Grad student parents

Anne Savitt asavitt at
Wed Feb 16 12:43:59 EST 1994

For those of you who are wondering what kind of responses I received to
my query about how graduate students parents felt they were treated
vis-a-vis non-parents, here is a summary.

First of all, I was not overwhelmed by responses.  Most of the responses
I received, with the exception of the one man who responded and Rae
Nishi, were negative.  Most mothers who responded felt that they were
disadvantaged, not just at the graduate school level but at the post-doc
and professor level as well.  But remember, this was just a small
sampling, not a statistically significant one.

After reading the responses, my feeling is this:  if you want it badly
enough, you will find a way to juggle your responsibilities and toughen
your skin to any perceived discrimination.

I think, by the way, that we really are at a point where things are
changing.  I am fortunate to work in a department with several women
professors, three of whom are tenured, three of whom have children. 
Interestingly, they are approximately my age (early 40s) and their
children are the same age as my daughter (10) or younger.  In fact, most
of the people who responded seemed to fall into this same age bracket. 
Perhaps it is because we experienced the 1960s and !70s that we are
sensitized to the issue of women!s rights, and maybe it is time to let
this go.  Certainly there are people out there who hold onto 1950s
values, but the more I interact with the younger faculty members, male
and female, the more I realize that many men have become as sensitized to
the issue as the women.  And many of these younger male faculty members
have wives who are also professionals and share the responsibility for
child care.

So, notwithstanding that the women of my generation seem to feel
discriminated against, my own informal survey of
faculty/post-docs/graduate students paints a different picture.  That
doesn!t change the fact that for physiological reasons it is more
difficult for a woman to have a child in academia at any level (or to
continue any kind of job, for that matter) than it is for a man, but once
you have that child and your body has gone back to normal, the future is
really up to you.  A supportive spouse, a good day care center, and an
honest assessment of your own ability to juggle responsibilities without
making excuses will, I think, carry you far.

More than my two cents! worth, but I hope some of you find it of value.

Anne Savitt
Department of Microbiology
SUNY at Stony Brook
Stony Brook, NY   11795-5222
email:  asavitt at

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