So yesterday was "blog against sexism day" and as I am catching up on my bloglines only today I missed the boat (again). For more timely posts from women science-types, go here, here, and here.
This is actually a timely topic for me as I contemplate my interview experiences. (The interview went well (i think), and I should find out in a few weeks.)
Fact 1) The department lacks women role models and has very high tenure expectations.
Fact 2) As many of you know, BusinessMan and I have been trying for some time to have a child.
Big School is a major research university, with all the demands that come with that status. They do not tenure everyone that starts there, although they don't hire multiple people for the same tenured line. Recent women hires have not succeeded at getting tenure. Whether or not these women attempted to have a family pre-tenure is not clear. Science Department acknowledges that it has a "diversity problem."
I think I am energetic enough, creative enough, and driven enough to get tenure there. It would require a hell of lot of hard work but I am capable of working long hours and can be efficient when I need to be. Teaching, mentoring grad students, funding and publishing research would pull me in lots of directions simultaneously but I would be professionally fulfilled and challenged, job attributes that led me to the PhD in the first place.
If I don't get tenure, or decide to leave before then, I would have the latitude to go to another R1 school, go to a lower tier school, government research, industry, or whatever the hell I wanted. In contrast, it's awfully hard to get that R1 job after being at a teaching school for a few years.
Ok, so it should be a simple decision. I give Big School a try and if it isn't a good fit, I go someplace else. I like living in different places anyway.
But. What about my family plans? If I get the job (a big if of course), I see 4 options (or some combination thereof).
Do I take everyone's pat advice: "Oh, you're so young , you can have kids after tenure [7 years]"? Then I'm 34, BusinessMan is 37. We're planning on having 2-3 kids. What happens if conception doesn't happen right away then?
Do I give it a few years first to get myself settled and somewhat accustomed to the job and then start trying again to have a kid? This seems to make the most sense to me. I'm guessing that I'll know within 2-3 years whether I am cut out for this institution (and whether I want to be there anyway). Plus, I may have a better sense of how having a kid will be "taken" by my male colleagues and dean. Hell, maybe I'll even have a female colleague by then.
Do we keep trying now and if a kid arrives, I forge ahead after minimal leave, by hiring a nanny or letting BusinessMan be a stay-at-home dad? This, of course, is the typical male model and the one taken by the men of the department (as well as the only female grad student with kids). While BusinessMan has offered to stay-at-home if we were in this situation, I'm pretty sure that its not what he dreamed of being when he grew up (or when he married me). Plus, I'm pretty sure that I don't want to be a "childless mother" - too wrapped up in her own career to play with her kids. Please note, I'm definitely not suggesting that all working mothers are bad (as I've said before), just that I think it could be easy to be an absentee mother given the demands of an R1 career.
Do I take a stand for women scientists everywhere (or at least at Big School)? When we have a kid, I take a leave, using the tenure-clock stoppage and when I come back to work try to be reasonable in balancing the demands of my job and my family. Tenure consequences be damned; there are always other jobs. It's important to do what you believe is right, and I think it's right that I be allowed to be good, productive scientist and a mother.
Right now this is all just food for thought, things to ponder while I wait to hear whether I get the job. I am inclined towards the combo of wait-and-see and take-a-stand approaches, although if I like the job that approach might morph into a post-tenure-hire-a-nanny position.
Why is this blog post titled "blog against sexism...?" Because men, even the most enlightened ones, don't have to confront these issues head on the way we women do. That was really brought home to me during my interview. We have a long way to go.