Mentioning motherhood?

A reader just emailed with this query: When applying for jobs, should one mention maternity leaves? Should one’s references? This is a question that comes up often enough that I think it really merits some discussion. On the one hand, there’s plenty of evidence that mothers’ CVs are judged especially harshly (and this is about mothers, not parents: fathers’ CVs do especially well). But on the other hand, there are sometimes delays or gaps to explain. How can one weigh up the costs and benefits? Is there some way of mentioning motherhood that doesn’t trigger the negative biases?

So it is possible, if you have the money

Education to a professional, post-doctoral level can represent a heavy substantial financial investment; it is also something from which a country’s economy can benefit greatly. So what do we do about the apparently large number of people who take a break in their scientific careers because they having conflicting caring responsibilities?

Money may well help, a fact all too depressing to relatively unsupported disciplines such as philosophy, which is seen as making little difference economically:

From: UAS Race Equality
Date: 31 July 2012 16:03:44 GMT+01:00
To: “”
Subject: EPSRC funding to support research scientists with caring responsibilities: Call for proposals

Dear REN

Please find attached information on funding available via the From: UAS Race Equality
Date: 31 July 2012 16:03:44 GMT+01:00
To: “”
Subject: EPSRC funding to support research scientists with caring responsibilities: Call for proposals

Dear REPlease find attached information on funding available via the EPSRC to support and retain research scientists with caring responsibilities, including:

· Women and men who have taken, or are currently taking, a career break to care for a child or close relative (including for maternity/paternity/adoption reasons)
· Women and men who are working part time because they have caring responsibilities.

Applications should be sent to by 5pm on 31 August or 21 September 2012.

Whilst this may not be of direct interest to you please can we ask you to publicise this funding as widely as possible. A successful pilot of this strategic funding was carried out in 2011/12 and it had a real impact on enhancing the grant holders research.

Thank you in advance for your help in spreading the word.


Caroline Kennedy
Equality and Diversity Unit
University of Oxford
University Offices
Wellington Square
Tel: 01865 289825

Thanks, Nathaniel!

Parents Versus Climate Change

As someone who remains ambivalent about having children (and as someone with young nieces and nephews and friends with kids), this is a topic of deep personal concern to me, as I’m sure it is to many readers. The diagnosis of widespread ignorance and ‘soft denial’ seems pretty plausible, although chastising people for being bad parents seems to me fundamentally unhelpful. Plus, isn’t the sense of deep political powerlessness pretty well justified? It certainly seems that way in the current political and economic climate. For my part I find it very difficult to imagine a day when any government would place long-term interests like saving the planet ahead of short-term economic concerns, particularly when most governments are only in office for 5-10 years (though maybe this is just a tempting false dilemma…)

Your thoughts welcome, especially if you can think of a reason not to despair.

Exams 28 hours after giving birth

People are posting this as an impressive story of triumph in adversity, which it undoubtedly is. But why isn’t anyone asking about the choice she was given: be *deemed* to have deserved honours, or take the exam 28 hours after giving birth? Why wasn’t she offered the chance to take the exams on a different date? (Note: I am trusting the journalist’s reporting as to the choice she was given. Perhaps they’re mistaken.)

Christine Overall in the New York Times

Nice to see another feminist philosopher writing for The Stone.

As a young woman in my 20s I pondered whether or not to have children. Is there a way, I wondered, to decide thoughtfully rather than carelessly about this most momentous of human choices?

It’s a tough decision because you can’t know ahead of time what sort of child you will have or what it will be like to be a parent. You can’t understand what is good or what is hard about the process of creating and rearing until after you have the child. And the choice to have a child is a decision to change your life forever. It’s irreversible, and therefore, compared to reversible life choices about education, work, geographical location or romance, it has much greater ethical importance.

Amy Allen on the “Mommy Wars” in the NY Times

Feminist philosopher gets it so very, very right:

If the “the conflict” continues to be framed as one between women — between liberal and cultural feminists, or between stay at home mothers and working women, or between affluent professionals and working class women, or between mothers and childless women — it will continue to distract us from what we should really be doing: working together — women and men together— to change the cultural, social and economic conditions within these crucial choices are made.


This article is all the rage among my Facebook friends. Sounds interesting! If only I had time to read.

Although research indicates that single parenting is not by itself worse for children than their being brought up by both their parents, there are reasons why it is better for children to have more than one committed parent. If having two committed parents is better, everything else being equal, than having just one, I argue that it might be even better for children to have three committed parents. There might, in addition, be further reasons why allowing triparenting would benefit children and adults, at least in some cases. Whether or not triparenting is on the whole preferable to bi- or monoparenting, it does have certain advantages (as well as shortcomings) which, at the very least, warrant its inclusion in debates over the sorts of family structures we should allow in our societies, and how many people should be accepted in them. This paper has the modest aim of scratching the surface of this wider topic by challenging the necessity of the max-two-parents framework.