Life happened to this blog. Like so many things in life, this blog was started with high hopes and well intentions. We would make periodic posts and others would chime in. Sept, Oct and even November posts appeared. But since then it lay neglected. Life has swarmed in yet again in the form of the spring semester and filled all open pieces of time.
Professor Mommy is doing well. Kristen and I periodically get emails from some of you, telling us that you liked the book or that it is useful to you. Facebook tells us that readers continue to “like” it.
This fall I wrote a piece on “Using Social Media for Self-Promotion” which was published in the Committee for the Status of Women in the Economics Profession newsletter. You will find it on page 9 of the Winter 2012 issue. The Bowdoin Magazine published an interview with Kristen and I as part of the 40 Years of Women at Bowdoin commemoration. We will provide you a link soon.
Last Friday we had a symposium at Bowdoin entitled “Women in the Academy” as part of our college’s celebration of 40 years of co-education. Kristen organized the symposium and I filled one of the slots with a talk on “Mothers in the Academy.” My talk was aimed mostly at a Bowdoin audience but you may find it interesting. The statistics toward the end are lifted from Professor Mommy. It takes on the issue of changes needed in the institution to help young women achieve success and to move the institution toward a real gender equity in family outcomes as well as equity in hiring and promotion.
Mothers in the Academy
Talk Delivered at Bowdoin College, March 30, 2012 by Rachel Connelly
In many ways the history of women’s employment in the academy parallels the history of women’s employment more generally. At the start of the 20th century women’s employment in the formal labor market in the United States was low and most of the women employed were poor women, immigrant women and a small number of unmarried middle class women who worked in schools, hospitals and family businesses. Claudia Goldin, a prominent economic historian who focuses on changes in women’s employment over the course of the 20th century, has written about the changing career paths of women over the last 100 years. She states that at the beginning of the century college educated women, of whom there were very few, faced a choice of career versus marriage. Most choose marriage but some choose careers. In the mid 20th century Goldin characterizes women’s career choice as marriage and childbearing then career. Married women with children increasingly entered the labor market beginning as early as the 1930s but it was mainly women with grown children. As the century went on, the age of one’s child at which it was “acceptable” to enter the labor market declined from out of the house, to high school aged, to middle school aged, to kindergarden. By 1972 the year that women were first admitted at Bowdoin as first-year students, things were beginning to change. Goldin calls the time from the mid 1970s to the end of the 20th century, the “Quiet Revolution.” With the coming of the quiet revolution the career path of college educated women changed from kids then career, to career then kids, and finally, perhaps, to careers and kids simultaneously.
These different orders of the career/family lifecycle were quite evident to me when I went to the University of Michigan for graduate school in 1980. At the time there were about 50 faculty members affiliated with the economics department. Of those 50 faculty member, 3 were women. The first was a prominent woman in the field of economic development. She was in her mid 60s and had never married. The second was a woman in her late 50s, who had gone back to grad school after her children were grown. Her husband was a big wig in the sociology department and the economics department made it very clear to us that they were “stuck” with her. None of us wanted to be in that situation. The third woman was a young woman, right out of grad school who was as yet unmarried. So the oldest one had chosen career over marriage, the second had followed the kids then career route, and the third was pursuing the career then kids route.
And there we were, a fairly large cohort of women grad students in economics, and I, at least, knew that I wanted to take yet another path. I was already married by the time I got to grad school and I desperately wanted to start having children. I tried attending the local synagogue but it was full of young couples with children and everytime I went I came home with such a terrible case of baby envy that I stopped going.
I was very clear about what my path would be, finish the dissertation first, then have a baby and get a teaching job at the same time. What made me think that it would work? I don’t know. Pure chutzpah maybe, or stubbornness. Certainly I didn’t have any examples of this pathway working, but I also didn’t see why it couldn’t be done. When I got to Bowdoin in August of 1985, things were much they had been at Michigan. There were very few women faculty. Maybe 20 out of 120 in 1985 which was already more than ten years after Bowdoin admitted women students. Most were young women and very few had children. A few of the more senior women faculty did have children before they started working at Bowdoin. But no woman faculty had had the nerve to have a child while actually employed by Bowdoin until one young woman did just a year or two before I got there. This assistant professor had her baby around Thanksgiving and had to arrange everything herself to have help finishing out the semester. No one talked about maternity leave, let along tenure clock stopping leave.
But then without any coordination, the younger women faculty just decided to do it anyway (and Bowdoin was hiring a lot of women during this time). I had my first child in the summer between my first and second year of teaching. At the time I believed you could time these things and I timed it so that it would not interfere with the semester. I later realized it was foolish to act as if you could plan the exact month. Another had her daughter that same summer. Two faculty women followed with new babies the next year. And then more. It is no longer unusual for women faculty at Bowdoin to have children before tenure. It is so interesting to think back upon that time and realize we had no support system in place at all, and yet we each individually decided to go for it.
Support systems have followed, largely thanks to these pioneering women who went ahead and showed why there was a need for change. The first concession we got was tenure clock stopping leave. But leave was still unpaid so many of us could not afford to take a leave.
Next on the list was the establishment of the Children’s Center. This was a major boost of combining work and family, not only because it provided high quality child care close to campus, but it has had the added side benefit of creating a close community of parents who share information and fellowship and sometimes child care.
A parental leave plan followed but it was anemic and problematic and we knew that even as we pushed to pass it. It provided 4 weeks of paid leave to both mothers and fathers but the problem is we don’t work in weeks, we work in semesters. So each woman had to negotiate individually with the dean and was made to feel she was asking for special treatment. I would say the dean at that time was quite generous in these negotiations and proceeded in good faith, but it was still problematic. It took another ten years or more to fix this problem, but it is now considerably better. I think that fact that our current dean and our president both had fairly young children and are both part of dual earner couples made a huge difference in bringing about that change in the parental leave provisions. Again it was the women doing it first that then helped to bring the changes in the structure of employment.
It is now quite common on this campus and all campuses to have women faculty members successfully combining career and family, not having to choose between and not having to sequence them. But even recent empirical studies of college professors continue show large gaps between women and men in their success in “doing it all.”
In a 2004 study, Mary Ann Mason and Marc Goulden examined two large data sets to investigate work-family balance issues in the academy. Their study challenged the traditional definition of gender equity in higher education, which is often defined as gender parity of graduate students, tenure-track faculty, and ultimately tenured faculty. Mason and Goulden argued that the definition of gender equity should include equity across familial outcomes, such as rates of childbirth, marriage, and divorce. Their study found substantial evidence that gender equity has not yet been achieved.
Controlling for a variety of factors, they found that women who had “early” babies (within 5 years of obtaining their PhD) were far less likely to achieve tenure than men with early babies. In the sciences, 77 percent of men with “early babies” earned tenure, compared to only 53 percent of women in the same category. In the humanities and social sciences, 78 percent of men with young children in the household within the first five years after completing the degree earned tenure, compared to 58 percent of women. Most of the women not earning tenure had not been denied tenure. Instead, the authors hypothesized that many women were leaving tenure-track jobs for what they called “second-tier positions” in the academy because of the strains of combining professional work with motherhood and marriage.
Mason and Goulden also examined the impact that academic careers have on the family-formation patterns of men and women, another important component of their definition of gender equity. Looking at ladder rank faculty 12 years out from earning their PhDs, 69 percent of men were married with children, 15 percent were married without children, and 11 percent were single without children. For ladder-rank women, only 41 percent were married with children, while 20 percent were married without children and 28 percent were single without children. Among the population of single parents, 11 percent of ladder-rank women were raising children on their own, compared to only 5 percent of ladder-rank-faculty men. Interestingly, among “second-tier” women, 60 percent were married with children and an additional 20 percent were married without children. Of second-tier women, only 14 percent were single without children, half the percentage points of the ladder-rank-faculty women.
What this all means is that “women who are appointed as ladder rank faculty within three years of receiving their PhDs have a 50 percent lower probability of being married than do men and a 52 percent lower probability of being married than women appointed to second-tier positions.” Furthermore, ladder-rank-faculty women had a 144 percent greater probability of being divorced than did ladder-rank men, and a 75 percent greater probability than did second-tier women. So it seems that not only did motherhood negatively impact a woman’s chances for success in academia (if by success we mean achieving tenure in a “first-tier” position), but academia also negatively impacted a woman’s chances for success in her personal life. She was more likely to be single, more likely to be divorced, and more likely to delay childbearing, potentially until too late.
One year later in 2005 Joan Williams reviewed more than 100 different studies in social psychology and tried to provide some answers as to why women who have children soon after earning their doctoral degrees are far less likely to receive tenure than men who have children after finishing the PhD. According to Williams this finding is persistent across institutions and disciplines. Williams identifies two key factors at play in limiting women’s possibilities for success in the academy: the “glass ceiling,” which applies to all women, and the “maternal wall,” which specifically refers to discrimination against mothers. In other words, she finds that it is a combination of sexism and mommyism that keeps women from advancement on par with their male colleagues. Williams argues that the glass ceiling and the maternal wall reinforce each other, creating a variety of barriers that women must overcome if they are to achieve tenure.
I believe that much of the problem comes from the rigidity of the tenure process which was design in a different place and time to combat other problems. The tenure system creates a situation of 6 year up or out decision making. Those 6 years are critical ones for women’s fertility given how long graduate school takes these days. But we can not blame all the problems on the tenure system. There is still deep seated suspicion of motherhood in the academy, that you somehow can’t be a serious scholar if you are having children. At dinner last night we were trading stories of horrible things people said to us when we announced our pregnancies. And then there is the flexibility of the job itself. How many women have been brought down by the dynamics at home where he has a “real job” so she needs to pick up the kids from school at noon, or three? The thing is, this is a full time job. You need to put in significant amounts of fanny time. The seeming flexibility of hours can act as a trap.
There is still more work to be done to achieve the goal so well articulated by Mason and Goulden for gender equity in the academy. We need more part-time tenure-track positions or the ability to more from full time to part time and back to full time. There needs to be careful thought about expectations for tenure to make sure that the bar doesn’t go up if someone takes a parental leave. The bar has certainly gone up in many places making untenable demands on young families. High quality child care is still hard to come by in some locations and is an important part of what is needed. The good news is that there are more of us around to push for these changes and that we are certainly closer than we were to a world where family and career do not need to be tradeoffs for women anymore than they are tradeoffs for men.
April 3, 2012 Leave a comment
The online publication On Campus with Women Volume 40, Number 2, just published a nice review of Prof. Mommy. Here is a taste of the review.
“…Rachel Connelly and Kristen Ghodsee invite women academics to muster their courage and proceed despite the potential pitfalls. Their unblinking analysis of the risks and rewards of combining academic life with motherhood is a welcome and unique addition to the literature on the topic.”
Read the whole thing (it is very short) by clicking here.
Post Thanksgiving and into the home stretch. Fifty job candidate folders to read, a reappointment dossier to consider, a newsletter article due mid December and I finally remembered which journal I had said yes to (because they emailed me that the review was late.) Did I mention exams to grade, problem sets to write, and a grant proposal due? Did I mention driving my son to the orthodontist and my husband to his PT appointments? Am I whining? Probably.
You didn’t come here to read whining. Hang in there.
November 29, 2011 Leave a comment
Take a peek at Kristen’s newest guest blog posting on Karen Kelsey’s blog. Karen’s blog is a great source of professional advice. Congratulation to Kristen on all three prizes on her book! (Read the blog to get the details.) I am jealous because two people already commented on Kristen’s post and no one commented on mine. How is that for silliness?
October 13, 2011 1 Comment
It seems like I was just writing about that little honeymoon period in the semester after the first week of class before the assignments begin to roll in. Well, I don’t need to tell you that the honeymoon is over. In the reckoning of it, I did ok. I finished all those grant proposals I needed to review and attended the grants meeting in Washington DC. I finished two referee reports that were late but along the way I said yes to another one and now I can’t remember which journal I said yes to making it extra hard to search my email inbox. I even got back to work on an empirical project and spent a very happy day buried in the details of Chinese census data and statistical software programming language. But that is as far as I got.
I need to get back to saving one day a week for research time no matter what (not just when there is nothing else pressing.) It is really important that you continue to crave out research time even in this middle time of the semester. There will be weeks when it just can’t be done but most weeks I can if I try hard enough find a day or even a day and a half for my research life. One things that helps is to plan out the week on Sunday night or Monday morning. Another thing that helps is to prepare for the entire week’s worth of classes on one day instead of day by day. Being careful about what else you say yes to is always an important part of the full picture. You can also limit the time you spend grading by being more efficient. You don’t need to edit every sentence your students write. Editing one page and asking them to edit the others based on your example works. Holding peer editing sessions in class can also be useful. And don’t be afraid to play with your syllabus a bit (too much violates the contract but a little is usually of mutual benefit.) Get rid of one reading next week. You will all breathe easier and have more energy for the remaining ones.
I am sure all of you have your own tricks. It would be great to share a few of them with one another.
Hang in there, fall break is just around the corner.
October 4, 2011 Leave a comment
You may be interested in Rachel’s guest blog entry at the Sloan Work and Family Network Blog. The site is a very useful one for those of you interested in the academic research on work/family issues.
Hope the beginning of the semester honeymoon is upon you.
September 8, 2011 Leave a comment
This is the week of the first days of school. Tomorrow is William’s first day of high school. Thursday is Louis’s first day of his junior year of college, and Friday is my first class session. Finally Patrick starts his first ever semester of college next Tuesday.
As always come September I am looking forward to the increased structure that school brings. The week before the semester begins is an intense time of getting new syllabi together and meeting with new advisees. But once I get past the jitters of first class meetings (yes, I still get nervous after 26 years of teaching) it always feels like a short honeymoon period. No problem sets yet, no response papers and my kids are back in school. It is a great time to finish that paper that has been hanging around all summer or in my case to finish the two overdue referee reports, the nine no yet overdue grant application reviews and to select reviewers for another submitted journal article. Will I be able to also get to my paper that should have been finished months ago? I hope to before the honeymoon period ends.
August 31, 2011 Leave a comment
I recently wrote a post for the Sloan Work/Family network blog, which can be viewed here: http://wfnetwork.bc.edu/blog/tenure-tracks-and-ticking-clocks. This is my first guest blog post ever!
August 23, 2011 Leave a comment
You may be interested to read Rachel’s guest blog in The Pearls of Wisdom: Blog of The Professor is In.
Karen, The Professor, posts a new blog entry everyday, choke-full of very useful advice for young faculty members.
August 21, 2011 Leave a comment
The title of this blog entry is a takeoff on a song we sing during the Passover seder to keep the children and ourselves amused during the long preamble to the holiday meal. The actual lyrics are “Frogs here, frogs there, frogs were jumping everywhere.”
Kristen and I have trying to get the hang of this blogging thing. I am a bit embarrassed by how much I am enjoying it. Like answering surveys it is probably best to avoid blogging most of the time but hey, it is summer time at the moment.
Karen Kelsky, who writes a regular blog Pearls of Wisdom on her The Professor is in website posted a very complimentary blog posting about our excerpt on self promotion in Inside Higher E. She agreed with us that self promotion is a necessary part of success in the job and disagreed with the nay saying commentators.
Meanwhile yesterday Kristen wrote a guest blog for the Sloan Work/Family Balance blog, which will be out soon and today I wrote my guest blog for the same outlet will be out at the end of the month. Kristen’s topic is the self selectivity of who is writing advice for young PhDs given the time constraints we all face and Rachel’s topic is the time flexibility trap. We will share both of these entries here soon.
In the meantime, close your computer for the night and go kiss your kids and your partner. I feel just like my mother who to this day ends almost every phone conversation since I have been in college with the admonition to “Go to sleep.”
August 9, 2011 Leave a comment
Publisher’s Weekly did a nice review of Professor Mommy.
August 8, 2011 Leave a comment