Babies of graduate students in biology

Sarah Boomer sarai at
Sun Oct 13 11:44:40 EST 1996

Dear Heather,
	I personally have not had a child during my grad. school years but
know four women who have done it at our univerity in biology dept.'s (one
of whom is doing it and due next month).  There have been a fair number of
problems for most of them.  The first I knew got pregnant at the end of
her first year (before her qualifying exams) and felt openly questioned
by some faculty about her decision... pressured to the point that she
left. The second got a lot of heat from her boss when it came to planning
a maternity leave that was reasonable and there have been some ensuing
battles over sick days when the baby can't be taken to daycare (literal
threats to take away her pay but, in the end, no follow-through). The
third had a flawless experience - her boss didn't bat an eye and she has
been happy the whole time (this woman, I should note, was in one lab four
years, changed labs, worked two years before having the child - and will
graduate next April, after eight years). The woman who is pregnant now
seems to be doing alright with it; there are other problems in the lab. 
Her boss didn't seem to take it with great eagerness but is not one to
cross that line.
	Everything, from my perspective, seems to be boss-dependent.  I
have done some research myself into what "rights" grad. students have to
maternity leave and come up empty handed.  We have none, really.  If you
work for a nasty person, it seems that there will be problems.  I find
this kind of thing highly questionable and unfortunate, frankly! 
Particularly as careers are taking longer and older/experienced students
seem to be more in vogue.  I like to say that I see more "equal
opportunity" family discrimination lately.  It used to be that only women
were questioned during interviews about their future family plans;  now I
see men - especially if married - being questioned too.  
	I'm glad this topic was raised again.  It is sad that this issue
is probably the crux of the whole gender/career thing.  I must add,
though, that when that whole radiation poisoning threat came out (the
lawsuit that alleges a guy at the NIH poisoned his female post-doc with
32-P because she chose to have a baby) I was, on one hand, sickened by the
allegation (and in my heart I don't want to believe that he went that far) 
but I do not doubt in a moment that threats and negative feelings were
made bluntly to this women.  I see it around me and I think it is sad! 

Sarah Boomer				email:  sarai at		
Dept. of Microbiology			work phone:  543-3376
Box 357242				work FAX:  543-3376
University of Washington		
Seattle, WA  98195	

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On 13 Oct 1996 hcorbett at wrote:

> Out of curiosity, how many of you or your colleagues started their families
> while still in graduate school? I got married the year after my qualifying
> exam and was already one of very few in a large program to be married. It
> is a little harder to say for the men, though. I know no one who has had
> children before their postdoctoral position (though the majority of my
> French colleagues did just that) and I was wondering what your experience
> was. Do mention if the parent was a male or female student. It can't be
> very easy in either case, though I know it is certainly possible.
> Heather

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