You both have to do 75% #pubscience #Scimom

If you watch only 10 minutes of the video on science parenting from last night's #pubscience, check out the ~30-40min mark. Two important points are made during that span:

1) Babyattachmode makes the under appreciated point about academic career pairs and priority. She talks about how she and her husband got their PhDs around the same time, but because she took time off to have a child, his CV is now stronger. The result of that is that she has essentially become the "trailing spouse" in their job search.

2) Michael Tomasson made one of the more insightful comments about effort. He relayed his experience in which he found that the idea that both parents can shoulder 50% of the load and meet in the middle, is false. Rather, it takes both parents feeling like they are doing 75% for things to come together in anything resembling equal effort. Why 75%? Because there's significant non-overlap between each person's priorities and doing 50% of what you see as 100% leaves significant gaps.

I think both these are worth considering when we talk about dual career pairs, fairness and how kids fit into the mix.

18 responses so far

  • AnonPI says:

    Comment #1 is dead on. This has happened to me and my husband after we had a kid, and one of the results is that now that I need to move on from my current institution (for lots of uncommentable reasons) my CV is not strong enough. It's definitely not the only reason but it certainly contributed.

  • Busy says:

    The deal should not be to "follow the more successful partner" as this is self-reinforcing. At home we agreed that if either one of us had a substantial increase in salary (measured as percentage) the other person would follow.

  • proflikesubstance says:

    But Busy, you can't really tell me that there is no correlation between strength of CV and job prospects. Although that may not be The Deal, certainly success breeds opportunity.

  • Yeah. Both myself and my spouse feel like we do 50%. That explains why so much important stuff falls through the cracks.

  • anonymous says:

    I often hear people talk about the "two-body" problem (aka, the 'trailing spouse' thing) wherein both bodies are in academia. I'd be curious to hear more about the outcomes when one body is non-academic.

    In our family we have one research type (me) and one non-research type (my husband, who was a research type but has transitioned to something else and now makes way more money). We moved the family a few years ago when I got a fabulous post-PhD job offer (fabulous in the intellectual opportunity sense, not in the money sense). And it worked well for a few years, but then my husband's job dwindled and opportunities were few for him in the fabulous-job-for-me city.

    Enter the job search for him, and the next decision point... stay in fabulous-job-for-me city and live on one puny income, or move to the new-job-for-him city and live well.

    This is where the conversations about academic careers and work-life balance often fizzle for me. We've got 2 kids and day care costs up the wazoo. Has academia solved the 'equal work for equal pay' problem so neatly that this is never an issue when couples have to decide which job to follow?

  • proflikesubstance says:

    There's no One Size Fits All solution and everyone's situation is unique with its constraints and opportunities. That's part of the problem when trying to come up with solutions.

  • […] ProfLikeSubstance had the same reaction that I did, i.e., that @MTomasson's points on this issue were some of the most important things to emerge from 80 minutes of discussion. […]

  • drugmonkey says:

    That's part of the problem when trying to come up with solutions.

    I heard a lot of you on the video referring to institutional fixes, i.e. changes in University policies. Perhaps some were also referring to the more nebulous "institutions" of scientific careers, meaning the field expectations and judgments, grant and paper review, etc.

    The expectation of nomadism is about the only soft policy I can see making much difference. Changing the competitive nature of science seems a pipe dream. One commenter proposed hard and fast production rules for tenure--sounds good on the surface, not sure how to get theah from heah.

  • […] to watch it yet, it sparked a flurry of Twitter & blogging activity in my feeds (e.g. from PLS & Drugmonkey). Dr24Hours had a post on the work-life “balance” and its importance to […]

  • proflikesubstance says:

    I heard a lot of you on the video referring to institutional fixes, i.e. changes in University policies.

    To my mind this has to be a societal change. As I mentioned several times last night, for whatever reason we have made a choice in this country not to value the need for a maternity leave. Many other countries have chosen to go the opposite direction. Do female scientist suffer career suicide in those places for having one child? Two? I don't know, but it would be interesting to look at the data.

  • odyssey says:

    Related to DM's comment above... *Sploink!*

  • Busy says:

    proflikesubstance, while it is true that success breeds opportunity substantial increases in salary become less common the higher you move up the food chain. If you earn 60K as a professor a move to 90K would be fairly common whereas if you are earning 170K a move to 250K would place you in a very selected elite.

  • MZ says:

    Great post. Kids and the need to spend time with them absolutely matter, but I think people sometimes use childcare-related issues as an excuse for inequity. In Sweden, where I do some work, social policies are much more progressive, but women in science still don't advance as quickly as men. I also wonder if asking for societal or other institutional change isn't a way to pass the buck, so that we blame a nebulous outside organization rather than looking closer to hand.

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