time for
raising (let alone creating) a kid.  It is my experience that the women in science
that I know who had children did not have them during their post-docs (when maximum
effort is being put into furthering your career) UNLESS their husbands were willing
and able to be the primary care-giver.  Personally, I don't think I'll have children
because my passion is my work and I don't think it's fair to a child when you have
these priorities.

Onto a slightly different topic. I am a clinician/researcher (a clinical degree in
Periodontology and a Ph.D in Neurosciences; don't ask: the two don't "go" together,
I just happen to like surgery and the neurosciences is the most facinating field I
could think of studying).  I just recently took a position in a department of 
Otorhinolaryngology, will be doing my research in the department of Biochemistry and
will teach in a department of Periodontology.  I realize this sounds terribly
convoluted, but when there are probably only 5 people in the country with the same
training, there really isn't a "norm" (thank goodness).  Throughout my training,
there have been a paucity of female role models.  Example: there were no female
faculty members in my dental school.  There were no female faculty members in the
dental school I did my residency in.  There was one female faculty member in the
department I did my Ph.D in.  There is one female faculty member in the department
I took a job in.  Where did all the women go??  My dental school class was 10%
female, but I was the only one (male or female, to my knowledge) that pursued research.  Where are all of the women that were in my grad. school classes?  Not in
tenure-track positions, I can tell you that much.  I think this is one of the most
serious threats to women succeeding in science: the lack of role models and 
supporters (both male and female).  I wouldn't be here today if it weren't for a 
couple of powerful people (men; there _wer_e no powerful women) that supported me
and believed that I was suited to this type of work.  What do others think about this?

And lastly (before this gets too much longer!), have many women experienced sexual
harassment in science?  I'd be interested in hearing what people think.

Jill Helms    

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