Saturday, August 27, 2011

Clarifications on My Last Post

I started to write a long comment on my last post, in response to the awesome comments I'd gotten. But then I thought, "Hey! This is my blog. I can make this into a new post." And so here it is.

First of all, I didn't mean to imply that I think we should never try to educate the sexists, or call them out. I just think that it is smart to choose your battles carefully. At least in my career, there have been times when calling out the sexist would have done more harm than good- I wasn't going to change his mind and the kerfuffle it caused would have been more damaging to me than him. I think it is better in some cases to just go around the sexist, particularly if you are trying to get ahead in a very male dominated field and will need male allies. This is not right or fair, but it is not my job to make the world a fair place. I'm just trying to live my life and work in my chosen field.

Second, on the question of which careers are more friendly to mothers... I think I was unclear there, too. I don't think teaching is a worse career for a mother than mine, I just don't think it is a better career for a mother than mine is. They both have challenges for mothers- they are just different challenges, and I do not agree with the view that the challenges I face are harder or worse. Sure, teachers get the same random days off and holidays as their kids (if they are in the same school district), and I do not (unless I take my vacation days)- but that is a problem that money can actually solve fairly well, in the form of camps and babysitters. And on the flip side, my friends who are teachers had a much, much harder time pumping than I did. Their pumping schedule was dictated by their class schedule. Mine was set by me, to closely match my baby's nursing schedule- and if my milk was flowing slow one day, I could usually extend the session, or add an extra one. My teacher friends got their allotted time and that was it.

I do see that teaching is a very mobile career, and one that it is easier to interrupt if you want to stay home with your kids before they reach school age. But, as I said in my first post, on the other hand, teachers have a much harder time scheduling doctor's appointments and the like, and can't work from home with a sick kid.  And I guess I don't see the portability thing as being an issue, since I am actually considered the breadwinner in my family (I make more money than my husband). I think it is easiest if one spouse has a portable career, but I don't see why it has to be the woman.

So- my view is that no job is perfectly easy to combine with motherhood. But very few (if any) jobs are truly incompatible with it. And yet we scare young women off of perfectly good careers because of this idea that some jobs are too hard to combine with a family.

And I stand by my assertion that we mislabel a lot of jobs in male dominated fields as hard to combine with motherhood. Mine, for one. But even more puzzling to me, I've heard people argue that computer programming is a job that isn't compatible with motherhood, and that just boggles my mind. It is extremely portable. If you decide to take some time off to raise kids, you can actually keep your skills fresh (and your resume up to date) by volunteering some hours on open source projects. The work can largely be done from home, and usually has very flexible schedules. Sure, working at a start up may require more hours than most mothers would be comfortable with- but there are lots of other places to work as a computer programmer. It is also one of the easiest fields I know of in which to strike out on your own as an independent contractor, which gives you even more flexibility over hours. And yet it is a heavily male-dominated field, and supposedly one of the reasons women don't go into it is worries about "work-life balance".  I don't get that at all.

30 comments:

  1. In many union states, teachers get a specific number of "personal" days that provide flexibility (on top of regular sick days etc.). They can't just drop everything, but with just a little bit of fore-planning (often as little as the night before) they can have a doctors appointment or a shopping day etc. They also have planning periods throughout the day during which they do not actually have to be on-campus, though the scheduling of those may or may not be helpful depending on the errand.

    Growing up in my union state, by far the majority of my teachers (men and women alike) had the time and flexibility to have a second job... they didn't NEED a second job, unlike the at-will state I'm in now, teacher salaries were well above the median salary for the town/state. They just had that flexibility. Generally they were real estate agents, caterers, etc. In the at-will state I'm living now salaries are far lower and they don't have time for secondary jobs.

    Not to say that teaching is a dream job or anything, but at least in some union states, it is a much more flexible career during each day than is being given credit.

    Yes on the computer programmer. That's one of the jobs an academic woman is supposed to say her husband has if she doesn't want to be discriminated against for a 2-body problem. The other being free-lance writer or artist.

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  2. I guess I should have said in my posts- my Mom was a teacher. So I'm basing my opinions in part on what I saw play out in my own family. We were in a union state.

    On the personal days- that isn't the same as my situation, where I can leave work for an hour or two, and not take any time off, since I can make up the work in the evening. Or on the weekend. Teachers just can't leave work in the middle of the day. They have to take a day off, whether it is a sick day or a personal day.

    Of course, being union jobs, they have sick days- which I generally do not have. My current job gives me two sick days a year, and that is the first time in my career I've had any.

    I am NOT arguing that teaching is a horrible job for mothers. I am just arguing that it is not some sort of nirvana for work-life balance, which is what I think it sometimes gets portrayed to be. Like all jobs, it has pluses and minuses on the work-life balance front.

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  3. You present a nuanced view of the work-life balance versus career choices in this post and the previous one (and generally on this blog).

    Still, I would say that any career that is (a) highly portable, (b) allows you to take a couple of years off without hurting your employability is high on the motherhood-friendly scale. I would rate these as the primary mom-friendliness criteria. While the ease with which you run daily errands or are able to pump are still very important, I would say they are secondary to actually being able to land an appropriate job in the first place.

    Nursing and teaching, as a commenter on the previous post noted, satisfy the primary criteria very well; many "men's jobs" that pay very highly don't.
    According to the above criteria, academic science is very motherhood -unfriendly as jobs are scarce, virtually unportable, and leaving once generally means leaving for good. As for industry jobs, I have no personal experience, but it appears that industries vary in terms of job portability and the ability to remain competitive after a break.

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  4. @GMP- in my industry, you could probably come back after a year or maybe two year break without too much trouble. You'd have to work your network, but that is no different than coming back after a break due to a lay off. I don't know how long you could be out from teaching or nursing without needing to retrain to re-enter. I suspect it is longer than two years, so in that respect those careers are easier for mothers- but only for mothers who want to take a break while the kids are little. Mothers who want to keep working will almost certainly find it harder to pump in those jobs than in a job like mine.

    I don't see portability as a key for a job being easier to balance with motherhood, because that assumes that it has to be the woman whose career is portable. Certainly, having one partner in a two-career partnership have a fairly portable job makes things easier- but that is true whether or not kids are involved. And even once kids are involved, it doesn't have to be the mother whose career is portable.

    I guess my main point is that the jobs viewed as traditionally "good" for mothers are no more perfect for mothers than my job (or a computer programming job) is. They just have different challenges. However, our society has "blessed" those jobs as being "good" for mothers, and considers my job "hard" for mothers. We don't generally recognize the challenges for the teachers, and we don't see the advantages in a job like mine. Some things would be easier if were a teacher, but other things would be harder.

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  5. A couple additional thoughts- I know of one woman who took a two year break between post doc 1 and post doc 2 to have a kid. I have lost track of her and do not know what her ultimate career outcome was, though.

    Also- the working mothers who I think have the absolute hardest time of it are the ones working low wage service industry jobs. Schedules are hard to match to child care and can change every week. Wages are low. Relatively low autonomy and flexibility during the work day. Long hours if you want to make enough money to live on. But I have never heard anyone say that motherhood is incompatible with a job in a fast food place.

    I definitely think society's expectations for women are playing a big role in the determination of which jobs are seen as "incompatible with motherhood."

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  6. I think a problem is the conflation between "good jobs" (that's the technical econ jargon) and not as good jobs.

    In order to directly compare male-dominated and female-dominated jobs in terms of something like female-friendliness, you have to be able to control for education, SAT score, hours, wages, etc. etc. If I'm a better employee for whatever reason, most likely I'm going to have a better job on many dimensions.

    Good jobs are better on all dimensions-- benefits, salaries, flexibility etc. One can often get a good job by pursuing education, having reasonable soft skills, and generally doing well. These jobs are better for both men and women.

    However, in terms of friendliness to stereotypically female issues, especially friendliness to people who take time out of the labor market, jobs like nursing and education are better. They're better not because of anything inherent about nursing or education (nurses certainly lose general and job-specific human capital while they're out of the labor force), but because they have a large number of employees who want those specific benefits (generally women). With teaching, for a tenured teacher the reinstatement is automatic with the same district. No networking required. Nurses have to keep up with their certification, but they can do that very flexibly with a small number of hours, and by keeping their hand in even that small amount it is generally easy for them to increase hours as needed. (I didn't leave the labor force for kids, so that benefit isn't worth much to me, but it's worth quite a bit to many women.)

    I guess what I'm saying here is that the issue is complicated and I disagree that there's not something special about female-dominated jobs, controlling for the quality of job. There is-- the ability to continue a career even with career interruptions. The penalty to the human capital loss is not as steep in female-dominated fields, all else equal.

    I recommend this textbook for more information: http://www.pearsonhighered.com/educator/product/Economics-of-Women-Men-and-Work-The/9780136084259.page

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  7. @Nicoleandmaggie, I guess I see things differently because (1) I didn't want to leave the workforce for awhile after I had kids and (2) none of the teachers in my generation that I know could afford to leave the workforce for awhile after they had kids.

    But I definitely don't have the full picture of the issue.

    I do agree that there is nothing inherent in nursing or teaching that makes them better for mothers- to the extent that they are, it is because we as a society have granted those benefits. In fact, I argue that there are some aspects of nursing and teaching that make them hard for mothers (the lack of flexibility in the work day is a key one to me).

    So I suspect we aren't really disagreeing, just seeing things from different perspectives. I am bothered by the fact that young women are being scared off of some traditionally male fields because of a supposed incompatibility with motherhood, when, to me, the fields dominated by women don't look all that more friendly.

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  8. Computer programming is a "good job." SAT scores, for example, are much higher for computer programmers than for teachers or nurses. Programmers value flexibility (stereotypically, sleeping in, late hours etc.) so they get it. I don't think women are being scared off by incompatibility with motherhood with programming, but by sexist jerks in the education system and work environment long before college graduation. There's first-order effects of female friendliness before marginal concerns about family friendliness.

    DH points out that half of the first computer programmers were women. He suggests that it's socially acceptable for a guy to hang out in the basement and never see the sun, but not a female. I tend to think it's more a problem of high school guidance and opportunities. (My sister's girl's school never offered computer programming, but its brother school did.) And, of course, there's the way that computer science jargon is often misogynistic which leads to perpetuation of an unfriendly environment. (Don't get me wrong, I love most CS nerds, but some of them are assholes.)

    We can see job descriptions of "good jobs" changing as they become female dominated. 50% of law school graduates are now women. More than 50% of MDs. By far the majority of vet school graduates. These are professions that used to be less friendly to flexible schedules, but are changing with the demands of the new graduates (even if Historiann thinks they're destroying both the feminist sisterhood and the professions themselves by not being more like men from the previous generation).

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  9. Anonymous7:07 PM

    Just to be clear, I agree with your basic point. I also agree that there is a lot of path dependency here -- nursing and teaching are (in some ways) "better" jobs for women because they have been considered acceptable jobs for women for a long time and a lot of women pursue them, so formally and informally they (in some ways) tolerate/accept/incorporatewomen's needs/expectations.

    Conversely, I'd argue that a lot of the problems we're witnessing in "attracting good teachers/nurses" nowadays are the fault of that darned feminist movement. I mean, how brilliant was it for "us" to agree that we'd take two phenomenally important and challenging careers and tell 50% of our population that if they wanted a challenging/rewarding job, it had to be one of those 2?

    But I digress. Beyond the points already discussed I'd note two things -- (1) a woman needn't breastfeed (or pump) to be a good mother, and (2) another advantage to the widespread-demand-for-jobs thing is the ability to live near grandparents or other "extended family," and rely on likely unpaid, and hugely flexible/reliable (voice of experience here) non-parental childcare. I'd guess that this approach (my case notwithstanding) correlates strongly with some SES factors that are poorly represented on this blog and in your life, and that if we incorporated those voices we might be hearing (still) more on the advantages of this feature of nursing/teaching careers.

    Which, just to be clear, is more a call for all of us to consider ways the rest of the jobs out there can also offer (or compensate for not offering) these sorts of advantages, definitely not a proposal that we career women all restrict ourselves to teaching/nursing.

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  10. Whoops, I (Alexicographer) was the 7:07 comment; not sure why it showed up as Anon.

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  11. OK, I'm now 100% sure we're all agreeing, and just talking around different aspects of the issues- sort of like the proverbial blind (wo)men and the elephant.

    And yes, I think the issues keeping women from pursuing some of the male dominated fields are as big as an elephant!

    I totally agree on the advantages of having help from grandparents... I am typing this now because my mom is here helping out with my sick-again baby, and is currently handling bath time.

    I also agree about the impact of an increase in the number of women working in a field. I guess what I'd like to see is for that to happen to more fields, until the only problems working parents face are those inherent in the work.

    I have another, possibly more coherent, post on this topic brewing. But it will have to wait until I can be more coherent. I.e., until I have a bit more time to write carefully and have thought things through more thoroughly.

    I also agree that most women are being kept away from the male-dominated fields like computer programming due to the sexism they witness/experience (I have an old post on that, which I guess I could dig up but won't) and not family considerations. But I can definitely tell you (because I have heard the arguments myself) that a lot of the men are telling themselves that women just don't want to go into the field. The true cro magnons say it is because we're biologically inferior and find the work too hard. The more enlightened say it is because of work-life balance issues, and I guess that is the nonsense I'd like to call out as sexism in disguise.

    And for any young women reading this and thinking about computer programming as a career- the programmers I hang out with (including my husband) spend a lot of time outside and generally have great work-life balance. Don't believe the stereotypes! They are true sometimes, but definitely not always.

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  12. I think what makes a workplace "motherhood friendly" depends on the mother. Key factors for me are flexibility with my schedule, ability to work from home sometimes (if childcare falls through), remuneration tied to output rather than face-time requirements. Portability is not a factor (since I don't want to live anywhere else) and neither is ability to re-enter after an absence since I have no intention of staying out for any length of time. Having said that, law is pretty portable and, in my province, you can leave for up to three years without any re-qualification. Since there is quite high attrition in the first three years, once you've been practicing longer than that there is no real difficulty finding another job even after an extended absence. I find my field of law to be incredibly "motherhood" friendly (wills, probate, trusts, and small business). I work primarily from home. I have billing targets to meet but no one cares if I do that between 9 - 5. Certainly there are other fields of law that are not as flexible but I have absolutely no problem being a happy working mother. I'm super excited to return to work next week and, even though I can't pump, I am going to be working primarily from home so I think I should be able to maintain our nursing relationship.

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  13. Oh, and yes- you can definitely be a good mother without pumping or even nursing. But the difficulty pumping has annoyed more than one of the teachers I know.

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  14. Right, I'm definitely not saying women shouldn't expect pumping-friendly workplaces; of course we should. But I'm dubious that most women contemplating the family-friendliness of any given career path think, "hmmm... will it allow me to pump?" I suppose at the margins structural/scheduling difficulty pumping may be a "tipping point" for some women dropping out of or taking time away from the workplace, but I'd guess for most of us it's a hassle (small or big) that we deal with if possible (and eliminate -- stop bf'ing -- if not; here I'm thinking of the retail, etc., environment and again, not saying I think it's OK that workplaces make pumping untenable, just that realistically, many do).

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  15. the milliner8:17 AM

    I think that @Jac hits on a key point in this very large issue : "...remuneration tied to output rather than face-time requirements."

    For me, this is the thing that would most likely stand in my way of finding the right work/life balance. And honestly, I think output vs. face time requirements are key for anyone's work/life balance (kids or no kids).

    What is perhaps the most frustrating (that many have mentioned in previous comments) is that the concept of 'good jobs for mothers' enters the debate at all. We don't have the debate on good jobs for fathers.

    I know this is a middle & upper-middle class issue, but the idea of having to choose a career primarily based on my schedule and not on my "calling" or "passion", as compared to my male counterpart who can indeed choose this way, is enraging. Sure things like schedule, time off, sick days etc. are part of the package. But for me personally, it would be a recipe for disaster to base a career solely on this.

    I am the main breadwinner, so I am determined to find a place/way to make it work as I'm not going to reduce the commitments I have made to my kid. Honestly, I feel like I have no other choice to keep pushing for what I need (challenge and motivation at work and quality time with my family) if I want to be sane, fed, clothed and housed and you know, relatively fulfilled.

    Again, I know it's a privilege to look at a job/career from this view point. But I don't get why I should be sacrificing and my male counterpart (i.e. father) should not? For me this is one of the key issues regarding sexism and work/career.

    Anyhow, great discussion :).

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  16. Yes, yes and yes!

    There are so many great comments here from everyone! I want to quote so many things that I agree with, like this one from @the milliner who sums up my biggest frustration with this entire issue:

    "What is perhaps the most frustrating (that many have mentioned in previous comments) is that the concept of 'good jobs for mothers' enters the debate at all. We don't have the debate on good jobs for fathers."

    It's not that certain fields are better or worse for motherhood. Cloud is absolutely right that ALL of them have their challenges. And certainly some fields have been deemed more motherhood/family friendly because there are enough women in those fields to support each other's needs as a mother/parent.

    BUT, we are letting men off the hook STILL by using these labels and by steering young girls away from certain fields and areas of interest since the general acceptable-ness of them for women and mothers is low. AND we are still enabling the men to be in complete control of so many of the choices out there for women, while they can go into whatever field they want without worrying about their home life and how their job affects their parenting.

    It's BS. It just is. Most of the male-dominated fields remain that way because those who dominate the field don't want to change the way they have been working (e.g., long hours, face-time in the office, etc.) to accommodate any others who might need or even want more flexibility for no legitimate reason. As @Cloud said, "a lot of the men are telling themselves that women just don't want to go into the field... The more enlightened say it is because of work-life balance issues, and I guess that is the nonsense I'd like to call out as sexism in disguise."

    Almost all fields could become more flexible by really thinking of ways to provide that flexibility. There are creative solutions and simple solutions. But people have to be willing to think of them and implement them and be supportive of them so that they can work. Otherwise, those fields will continue to miss out the capabilities of half of the population, and probably more as more men need flexibility to be an equal partner in their homes.

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  17. Anonymous12:06 PM

    A major issue in a job's "friendliness" to me is the number of hours required to stay afloat/succeed in it. In academia, the number of hours is quite high if you're trying to gain tenure or retain funding at a good research university. For people whose passion is independent research, this means there's a certain number of hours you absolutely must put in consistently to stay in the game. (I kind of wonder if this number of hours exceeds my level of passion for the subject, but that's another story.)

    I was raised by two extremely hard-working lawyers who each worked >60 h/week. They were able to buy a lot of that time back with money --they hired a cleaner, nanny, and gardener; they didn't restrict their clothes shopping to sales; etc. I'm a postdoc and feel like academia is unfriendly in the sense that many hours are required to stay competitive, and I'd not be able to buy any time if I had a family. Academia is effectively, indirectly *women*-unfriendly in the sense that females tend take greater responsibility for their families and are more apt to be with (cash- and time-poor) male academics, so mother academics are on average competing for coveted spots/grants against men who can dedicate more hours to their research. It's really more accurate in this context to write that academia is family-unfriendly; the fact that other women are often more apt to do more than 50% at home (effectively subsidizing their husbands' academic achievement) is what makes it more challenging for female academics. Increased pay for academics would help reduce this tension.

    (Programming is my backup plan, for the record.)

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  18. Anonymous 1 & 2- I am not at all qualified to comment on the post doc experience, since I lucked into skipping a post doc. (I went straight from grad school into industry.)

    I agree- the pay sucks, and that makes work-life balance harder.

    But I'll say two things, meant just as things to think about not necessarily as advice, since I obviously have no insight whatsoever into what your work life is actually like:

    1. If you're working 60 hour weeks, check yourself. Are you really working that many hours, or are you just in the lab that many hours? I discovered in grad school that I actually got LESS productive work done if I tried to put in more than about 50 hours in the lab (see my work limit post for more on that). But I know that this is not true for everyone, and that if you work in a field with a lot of waiting time (e.g., cells growing, reactions finishing), you can get stuck pulling long hours just because some stupid cells or reactions aren't cooperating. So I don't want to imply that you aren't working efficiently- I don't know. All I know is that I got waaaay more efficient at work when I became a consultant and started charging hours. It was an eye-opening experience to discover how much time I wasted. So you could try a time-tracking exercise and see if the same is true for you and to see if you could tighten things up at work and claw back some more free time.

    2. On the male vs. female housework/hours worked issue: the (small) study I reference in this post is interesting, because it seems to indicate that men and women academics are working the same number of hours in the lab- about 56 hours (and remember, this was a time use survey where they just asked people how many hours the spend on X, which have been shown to lead to inflated numbers. I'd guess the real number is closer to 50). The women are doing more work at home, though. Which sucks- but if you focus on the "we're working the same number of hours" part, there is a silver lining. You aren't really competing against men who work lots and lots of hours. You're competing against men who get more time in the pub, though- which is equally annoying but perhaps less damaging.

    And scientific programming is a great fall back career. My husband does that and is really happy with his job. There are also a lot of similar careers- what I do (information management for biotech), product manager for scientific software, pre- and post-sales technical support... Email me or leave another comment if you want details about some of these options.

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  19. Ok. I'm entering this debate a little late, but as a woman in IT (information technology) -- I figured I should chime in. No, I'm not a computer programmer (that's really just one position in IT, but I know we all get lumped together), but I'm one of those "techies" that "works with computers." I find some of the comments rather unfounded and stereotypical about my field, but I understand where it's coming from.

    First, there are many more women in IT than you would think. Yes, it is still "male-dominated," but not by as much as you would think. My last TWO Vice Presidents of IT were women, and half of my bosses have been women.

    Second -- while I find some aspects of fitting my career with motherhood difficult (travel, working off-hours), there are also benefits (working from home occasionally, scheduling appointments). There is also a huge elephant in the room with a career like IT -- salary and career potential. I can afford great day camps and preschool, as well as nice vacations for my family.

    Also, please don't stereotype CS men as sexist pigs holding women back! I actually see the opposite with 98% of the men I interact with. These are well educated men who respect women -- especially smart women who can hold their own in a technical conversation!

    There are institutional, legacy reasons that there are not enough women in these fields, but don't blame the men who have chosen a field they love.

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  20. @kt moxie- maybe it wasn't clear, but I consider myself to work in an IT field, too. I'm at the intersection of science and IT, and I spend all of my time on computers.

    And I'm married to a computer programmer.

    So clearly, I don't think all men in the field are sexist pigs!

    Seriously, I agree with you that most of the men in this field are wonderful and sincerely want to see more women join the field- and for the right reasons, not just to have more women around to date.

    But some of the hold outs are amongst the most sexist jerks I've ever had the misfortune to come across. And I have an undergraduate degree in chemistry, so believe me, I've had the opportunity to come across a lot of sexist jerks (sorry, chemists, I'm just telling it like it is- but again that is not a comment on ALL men in chemistry).

    The field is less male-dominated than it used to be, but it is still far from 50% female.

    There are indeed institutional reasons for a lot of this... but are the men helping to change them? If they aren't, why not? Have you ever asked a group of men working in computers why there aren't more women in their field? The two answers I listed in my earlier comment are in fact the most common responses I've heard from men queried about that (not that I go around asking the question- I'm basing my opinion on the occasional in person conversation and a lot of online threads, where even if you assume that the most outrageous comments are from trolls, there are still enough misguided comments to make you sad.)

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  21. I have to chime in on this one as well, re: computer programmers. I have a PhD in computer science, and worked as a programmer pre-grad school. And my husband is also a programmer. And we have two small children. In my view, you are correct that there is nothing inherently incompatible with programming and parenting, but that doesn't mean that there aren't HUGE problems with the way the industry works right now.

    A lot of the issues were touched on above (face time requirements, issues with re-entry, rampant sexism). For me, the main problem is that the prevailing work environment in many companies is tailored towards young single people who want to come to work at 11am and work until 8 or 9pm. You take this as evidence of work flexibility, and yes, I can certainly run errands during the day, but that doesn't mean that the workday is at all family friendly.

    My husband and I are both *constantly* being scheduled for meetings that run 6pm-8pm. My husband has been reprimanded on performance reviews for leaving work too early (he does the pick-ups from daycare). We've been told that we're not integrating ourselves into company cultures due entirely to our refusal to eat dinner at work, choosing instead to eat dinner with our kids. And when my husband took a 12-week paternity leave, executives at his company mocked him incessantly about his "sabbatical."

    Working from home helps a bit (my husband and I have both participated in conference calls in the car while driving to/from daycare) but tends to just extend the work day even further, with expectations of doing work and responding to emails until midnight or later.

    In my experience, this work environment is highly dependent not on the field, but instead on the particular company. But sadly, the majority operate in this recent-college-grad mode that makes it very difficult to be successful if you want to spend time with your family. I know women who make it work, generally by hopping from job to job until they find a company that lets them keep normal hours, and then staying at that company forever. I'm interviewing for jobs right now, and asking about typical work days is the only thing I care about, much more than the details of the work I'll be doing.

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  22. @Nicky, thanks for posting! I agree that the culture is going to be company-dependent- what you describe is nothing like my husband's work environment at all.

    It is also nothing like my work environment, or the environment for the ~5 programmers I manage.

    I associate the atmosphere you describe more with start ups than the more established places... but perhaps it is more pervasive than I thought?

    I have run into the "late schedule prejudice" in the past- where the people who come in late and stay late make snide comments at those of us who leave "early", even if we were at work before 8 a.m. But I've been fortunate and not ever had a boss who bought into that crap.

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  23. @Nicky you make a good point. Having 5-8 pm available sometimes at my work is essential, fortunately rarely enough that (at least for me) it's manageable. But, yes, ostensible "flexibility" isn't, always.

    @Anon @12:06 I think, too, that the basic life-course expectations of much of academia (post-doc if applicable, external funding ditto, and securing tenure-track job for sure) in your 30s) are *way* more incompatible with women's life courses (aka biological clock) than men's. It's maddening.

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  24. Great couple of posts! I haven't had a chance to read all the comments on both yet, so somebody may have already said some or all of this. (If so, sorry! :)

    I have LOTS of mommy friends that are teachers back home, in an at-will employment state, and they generally love the flexibility that their job affords them. They constantly ask me why I don't look for a job that isn't so high-stress, that I'm a good teacher, that I should come back home with my husband to raise Monkey. They all work hard at their jobs, but the stress that goes with it just doesn't appear to be at the same level as my own.

    OTOH, none of them nursed as long as I have, mainly because pumping at work was very difficult. Could be a cultural difference as well, but even the more liberal of the bunch were anxious to stop running around like crazy to find an empty coat closet (yes, that's what they were given) when they got their 10 minute pump break in between lunch and lesson-planning.

    Bottom line, I think there are pros and cons to each career with motherhood, but I don't think it's necessarily a good idea to choose your career based on what will work best for you as a mother to a young child. I think, instead, we need to recognize that many careers, even the "mother/women-friendly" ones, could probably be improved to make things easier for mothers/women.

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  25. If I think about the women who have successful high paying careers, in most cases, the husband has a very flexible work schedule. Many are "self employed" which I think for some is just code for stay at home dad. For others, they are in the trades, like plumber or electrician or contractor and that has a lot of flexibility too if they work for themselves. Plus,the wife carries the health insurance so it's a win win.

    I get annoyed when women are "Self Employed" but if they work from home, it's assumed that they are not working or their job is just a hobby that brings in a little spending money and nothing else. Most self employed guys don't have that stigma automatically thrust on them.

    About a month ago, my 5 year old told my husband "have a good day at work dad." I said "what about me?" He rolled his eyes and said, "MOM, I know you work from home." like it doesn't count or something. It only counts if I'm at my "far away work" (ie. on the road seeing customers). It gets ingrained early despite thinking that we are pretty progressive parents.

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  26. Karen L8:26 PM

    Hi cloud,

    I clicked through here from a comment you left at blue milk. Are you the cloud who also used to comment regularly at SWPD?

    Anyway, I hear you on the teaching versus science compatibility with motherhood. My husband and I met when we were both in a very competitive engineering undergrad program. We both got engineering master's degrees but mine was better (mine was PhD-track, his wasn't). I was *this* close to embarking on the PhD/academia career path, and yet, I am now a secondary school teacher. It is not lost on me that, despite having better credentials and if-I-do-say-so-myself better workplace skills than he does, *I* am the one who is working more hours in the lower-paying, supposedly more flexible job. And yep, I take those sick days and it sucks because, for any self-respecting teacher, it is much harder to be away than to be in school. Yes, I chose it. Yes, I love it for many, many reasons. but not feminist reasons - that's for damn sure.

    Sorry about the ramble, but your post struck a nerve.

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  27. Hi, Karen L! Welcome. I don't think I am the same Cloud... I don't know SWPD.

    Thanks for commenting. I'm glad my post resonated with someone who is teaching. I know a lot of teachers, and have a lot of them in my family, and it always looked like a very hard job to me- my job seems easier!

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  28. Karen L9:00 PM

    I definitely agree that the conventional wisdom about family-friendliness is often sexism in disguise. "We" are often self-defeating in our perceptions, as well as being sold patriarchy-supporting ideas. I wish I remembered the source, but I recall reading of a study of professor-physician hetero couples (so, somewhat controlling for salary and professional status between partners.) Rather consistently, both partners rated the woman's job as more flexible, whether she was the professor or the physician. So guess who was more "available" for family obligations?

    Which isn't to say that the women's jobs weren't more consistently flexible. [It could easily be that the women tended to select or arrange more flexibility within their career options, i.e., compromise more, than did the men.] But it does say that the family-friendliness is not inherent to the career.

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  29. @Karen L, that is a really fascinating study.

    I struggle a lot with finding the appropriate balance between recognizing that there are still a lot of difficulties with balancing a career and a family for women and encouraging young women to go for it, because really- my life is pretty awesome. Except for the part where my preschooler won't go to sleep at night. But that is only related to me working in that she has to nap at day care, which messes up bedtime. But if I didn't work, I'd probably send her to preschool just because one human being cannot be expected to answer that many questions. So either way, I think my evenings would involve a lot of effort around getting a preschooler to sleep.

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  30. Karen L8:02 AM

    Oops, it wasn't a study. It was a researcher's anecdote of two couples, as described in the New York Times. But lots of blogs and newspapers picked up on it.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/15/magazine/15parenting-t.html?pagewanted=4&_r=1&sq=share%20housework&st=cse&scp=4

    And I hear you on the bedtime woes. For me it's with my 4 y.o.

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