In my last serious post I suggested that institutions or maybe NIH should provide some financial support for PIs that hire women postdocs, students and what have you… when these employees are absent from the job, or perhaps have reduced effort on the job due to childbearing. I have to admit- I was secretly waiting for someone to make a comment like the one that follows, and FrauTech fell right into my trap:
That is very interesting. But if you pay PIs extra (or compensate in some non-monetary way) for every pregnant woman, do you do the same for young fathers? I agree more support on the institutional level is important here, along the lines of written maternity AND paternity leave policies that are fair to the PI and fair to those taking the policy. And if you are compensating for pregnancies, you’d of course want to do the same for adoption. But what other support would make sure it was fair, enough to inspire PIs to take the chance, but not so much that it’s a ridiculous amount of leeway?
Hmmm. Ok, I’m frustrated by two parts of this comment, I have to take them one at a time. First to this one:
That is very interesting. But if you pay PIs extra (or compensate in some non-monetary way) for every pregnant woman, do you do the same for young fathers?
I have *NEVER* in my 20 year academic training and career, heard of any incident or story where a man was told during an interview with a PI that he better not get pregnant or start a family during his graduate career or postdoc, because it might hurt the PI’s productivity. I have *NEVER* heard any stories about men being discriminated against in hiring for postdoctoral training because they might be planning a family. You know the kinds of comments that I mean- I’m not hiring him because his wife might pop out a couple of kids!. I’ve heard these stories more frequently than I care to remember about women.
That’s not to say that these incidents have not occurred on some low level- they may have, who knows. It’s just that usually I hear that a faculty member plans on only hiring men because then they won’t be saddled PAYING FOR someone who is unproductive when a baby is born (ok, or a child is adopted), or who might quit when maternity leave is over. The idea of my comment was to prevent that discriminatory hiring of men over women by giving women an equal advantage from the outset- or in other words- take away or mitigate the perceived detriment, whether real or not, to the PI when the PI loses a lab member to time off after childbirth.
The only way, I think, to address this problem is with actual money. Perhaps a mechanism could be set up to allow NIH suppported researchers to apply for supplements to their NIH grant to cover the salary of an employee that is out on leave for childbirth (or adoption) – for a short period, say 6 months salary. Most of the time, this should apply to the primary caregiver for the child- which, after childbirth, us usually the mother of the child. If you think about this, it shouldn’t be that far out of the ballpark in terms of reality. After all, NIH funded PIs can currently apply for supplements to hire minorities to work in their lab- the idea being that this encourages diversity in hiring in academic science. Why can’t we set up a similar process to encourage fairness in hiring of women postdocs (0r at whatever rank)- ?? This seems like something the NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health should be thinking about!!!
And as an aside- OF COURSE- I do see the point about being more family friendly in general, as regular readers of this blog know very well- I’d love it if DrMrA could have taken 3 months off when our kids were born- but the sad fact of the matter is that men are generally not discriminated against in hiring because they *might* get pregnant.
But the second thing that is bugging me is the repetition of the word, and of the idea of, FAIRNESS. As a woman in academic science I just have to say- where have we been and how far have things changed in ensuring things are fair for women in science in the last 30 years? I am so tired of citing the studies and statistics I could just spit. And I don’t want to hear all that nonsense about how men and women are now represented equally in graduate school. We’ve established many, many moons ago that this fact is true, and it doesn’t mean squat for how things change when you look up the ranks at tenure track faculty, at tenured faculty, at full professors, and at top administration. No matter how much we wish it not to be so, women are still the primary caregivers for children, they are the 50% of our species that give birth and that need time off to recover after giving birth- and no matter how much we wish that parental duties be shared equally- due to biology mothers will always have a role that is more consuming in almost every way (at least at the beginning), than fathers. We can chat on all we want about paternity leave (and I do think this is important and would be great), but I’m not fighting for it right now. I’m fighting for mothers not to be disadvantaged or discriminated against in their careers because they need to take some time off after giving birth.
Sometimes I can’t believe we are STILL talking about this. I challenge all of you, you guys are smart, you guys know your institutions and NIH, NSF etc etc… I challenge you to answer Frautech’s last question up there, because I think Frautech and I really have the same agenda:
But what other support would make sure it was fair, enough to inspire PIs to take the chance, but not so much that it’s a ridiculous amount of leeway?