I'm glad to offer some positive experience. I am 40 years old, in my
second year of grad school, and have 5-year-old twins. There has not been
the least hint of discrimination because of my parental status or age. My
kids attend a lot of social functions that revolve around the department,
and drop by the lab once in awhile. They, and I, are completely accepted.
Balancing family and research is a struggle, of course. I don't do 80
hour weeks in the lab, but I'm not a 9-to-5 worker, either. I tend to go
back to the lab late after the kids are in bed, and I'm in the lab for at
least a few hours on many weekends.
My wife and I split the sick-kid days, negotiating on a case-by-case
basis (She's a 7th-grade English teacher, which is no picnic, either). If
I have a class to attend or am in the middle of an important experiment,
and she can get a sub, she might stay home with a sick boy. Many times,
I've been the one to stay home. I've called in to the lab and honestly
said I was home with a sick child; there have been no repercussions.
I attribute this to a department that has a long tradition of nurturing
students. The sort of slavedriving pressure I've heard tales of elsewhere
doesn't exist here. Sure, students work their fannies off, but it's by
choice. Faculty are overwhelmingly supportive - they want us to succeed
and try to make that happen.
I also haven't noticed sexism. Yes, I'm male, but I think women students
would say the same thing. The ratio of female to male students is roughly
1:1, and I've seen no evidence that women are treated as anything other
than full scientific colleagues. There are more male than female
professors, but the faculty seem aware of the need for more women.
In short, this is at least one place where you can have it all - be
involved in great science and still act like, and be treated like, a
human being. I hope it catches on.
cdarby at u.washington.edu
Department of Genetics SK-50, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98117
voice: 206-543-9446 fax: 206-543-0754