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Women in Media - Qualified Perceptions
Women in Media
This article is really bugging me:


It's about women getting their PhDs while having children. Which is a fine thign to write about, and there are some interesting points in the article. The thing that is bugging me is that as far as I can tell, the article assumes that having children is *entirely* a woman thing.

I'm sure that women are still the ones doing the majority of the child-rearing. But I think that's a different statement than something like "Doctoral candidates are more likely to have babies these days for the simple reason that women make up a greater percentage of doctorate recipients than they did 30 years ago" which seems to take as a logical given the fact that having babies is something that women have to deal with and men do not.

In addition, I honestly cannot tell if the article is about three single mothers pursuing PhDs. There is absolutely no mention of a father, or any other partner, anywhere in the article, but neither is there a mention of a lack of one. I don't want to suggest that the idea of raising a child on one's own is what I object to, but I can't tell whether that's what they're doing, or if that's just what the article assumes that they're doing because the fathers couldn't possibly be relevant to the subject.
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jadia From: jadia Date: June 4th, 2008 03:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
Wow, 49% PhDs are women? That is really surprising to me. I bet there is a *huge* variance given how few women there are in my field.

The idea that children only intersect with women, not men bugs me too. I have also heard that sometimes the fact that you are a woman and want to have a family works against you in academia, whereas if you are a man, starting a family is seen as a stablizing and good influence. if you are a woman, starting a family makes the employers concerned about your dedication to the job. (I think this may have been another article I was reading a year ago or something.)
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: June 4th, 2008 03:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
My department (immunology) at Tufts was probably more women grad students than men; bio in general seems to have a higher density of women (thus leading to the whole "it's a soft science, not a hard science, so women like it better" claim...)
From: csbermack Date: June 4th, 2008 07:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
Not just in academia, it's true in industry too, that marrying and having children increases men's status but lowers women's.
countertorque From: countertorque Date: June 4th, 2008 08:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
As a manager in industry, I don't really notice that perception. Both men and women are less likely to work extra hours when they have children. I don't see any men getting promotions or increased pay because they have children.
psychohist From: psychohist Date: June 4th, 2008 08:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
I have definitely noticed that married men, especially with children, get preferential treatment with respect to not being expected to work extra outside of normal hours. I don't think it hurts their promotion prospects the way an unmarried man's refusing such extra work would.

That said, I have seen raised eyebrows when child care responsibilities impact men's work within normal working hours.

I have not noticed that women are treated differently than men in these respects, but I probably don't have enough of a sample to draw real conclusions.
fanw From: fanw Date: June 4th, 2008 03:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
Huh, that IS disturbing. Right now I'm reading up on having kids during med school and residency and there's a similar split. It's very much a "woman thing".

Then again, I read an article saying that the current doctor shortage is due to more women going into medicine and then working part-time. The solution proposed? Have med schools restrict the number of women that come in! Isn't that just brilliant? It not only suggests that women have ovaries and thus WILL have children whereas men do not, but also that the solution is NOT to increase overall med school admissions but rather to change the demographics. Rrrrgh!
astra_nomer From: astra_nomer Date: June 4th, 2008 04:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, that bugged me too.

Certainly, pregnancy and post-partum recovery is an all-woman thing, but childcare issues should be gender-neutral, right?

My take is that it's a combination of factors:
1) Mothers are emotionally invested in their children.
2) Fathers are just as emotionally invested in their children, but not encouraged to express that.
3) Fathers tend to delegate childcare responsibility to mothers
2) Mothers who delegate childcare responsibility to fathers are automatically considered bad mothers, so they're discouraged from doing so.

I think the problem here is they conflated 'having children" with "childcare issues." If they'd stuck to issues of pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding, it would have made more sense to stick with the woman-only perspective. Since they went into issues of work/family balance, it started to look skewed.
dpolicar From: dpolicar Date: June 4th, 2008 05:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
I didn't read the article, but...

"Doctoral candidates are more likely to have babies these days for the simple reason that women make up a greater percentage of doctorate recipients than they did 30 years ago" which seems to take as a logical given the fact that having babies is something that women have to deal with and men do not.


So, I definitely agree that this statement depends on the premise that women are more likely to "have babies" -- which I assume here expands to something like being primarily responsible for raising a child, not merely gestating and delivering one -- than men, at least among the sorts of people who are in PhD programs.

But it seems like this is a statistical premise, not a logical one.

That is, it's one thing to say "by their nature, women have and raise babies while men don't." It's a different thing to say "When we've observed samples, we've found a higher percentage of educated women than of similarly educated men are primary caregivers to children."

Do you find those equally objectionable?
Or is the problem that they're not citing their source?
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: June 4th, 2008 05:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
But it seems like this is a statistical premise, not a logical one.

Yes. The fact that it's not cited makes it seem to me like it is an underlying axiom being taken for granted, and not a data point being used in constructing the logical argument.
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: June 4th, 2008 05:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
(and, to be clear, I don't find the statistical statement of "When we've observed samples..." or even a more general observation of something like "By and large, women are the caregivers for children...", at all objectionable.)
dpolicar From: dpolicar Date: June 4th, 2008 05:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
(nods) I see. Yeah, that makes sense.
From: csbermack Date: June 4th, 2008 07:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
My perception was also three single women, because the descriptions of buying homes and how they manage childcare really seemed like they'd have included the husband/partner if there were one.

But also, it was about women raising kids while getting PhDs, and I can see thinking that the men aren't relevant to the article. not that it was a great or deeply thoughtful article anyway, but I can see that logic.
desireearmfeldt From: desireearmfeldt Date: June 4th, 2008 07:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
Could they have ended with something other than the quote "I cried salty tears"? Honestly?
psychohist From: psychohist Date: June 4th, 2008 08:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
I have to admit, my reaction to that article is "where are the fathers here?" Shouldn't they be taking care of the kids during the final "disappear from the world to write the dissertation" phase?
greyautumnrain From: greyautumnrain Date: June 4th, 2008 11:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
Didn't your Dad have a kid (or two?) while doing his PhD? Or does it not count if you're a guy because you're not the one gestating?
psychohist From: psychohist Date: June 5th, 2008 07:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
If you're the guy, you're likely not the one doing the child care. I think my mom was taking care of us full time so it didn't impact my dad's PhD. In fact, I think my dad once said he probably would never have finished if it weren't for my mom's nagging.
harrock From: harrock Date: June 5th, 2008 04:12 am (UTC) (Link)
My experience with writing is that details and nuances can very easily turn into yak-shaving expeditions, and as far as I can tell, that's about the last thing any editor wants to see. So I can see someone in the author's position having the reflex of chopping out complication at all costs.

But it does make for an interesting guessing game about the actual facts and the author's thought process.
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 5th, 2008 05:18 am (UTC) (Link)
I've been watching the vaguely related phenomenom of people whose work productivity and/or ability to learn has dropped dramatically due to the arrival of a new baby & subsequent lack of sleep. I wonder what fraction of women -- and I would expect it to be heavily weighted towards women -- never recover career-wise because expectations for them are lowered during the year or two of no sleep, and never raised again.
kelkyag From: kelkyag Date: June 5th, 2008 05:19 am (UTC) (Link)
Huh. That was me. I have no idea why it came up as anonymous, as I still seem to be logged in ...
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