HUMAN GENDER ISSUES IN SCIENCE

Crowe ML, King BH. 1993. Differences in the proportion of women to men invited to give seminars: Is the old boy still kicking five years later? Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America, December.

King BH. 1998. Challenges for dual career couples: an example. Supplement to the Newsletter of the Canadian Association of University Teachers (see below)

Related links:  Dual Science Careers

CHALLENGES FOR DUAL CAREER COUPLES: AN EXAMPLE


Bethia King
bking@niu.edu, Dept Bio Sci, N. Illinois Univ., DeKalb 60115

My husband and I have tenure track positions in the same department. I got my position in 1989 and am tenured. Rich started a tenure-track position in 1995.

HOW WE GOT HERE

I got my PhD in 1987; my husband, Rich, got his in 1985. We had the same PhD advisor but quite different research programs (parasitoid wasp sex ratio versus snake color pattern polymorphism evolution and influence of genes and hormones on morphology and behavior). We have few collaborations with each other. Whether we were independent came up when Rich applied here.

Since being competitive for jobs with a research component requires continuous publication-productivity, we mostly lived on one income at a time, so that the tag-along one of us could continue doing research. (We learned not to tell people that one of us was working full time for no pay, as this seems ludicrous to many people.) We took turns moving to accommodate the other one�s career, choosing job options on the basis of what would maximize both our opportunities to do research. We tried to appreciate the moving sacrifices that we made for each other. The person with a paying position and with lab space made accommodations for the other in the lab that s/he was in. We spent a semester and then later a year apart. There were some end-of-one-position-and-no-prospect-of-another panics, but something always came through.

When I took the tenure track position here, I was told that splitting the job was out of the question. Using part of my start up money for equipment for Rich was permissible. Rich made his wants clear to the chair and/or appropriate committee and was very persistent. Applying for, and especially getting, grants, definitely helped as it meant more overhead money for the department. He was eventually given an office and later a lab. He did occasional part time teaching in the department and through continuing education, but primarily focused on research. He had graduate students before he got a tenure-track position. There was parental concern that Rich not having a "real" job and relying on my income might hurt Rich�s male ego, but it didn�t. Well, at least no more than it would have hurt mine if the situation was reversed.

Two people in the ecology-evolution section of our department left within 5 years of our moving here. Rich applied for both openings, and got the second. That Rich was already here helped his chances with some faculty and hurt his chances with others. People knew he was not a jerk, but on the other hand he was already here. Rich�s being cheap to interview meant they had money to interview a record number of candidates and so upped Rich�s competition. It is certain that Rich would not have gotten the job if he had not been competitive, with a solid publication record and a quarter of a million dollar National Science Foundation grant. Some faculty felt that keeping me was an additional reason for hiring Rich, whereas others felt that this was a totally inappropriate consideration. Reportedly our affirmative action had okayed this as a consideration. These job searches were extremely stressful on us.
 
 

GENDER ISSUES

At my first job interview (NOT here at NIU), the first question I was asked by the search committee was, "What will you do if your husband moves to California?" The question is not permissible and they had been told ahead of time not to ask it, but they did anyway, much to the chair�s obvious embarrassment. I was also asked about teaching a women in science course, which I didn�t see the need for until after this and subsequent experiences.

A faculty member once told me that I was hired for my position because I am female. If this was intended as joking, it was not clear and it was not in such a context. Someone who had been on the search committee told me that gender was not a consideration. In a more recent search, the faculty voted against gender being a consideration.
 
 

BALANCING CHILDREN AND DUAL CAREERS

I was well qualified for tenure by the time we had our first child, which reduced stress. Our second child�s arrival coincided with Rich starting his tenure track job here and with one faculty member being vocally unhappy about the job search, which was very stressful.

I biked to work up to the day of delivery with both pregnancies. I did not take any maternity leave. In hindsight I regret not having taken time off after the birth of our second child.

Our department has a policy that kids may not be cared for in the lab, for safety reasons, though they are allowed visits. Infant care in my office did not work as it disturbed a colleague. Working at home worked okay.

Our children have been in daycare, one since 7 months and the other since 4 months, though half-time initially. Earlier would have been tough as breastfed infants nurse frequently (sometimes every 2 hours, or more). We refer to and think of their daycare as "school," not as babysitting. Per semester here, it�s 75-80% the cost of instate undergraduate tuition and fees. Full time here: $130/week for infant/toddlers, $107.50/week for preschool. Full time is cheaper per hour than is part time. Openings in good daycare programs are in high demand and you may need to get on a waiting list even before your child is born. We are happy with our university�s childcare programs. Our kids love it and it provides us with a sense of community with other parents, and a chance to see that our children�s monster behaviors are age appropriate, just part of normal development.

My impression from scanning the literature and our own experience, is that good daycare is NOT bad for kids emotionally or intellectually and has some pluses, including parental sanity�which makes for better parenting. Being in daycare as an infant seems to provide an intellectual head start and to result in an earlier onset of aggressiveness-assertiveness-independence, but other kids seem to catch up in both regards after they start school/childcare. One study of kids that had been in a university daycare found that kids that started earlier as infants in the daycare had higher second grade math skills and likability scores. See Clarke-Stewart, K. A. 1989. Infant day care: maligned or malignant? American Psychologist 44:266-273 for a review of scientific studies.  more recently:  Burchinal MR et al.  2000.  Relating quality of center-based child care to early cognitive and language  development longitudinally  Child Development. 71(2):339-357.

Children in daycare mean many sick days for kids and parents. Our sickness rate slowed after age 2. Some kids sleep a lot; ours do NOT; we are lucky when both kids are asleep by 10 pm.

If having children reduces publication productivity of women, it is only when they have young children. Cole, J. R. and H. Zuckerman. 1987. Marriage, motherhood, and research performance in science. Scientific American 256:119-125; Kyvik, S. 1990. Motherhood and scientific productivity. Social Studies of Science 20:149-160.
 
 

REFLECTIONS

I have no regrets about being dual-career-with-family. I do wonder whether being dual-career-with-family would have been easier and still as rewarding in another field, at another type of university, or at a different sort of job.

I suspect two young children are exhausting regardless. I found one child and dual careers very manageable. Two children in the beginning was unimaginably harder�I hit my limits like a brick wall. It was very hard to anticipate what it was going to be like. I knew no one in the same position as myself (2 full time academic positions, especially in the sciences, and more than one very young child). Watching a woman in a similar position but on soft money back when I was a graduate student helped. Having men in our department with working spouses that have children about our childrens� ages helps now. But for anticipating and dealing with the early infant stages (breast feeding every 2 hours OR MORE day AND night), I really wish I had seen how other women in the same position coped. It was difficult to anticipate what it would be like because there is so much variation among children and they change so much from month to month in the early years. I did not know how long the "too much" part would be. By the time I managed to bow myself out of some of my work responsibilities, would my children have already moved on to a less demanding stage? How would my colleagues react to attempts on my part to cut my work load? I had not seen what other women in the same position did and, equally important, how their colleagues reacted.

Overall I feel very fortunate. (Well, at this moment I do: the kids were in good moods this morning and no student has recently told me how her/his D or F is actually my fault). We both find family things are a nice escape from work and work is a nice escape from family. Rich and I having such similar jobs makes it easier to have a sense of fairness and equality between us. Having two versus one child furthers this because with one I could do more than my share of family things, but with two I simply cannot. Being in the same department means we can live close to work and avoid a long commute. Because we haven�t raised our lifestyle to meet our double income, we have a lot of financial security.