Did we have it all and lose it?

Deborah A. Cook dcook at cau.edu
Mon Aug 24 23:37:30 EST 1998

Susan Forsburg wrote:

> The colleague I spoke to about this commented that with things as tenuous
> as they are funding-wise, taking the time to have a child (or
> do other meaningful life-things) is increasingly incompatible with
> a high-power science career. She pointed out that after years
> of struggle she is just now on her feet and can't afford to risk it
> right now for a family. Coupled with the longer PhDs and postdocs, 
> this means the biological clocks will tick right out even before you come 
> up for tenure.

Hmmmm?  What is "a high power science career"?  I don't know, but I know
that I don't have one or even want one.  My husband doesn't have one
either, but he's a lot closer to what it is than I am.  As one of those
tenured, 40 year old women biologists, with a biologist spouse and a
daughter who started kindergarten today 
all I can manage to be is a contributor.  That is a constant struggle.

Yes, like those older scientists I have little sympathy for younger
scientists who complain about funding or the lack of academic jobs. 
It's a fact funding has been bad for years.  It's a fact academic jobs
are harder and harder to get. I do "get it", because I know how hard it
is just to be a contributor, let alone "a high power" researcher.  I
have little sympathy because I want to know who told these young women
and men scientists that they could expect to have "a high power career"?
I suspect nobody told them, advised them or even mentored them.  They
were just following the example set by the PI.  IMO, that's no excuse
because this information about jobs and funding has been around for a
long time.  

I sound like I'm advising a biology major that she/he is not going to
medical school because of grades.  Well, the analogy fits. Without the
"good pedigree", "good research topics, and "good publications" most of
us aren't going to have high power reseach careers anyway.  So, get over
it and get on with your life.  No career is worth sacrificing family,
other intellectual or artistic pursuits, or whatever helps you to have a
meaningful life.

To answer Susan's question.  No, we did not have it all and lose it.  We
haven't even begun to have it all.  The best we've been able to do is to
have it all, but not all at the same time.

Besides, there's always the shoe salon at Neiman Marcus.

Deborah Cook Ph.D
Assistant Professor? 
Clark Atlanta University

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