Women, Work and the Academy

How do discriminatory attitudes and practices get so embedded in the academy that we find ourselves still struggling against them after decades of efforts to eradicate them?  A pamphlet, Women, Work, and the Academy, written by Alison Wylie, Janet R. Jakobsen and Gisela Fosado, brings very recent research to bear on these issues. 

The pamphlet grew out of a conference held at Barnard shortly after Summers infamous remark.  The conference website is also a wonderful resource.  Note the video of the keynote panel and the summaries of presenters’ remarks.

Anyone who wants to understand academic discrimination and think about effective tactics against it should read these resources carefully.


Getting tenure first

For women who want to have children, an academic career in a tenured position can seem unfairly problematic.  One approach to the problem is to hold off trying to have children until you have gotten tenure.  The alternative of late motherhood is explored in Elizabeth Gregory’s new book,  Ready:  Why Women Are Embracing the New Later Motherhood, which is based on interviews with over 100 moms who chose this option. Using both anecdotal and statistical evidence, Gregory delivers what may be unexpectedly good news about later motherhood, which amazon.com lists as:

-Stronger family focus: Having achieved many of their personal and career goals, new later moms feel ready to focus on family rather than trying to juggle priorities
-More financial power: New later moms have established careers and make higher salaries
-Greater self-confidence: New later moms have more career experience, and their management skills translate directly into managing a household and advocating for their children
-More stable single-parenting: New later moms who are single have more resources
-High marriage rate: On average, 85 percent of new later moms are married, lending stability to the family structure
-Longer lives: Evidence indicates that new later moms actually live longer than moms who start their families earlier

( Gregory’s blog lists another advantage that applies to lesbians.) 

The downsides of waiting are all too familiar; the advantages can now be considered too.
You might also want to look at Gregory on the Huffington Post here and here.  A review is here

(Required disclosure: the author is a friend of mine.)

Bernard Chapin

People, I have a confession to make: weirdos turn me on. I cannot wait until my retirement when I will while away many a happy hour hanging out with the local UFO Society, or camping in cornfields awaiting crop messages from the fairies. It was thus with a certain amount of perverse glee that I discovered the existence of one Bernard Chapin, writer and oddball extraordinaire. One of our readers alerted me to his existence after he published a scathing review of her modern fairytale book, where he mocks flight attendants for being stupid, and advises women to find a husband whilst they’re still young and good-looking because no man wants an old, shrivelled-up career woman with defunct ovaries. Smelling an oddball, I googled and, oh boy, did I strike gold. Bernard’s vitriolic outpourings on the horrors of today’s women are truly a joy to behold. Take, for instance, this little gem, where Bernard considers whether a man nowadays should get married. His answer is that, although marriage can sometimes be a good thing, the presumption in this day and age should be ‘no’. Why? Well for a whole heap of reasons actually. Marry a woman and most likely she will (not necessarily in this order): spend all your money (some women have jobs these days, Bernard); get divorced and take all your money (oh but hang on, I thought there were all those, you know, facts about how divorce leaves women impoverished?…); make you pay for her college education (won’t that be her parents? or even, dare I suggest it, her? – see previous comment); make friends with evil, carpet-munching feminists (college is swarming with ’em, donchya know?); make you go shopping (what, like for food and stuff?); abort all your wonderful children (no doubt egged on by all those evil carpet-munching feminists she met at college); and – oh, the horror – make you visit her family and friends. Moreover, unlike the good old days, when a man knew what he was getting for his money – a cook, a cleaner, and a sexy temptress who didn’t talk too much – all he’ll get nowadays is a stupid fat slob, who’ll boss him around, and try to make him do pointless chores like cleaning. Chances are, she’ll have been around the block a few times too, and let’s face it, who wants to put his precious pink soldier in a previously-filled hole? Yes, my friends, Bernard will remain a self-confirmed toxic bachelor. Leering at attractive young women in the street as ‘a political statement’, (especially if their waists are about seven tenths the size of their hips), and castigating single mothers as the source of all society’s evils. Inside every blogger is a small, amateur Freud, begging to be let out. Mine is currently whispering things about how a six-year old Bernard probably had to sit next to a little girl at school who was better than him at maths. But I’ll ignore him. You can read more by Bernard here.