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posting, breaks

Bharathi Jagadeesh bjag at ln.nimh.nih.gov
Sat Jun 27 11:55:52 EST 1998


Rae Nishi  (nishir at ohsu.EDU) writes
> I use a newsreader and I think I can read
> everyone's posts (I can certainly read Bharathi's posts, even if she
> can't read mine). Am I just talking into empty space (probably just as
> well)?

Glad to hear that my posts are getting through. I did see Rae's posts in
my most recent reading of e-mail on my newserver, so can't pinpoint the
problem. I still don't see mine, except in the bionet archives. Oh well. 

Susan Forsburg ( forsburg at salk.edu) writes
> IMHO this is one of the major problems with this profession. The
> people who are in positions of power, mostly men, came up 
> through this system. It was good to them and they have a strong
> vested interest in maintaining the status quo. PhDs and postdocs 
> were shorter then, and they mostly had wives at home raising the kids,
> making dinner, waiting for the plumber.... Times 
> have changed; PhDs take well over 5 years, postdocs can be long 
> (even if you do only one) and it is not uncommon for people to 
> be approaching the assistant/associate professor promotion when 
> they are over 40.

A pretty straight career trajectory 18, finish high school, 21, finish
college, 27 finish grad school, 32, finish post-doc, and then, these
days, high power universities have 10 year tenure up-or-out policies.
It's natural that PhD's & post-docs take longer these days -- as we
acquire more knowledge, it can take longer/more resources/more technical
skills/more learning to make a unique contribution. 

But what we really need is a way for people to take breaks during the
process. Though most of the "family-unfriendly" practices of science
impact men & women, being a birth mother does impose special demands,
and if we don't make some kind of allowance for it, there will always be
an imbalance of women in the field. Re-entry fellowships, that allow
women to post-doc after taking time off may work, as well as a
relaxation of the rules for applying for NIH/NSF post-docs based on
years from PhD (for special circumstances). And, maybe, some day,
"leaves" will be permissible within a post-doc, i.e. you can get a NIH
fellowship, and then take off two years, and resume the fellowship,
before looking for faculty positions. Any other ideas?

I believe that some of these issues will never be resolved as long as
they are perceived as only impacting women. But, I've noticed that men
want to be involved with their families these days too, and know a few
men who considered the family friendliness of their jobs seriously in
making their decisions. 

And though I do think that there are some very family un-friendly
practices in science, the flexibility of the work schedule, the control
over travel, the relative lack of deadlines, does mean that there are
some family friendly practices, too. Compare an average scientific
workday with being a surgeon, for example, or being a litigation
attorney. Both of those jobs are demanding, but more importantly
inflexible in timing demands.

Bharathi




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