How did I get here, contributing or rather eliciting information on women and careers? For periods of my life (when I was a bit younger and stronger-willed) I would refuse to check the “M/F” boxes when filling out forms. It seemed that to the world the most important identifying characteristic I had, next to my name, was my gender. Certainly at some points during the day (e.g. finding a restroom), it was useful to be aware of my gender, but for the most part, it seemed irrelevant, especially when I was studying or working.

Once in graduate school, I went to one “women in science and engineering” event; thought I’d give it a chance for the sake of networking, but came away a bit frightened. There was a panel of 3 Stanford faculty talking about having children. One had started bringing her newborn to work at 2 weeks. The other 2 had done similar things to return to work as soon as possible. When asked what was most important, there was a chorus of “a good nanny!” More recently, at UofM, I attended a “women and tenure” event. If I recall, again there were 3 panelists. They all spoke of long hours and high stress. When asked what it took to get tenure, one, an MD, said she had worked 80 hour weeks. The other two panelists nodded in agreement.  I raised my hand and asked “Did you literally work 80 hour weeks? Because I’m working 60 hours/week and am feeling pretty worn out”. And she replied “Yes. 80 hours/week”.  Eventually, after receiving tenure following my 60 hr/week efforts (and let’s be honest, many weeks it was somewhat less), I concluded that 80 hour work weeks are self-inflicted by people who volunteer for such tasks as being on panels. Even if a person like me were to end up on a panel, she would be unlikely to fess up to “reasonable” hours, because it is perceived as wimpy in academia to do anything but brag about how incredibly busy and overworked one is (see my other posts for how incredibly busy and overworked I am 🙂 ).

Now that I am older and wiser, I recognize that there is benefit in looking into issues that are gender specific in the workplace. I just hope that the info I’ve helped collect is diverse enough such that those looking for encouragement, rather than just stories of heroism (which are great, don’t get me wrong), will find it there.

  2 Responses to “female faculty on panels about female faculty”

  1. Great post Lada! I too have long puzzled at the idea that people could consistently work 80 hour weeks and still manage to have any semblance of sanity, much less raise kids at the same time. I mean, do the math: Even under conservative assumptions, where it takes you 20 minutes to get to or from work, and you take 20 minutes midday to gulp down some food, to log 80 hours, you’d need to leave the house at 7am and not return until 9pm M-S, and still put in another 2 hours of work on Sun. If you sleep 7 hours a night (and I realize that some people sleep less, but others, including me, need more), spend an hour eating breakfast, showering, dressing, etc., and spend another half hour eating dinner, then except for Sunday, you have a grand total of 90 minutes for everything else: exercise, doctor’s and dentist’s appointments, shopping, reading the newspaper, reading anything else or watching any TV or seeing any movies, spending time with your spouse, cooking or doing anything at all around the house, socializing with friends, and, oh yeah, parenting your kids.

    I’m NOT denying that people do work 80 hours per week on a regular basis: enough people report doing so that it must be true. What I am saying is that I simply don’t understand how it can be done, nor was it personally anything I ever wanted to do–nor, for that matter anything I ever did. And I try to remember to say loudly to younger women (and men) with careers in academia who are contemplating having kids: my own experience was that I *didn’t* have to work 80 hours weeks, or anything close to that. I always felt that I had a responsibility to my job not to spend 80 hours a week parenting (well, duh!), that I had a responsibility to my kids and my husband not to spend 80 hours a week on my job, and that I had a responsibility to myself to enjoy life–and that I wouldn’t do that unless I upheld the two earlier responsibilities.

    By the way, now that my kids are grown and I’m in a senior administrative role, I work more than ever; often it feels like I work “all the time” (by choice). But when I tally up the hours, I’m still not at 80 on a regular basis. Fessing up, as you say.

  2. Wow. None imagined for a second that the father could take care of the baby?

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