Thursday, May 22, 2008

Apparently having a kid is a scientific achievement

Recently I attended a seminar given by a female professor. When the hosting faculty member introduced the speaker, it was noted that the professor was both "productive and reproductive" (ha ha), having had three kids before she was tenured.

Introductions for speakers normally include a description of where they did their graduate and post-doctoral work and who with, what honors and awards they've received, and perhaps their connection to the department (if any). Maybe a note about the publication of their most recent work. I don't think I've ever heard an introduction for a male speaker in which it was noted how many children he has. But it certainly isn't the first time I've heard a female speaker be introduced that way.

I find it kind of troubling that a woman's status as a parent (or not) is considered relevant to her level of scientific achievement, but a man's parental status is not. Is it because we take for granted that child rearing is the woman's responsibility?

Husband and I share virtually equal responsibility for raising the Bean (with the exception of breastfeeding duty... but that's because I've got a monopoly on the equipment). Yet no one is going to introduce Husband for a seminar by noting his accomplishments and the number of children he is raising.

I don't know if I'm angry on behalf of the dedicated dads for getting short shrift in terms of recognizing their role as parents or if I'm pissed that women are getting the same old patronizing crap they've always gotten ("She's developed a test to detect the signature of positive selection in recent evolutionary history and she keeps a clean house!"). Either way, it just doesn't sit well with me.

13 comments:

Ms. Core said...

Grrrrrrr.... This doesn't justify anything but I often hear this on NPR shows as well, no matter what the woman's specialty or area of expertise. I does very much annoy me that they don't do it to men too...You never hear..."And here we have So and So, fiction writer extraordinaire, husband and father of three."

ScienceWoman said...

Rather than wishing it wouldn't happen to women that they get introduced in their professional life with a metric of their personal life, maybe we should wish men got introduced that way too. It'd be a small step forward in recognizing the professionals are people first and foremost and scientists/writers/etc. secondarily.

ScienceMama said...

Absolutely, SW. I guess I'd be fine with it either way. I just wish it wasn't a different standard for men and women.

Hawkeyegirl said...

Definitely annoying! Darn double standards.

Julie R said...

You have to admit though, making a significant advance in science and keeping a clean house is quite an achievement (at least it would be for me).

Anonymous said...

My big pet peeve is when men put "Married with children" on their CVs right smack at the top under their names before listing degrees (and papers and grants, ya know academic stuff), as if getting hitched and spawning offspring is an academic achievement. Curriculum vitae means "course of life" for the topic at hand (academia!). I wouldn't list scientific publications for a marriage license or take my degrees to get a drivers license. Why do they use "married with children" as (and mainly ahead of) academic accomplishments???
Part of me wishes all the science mommas would list every freakin thing they ever did on their CVs - pregnancy, labor, birth, breast feeding, diaper changes, surviving the first 3 years on little sleep, keeping sanity during preschool and school, soccer games, birthday parties.... but as women, I don't think we see these things as accomplishments. We just do them - it's in our nature, literally. And unfortunately, it's sometimes the only way we are seen, as mothers rather than scientists. And for men, everything is considered academic achievements, kids included. grrrr.

Jenn said...

this miffs me too, but as you pointed out, I'm not sure if it's on behalf of the men or the women. I just wish it would be fair, one way or the other. I do have male scientist friends who advertise on their (European) CVs that they're married and have kids, but that's more expected here (and financially compensated too, but that's another point)...

ScientistMother said...

Whether right or not, having children AND making worthwhile contributions to your chosen profession IS an accomplishment. I have said many times that work/life balance is a non-gender specific issue, BUT many many women find the balance difficult and question their ability to do it because 100% of men with children are not contributing 50% to raising them and taking care of the household. When women do succeed as well as or better than men, and they have children to me it is (1) An example of exceptional abilities because it recognizes they are not putting all their focus into work, like say a non-parent (not to say non-parents are always working). (2) is meant to highlight they succeeded in their profession and had a family, shining a bright light on them so those of us behind can see them and say hey they did, we can do too.

Ad Lagendijk said...

I think this mixing of personal and professional life when introducing a speaker is terrible. Even if male and female speakers would be treated equally. It is a breach of their privacy. It would only be allowed if explicit consent was asked before in private. I hear many more violations of privacy when a speaker is introduced: "He/she is applying for a position here", or "We are happy he/she just recovered from a disease".

Emily said...

lol

I completely agree with you ScienceMama. I was introduced a similar way myself recently at a departmental forum and it bothered me for ages. I am extremely proud of my achievements (in particular, my son) but if I hadn't given birth to him would it make my scientific milestones any less important?

I think you are treading on thin ice Scientistmother when you say that 100% of men don't contribute 50% to raising their children. How can you make such a statement? Do you know this to be fact?
If you had a mental illness that made your working life alot more difficult to balance would you want that to be announced to the room so that they know how well you coped?

Very interesting point Sciencemama. Love your blog.

Candid Engineer said...

Hmm... yeah, this is all too ubiquitous. Another postdoc was being introduced for our lab seminar a few weeks ago, and it was mentioned that she was a mom. All I was thinking was 'Boy, I wouldn't want to be introduced that way'.

But I do think that scientistmother has a point. Yes, maybe the numbers are closer to 90% of men do not contribute 50% or more to child-rearing. I realize there are exceptions to this, but is you look at a child who is breast-fed for 9 months + sometimes... who is doing all of that work? Who is putting down their work 3x a day to go pump? Who is getting up in the middle of the night to feed the child? I do realize that there are many men who would help out in this area if they could, but the fact of the matter is that they cannot. Subsequently, I think a woman's career is (typically) harder-hit than a man's when they have a child.

However, I would want to learn of the extraordinary work-life balance of the female scientist in an off-line setting. To make it an issue during seminar is unprofessional at best.

Anonymous said...

As a woman in science having been introduced this way as myself...I don't mind so much. I'm maddened by the inequities women face, but I think it is a farce to say that men and women bear an equal amount of responsibility in having a child. Those 9 months? That childbirth and the physical aftermath? The 2 years of nursing day and night? As scientists, can't we recognize the biological role of mothering is different than the typical father's role? To assume that my husband, or male colleagues with children have carried an equal burden is mildly offensive, to be honest.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the last comment. Women tend to carry the burden - having three children and then achieving tenure is an amazing achievement that diserves recognition and applause. If only men would work as hard they should get credited for it too..