Re. having it all: kids, the academy...

S L Forsburg nospamforsburg at
Wed Aug 26 00:00:18 EST 1998

Can I get a discussion going or what?  :-)

Linnea Ista (lkista at writes
> A somewhat radical and perhaps unwelcome perspective here:
> We will continue to struggle with these questions as long as the notion
> prevails that the greatest tragedy that can happen to a woman is that she
> didn't have the opportunity to be a mother.

> As long as we live in a society in which women make only 75% of what a
> white male does, it will only make "sense" for the woman to stay home as
> the man is more likely to bring in the $$$$ necessary for the family to
> survive. So the system is reinforced.
> There are many answers as I see it. 1. Make sure that there is true
> equality in pay. 2. Make sure that parents of both genders get flex time
> >From work to fulfill their parental responsibilities. 3. Lose the
> prevailing idea in this society that unless a woman has a child she is in
> some sense a failure or has not led a "complete" life.

> You do not have to be a mother to nurture the next generation!

I agree absolutely!!!!  Well put.
For persepctive, let me say thatlike Linnea,I don't have kids (I have
grad students instead ;-)  and I don't want kids.
 The having-a-family issue is a convenient shorthand for the real-life
 issues that are addressed in Linnea's  concrete suggestions.  

As I see it, academic science (again, that's where I am) is structurally
 way behind and  has not kept pace with real lives.  We are older than
our predecessors were, funding is tighter.  Men and women are more likely
to be in demanding two-career couples (there's a statistic somewhere that
women scientists are vastly more likely to be married to other scientists
than men scientists, which just adds to it). But the academy has not 
adjusted to the current situation and is still structured on the idea
that men work all their time in lab and have wives at home who support
their career and raise their family for them (and those women IMHO
are the unrecognized coPIs   of their husbands' accomplishments--the sine
qua non, as it were).  It's still structured on the idea that 
you get started at 30, get your grant, and are tenured by 40, 
even at an institution  like mine that doesn't tenure till full 
professor! It's still structured on the idea of the macho scientist
who doesn't take time off to be with his/her sick child or go 
to the parent teacher conference or have to wait at home for the plumber
or look after a sick parent or stay at home with a sick spouse.  

So the real question is, how do we change the status quo in an entrenched 
institution to reflect modern lives?  Companies are doing it.  Government
is even doing it.  How do we make the academy catch up? 

Just call me the revolutionary. :-)

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S L Forsburg, PhD  forsburg at
Molecular Biology and Virology Lab          
The Salk Institute, La Jolla CA

Women in Biology Internet Launch Page
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