"Family friendly," my ass: and why M.D. women are large & in charge

Yesterday Inside Higher Ed published an article on “New Questions on Women, Academe, and Careers.”  Go check it out–there’s something for everyone there.  I have two questions:  first of all, what’s with the hostile sub-literates commenting there?  Posts about gender equity always bring out the trolls at IHE, but some of those comments were especially stupid and pointless.  But on to my main question, which is:  Why are women academics so willing to chuck it all in after having even only one child (let alone more children) when they work in such a “family friendly” occupation?  Here’s a table summarizing the results of a study called “Harvard and Beyond Project” by Harvard economists Claudia Golden and Lawrence Katz, which “tracks what happens to three cohorts of graduates of the university — those who graduated around 1970, 1980 and 1990-15 years after they received their bachelor’s degrees.”  Lo, the results:

Percentage of ‘Harvard and Beyond’ Women Employed Full Time 15 Years After Graduation

Advanced Degree Earned   No Children   1 Child    2 or More Children
M.B.A.   84.4%   70.9%   40.0%
J.D.   82.5%   64.1%   48.5%
M.D., D.D.S., D.V.M   92.7%   80.5%   60.4%
Ph.D.   91.5%   64.9%   57.5%

This supports what I’ve noticed anecdotally with women M.D.s:  they have more kids by comparison to women with Ph.D.s, and they work.  Man do they work–they see patients four days a week, and then they’re on call usually one day a week plus one weekend a month, on average in private practice.  My women friends with M.D.s have three, and even four kids, and they have built successful and extremely busy private practices in pediatrics and OB/GYN.  How can this be, when academia is legendarily “more flexible” and “more family friendly”–you know, once we’re done with our second or third (or fourth!) class of the day, we can be home to meet the school bus, right?  (And have crackers and peanut butter with the kids while they watch Dragon Tales.  Right?)

Yeah, right.  Although our hours from day-to-day may be more flexible (I feel so flexible about setting my alarm for 4 a.m. so that I can finish the reading for my graduate seminar, really I do!), what’s not flexible is where we work, women and men alike.  Many of us end up at universities in small and rural towns we didn’t even know existed when we were in graduate school, and that’s only after years of searching for a permanent position.  We also have fewer job opportunities than other professionals, so unless you take that offer to move to Laramie, Wyoming to teach continental philosophy, well–I hope you’re happy adjuncting.

Physicians, especially primary care docs, on the other hand are different from most academics, and these differences, plus some advantages in their lines of work, make all the difference:

  1. They tend to be more traditional in their vision for their lives, in that most of them want marriage and children.  (There are very few really hippie-groovy physicians–whereas the academics I know, myself included, weren’t necessarily set on one particular vision of family or love relationship in our early 20s.)
  2. (Maybe what I mean here is that they have better planning and execution skills?)
  3. They have lots of job opportunities, especially if they’re in primary care and open to leaving the big cities where they trained.  (Some cities and metro areas are choked with primary care docs, but that just means that they may have to work for less money, not that they won’t be able to find work.)
  4. They make lots of money compared to academics, and so can pay for full-time nannies and other high-quality, in-home care.  The docs I know make between $200,000 and $400,000, which beats the hell out of what I make.  As Liz Phair sang in a song way back in the 90s:  “you have got to have $hitloads of money.”
  5. They are trained to work hard.  Medical school, and then a 3- to 6-year residency weeds out the weak like you wouldn’t believe.  The docs I know make good money, but they’re incredibly hard workers and they serve their patients well. 
  6. (Only point 5 applies for people in academic medicine, which from what I’ve heard anecdotally, is just as competitive and cutthroat as academia in general, if not moreso.  Academic medicine is all of the hassle, for much, much less of the money–on top of truly brutal student loan debt, compared to most humanities Ph.D.s I know.)

All of you parents out there, get your daughters into math camp and science enrichment programs.  Teach them to love something other than the humanities–which are great, but let’s face it:  they don’t exactly pay the bills.  Point out that physicians get to use much cooler equipment and tools than comparative lit profs.  Buy them anatomy textbooks and models of human skeletons to hang in their bedrooms.  Tell them that 4 years of college, 4 years of medical school, and 3-6 years of residency will go by really fast.  Trust me, they will.  And pretty soon one day, you’ll look at your little girl, and you’ll see the busiest pediatric nephrologist in the region, or the most popular pediatrician in her practice, or the go-to dermatologist in town.  And won’t that be a proud day?

Exasperated Eduardo endeavors to escape the bully-boys

Run away! Run away!

Again, from the mailbag, cries of help from someone else stuck in a bullying department:

I’m writing because I’ve been enjoying your blog (as does my wife, another Ph.D.) and your airing of concerns over academic bullying has struck a cord.  While I’m not directly the victim of such things, I see it at my current department in the most awful ways – seniors “pushing around” juniors to take sides in various departmental debates knowing full well the juniors’ fears of tenure, profs battling with each other in and out of department meetings, the spreading of rumors and gossip about one or another prof, and other stuff I can’t even write about.  (I’m actually quite surprised it didn’t end up in court.)  One of the perpetrators in our department is someone who has admitted to me that he was bullied as a child, and now he’s transitioned into the worse kind of academic bully, and he doesn’t see what he has become.  All this kills department morale, makes it hard to recruit and keep faculty, and turns what should be the best profession in the world into a weekly ordeal.  Every Monday morning I ask myself, “I wonder what disaster will happen this week?”
Anyhow, I’m taking your advice (advice I’ve heard from others, too) and am trying to run away.  It’s hard, since I am beginning my fifth year and tenure review is coming up next fall.  Other places are sure to ask questions about a fifth year jumping ship, and I don’t want to air dirty laundry.  We’ll see how it works out.

In solidarity,

Exasperated Eduardo

Thanks for writing, Eduardo.  (It’s Monday again–what disaster rains down on you today?  We’ll pray for a reprieve for you until tomorrow, at least.)  Your letter is interesting to me because it confirms something I’ve observed about bullying, namely, that it poisons the whole environment for everyone, and not just for the victims of the bullying.  (It also provides an example of something else I’ve long suspected, which is that bullies very often have a history of having been the victims of bullying, either professionally or perhaps deep in the recesses of childhood memories.)  It sounds like you should try to run away, and fast.  Five years is long enough to have sacrificed to the cause.

I don’t think it’s at all strange for someone like you to apply for other jobs.  (See Tenured Radical’s sensible post on applying for jobs when you already have one.)  The gist of the advice is, keep your application positive and upbeat, and explain why the job/s you’re applying to would be the next logical step in your career.  You absolutely should not air any dirty laundry, either in your letter of application, or in any of your interviews.  Even if you’re entirely correct and justified in your analysis, you will sound like a kook or a malcontent.  (By the way, a letter from a trusted friend and colleague in your current department will go a long way towards insulating you from those suspicions.  It doesn’t have to be from the department chair, although ideally it will be from someone who’s above you in rank.) 

You’re at a decent mid-tier regional university, but there are lots of other places that would be a step up for you.  We regularly get applications from assistant professors at regional universities and branch campuses elsewhere, and although Baa Ram U. isn’t exactly Rutgers or UCLA (and by “isn’t exactly,” I mean “not even close!”) we just think, “well with that publication record, of course she doesn’t want to stay there the rest of her life!,” or “Of course he wants to get the hell out of that rathole!”  If your wife is on the job market too, that’s a really good reason for you to hit the market–one or the other of you may even be able to finagle a job for the other one.  You may also prefer to live and work in another region of the country–and almost all institutions like to hear from applicants that they’re located in incredibly attractive and appealing places.  There are all kinds of excellent reasons to apply for other jobs even if you have one–write your letter as a confident expression of your professional achievements and experience, not as an apologia.  Readers, you were so generous in helping out Tenured Tammy–do you have any other advice for Eduardo?  (And Eduardo, please be sure to let us know what happens, okay?)

Finally–confidential to any administrators out there:  Eduardo sounds like a guy who ordinarily would have been happy to buckle down, get tenure, and become a respected and hardworking faculty member at his institution.  It sounds like the only reason he’s going on the job market again is the climate in his department–and possibly in other places in the institution–that tolerates bullying.  This is the price you pay when you permit bullies to run wild!  Good people with other options wise up and exercise those other options.

The only kind of bail-out these guys should get is the kind that gets them out of jail–and only until they're convicted.

On the proposed bail-out of Wall Street, see Echidne.  (Don’t take my word for it–she’s an economist.)  In sum:

Let me see if I can summarize what they are doing right now in the simplest possible terms: There’s a market who has acted like the Robber Barons of old, with no ethics, no real rules but lots of money for the inside circle of participants. There’s a market which has been allowed to do this in peace and quiet by those who were supposed to oversee it. Then this market collapses, whines and whines and whines. So the supposed overseers give it lots of money, tell it to mind the money themselves and go back to play just as they used to. The only difference is that now the people bearing the risk are those who never got the returns at all. The people getting the returns are still the people who behaved unethically and got us into this mess to begin with.

It’s so amazing what we can afford and what we can’t.  We can’t ever afford health care for everyone–that’s “socialized medicine!”  But, apparently socialized capitalism is okey-dokey, so long as only the risk is socialized.  (Sorry losers–the profits aren’t shared!)  $700 billion is only an estimate, and keep in mind that it’s all borrowed funny-money too, so add in another $200 billion for servicing that debt, plus a conservative $400 billion to make up for the Bush administration’s lousy forecasting and bookkeeping, too.  Historiann’s father is not a philosophical man, but he has a very wise saying:  “People find the time and the money for the things that are important to them.”  If the U.S. can find the money to bail-out the “free market,” but believes that it is too poor to ensure health care for all of its citizens, well then, that’s a crystal-clear statement of our priorities.

I’m with Big Tent Democrat:  now is the time for Obama to lead.  (Chicago Dyke made a similar point at Correntewire, too.)  He did so very effectively this summer, when on his trip to Iraq the Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki endorsed the Obama plan for a U.S. withdrawl.  Candidate Obama will go a long way towards becoming President Obama if he can come up with an alternative plan that aids non-wealthy individuals instead of just obscenely wealthy individuals and the institutions they’ve mismanaged into the ground.  If he can do that, and explain to people in clear language why his plan is the way to go, this election may not be such a horse-race in October.

Tenured Tammy: giving up tenure for love?

Well, not exactly, but read on anyway.  From the mailbag at Historiann HQ:

I am a tenured assoc. professor at a mid-level university in what would generally be regarded as a decent location. I’m applying for a job at a decent SLAC in what would also be regarded by most as a decent location. While this is a fine job, the only reason I’m applying for it at this juncture in my career is because they also hiring in my husband’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) field, where his skills put him at a relative advantage in the job market (at least compared to a humanities Ph.D. like me).  He is just finishing his Ph.D., and is applying for entry-level assistant professorships.

My question is, how do I word the cover letter to convey my willingness to accept a demotion without being presumptuous or insulting?  (Since this is clearly not Harvard, they won’t assume that it’s natural for me to want to take an untenured position there.)  Should I be up-front about my ‘two-body problem?’  Should my husband mention it in his letter?

Your thoughts, Historiann?


Tenured Tammy

My advice, Tammy, is to be totally up-front about your personal situation.  Since you’re tenured and apparently are happy enough in your present position, it’s best not to let search committees fill in the blanks as to why you’re seeking what amounts to a demotion at another college in another part of the country.  (Has she been terminated for moral turpitude?  Is she just a bitch-on-wheels?  Are the villagers with pitchforks running her out of town?  I’m afraid the reasons they’ll imagine or invent won’t be flattering to you, human nature being what it is.)

I also think honesty is the best policy in this case, because if being up front about your personal situation is a problem, then you won’t be happy working in that environment.  You’re in a different situation than two unemployed people seeing entry-level positions within a reasonable proximity.  You’ve got a job, and a tenured one at that.  You’ve got nothing to lose by putting all your cards on the table, whereas I generally think it’s best for the Unemployed Ursulas not to mention two-body problems unless and until there’s an indication that a search committee is interested.  In those cases, I think it’s best to let the hiring department get invested in Ursula’s candidacy and get excited about the prospect of hiring Ursula, wonderful Ursula, before Ursula lets them in on some of the complications that may involve.

But, I realize that I’m just thinking about Tammy here.  As a tenured Associate Professor myself, perhaps I’m too concerned about giving strangers on the search committee something to gossip about.  Readers, do you have other advice?  Do you recognize Tammy’s plight, either as a job-seeker who gave up tenure or as someone on a search committee?  Am I dooming Mr. Tammy’s career by counseling such shameless honesty?  How would you finesse this to the benefit of both job-seekers?

Miami students riot because university remains open during power outage. (No, seriously!)


As many as 3,000 Miami U. students staged a protest Monday night against holding classes on Tuesday because of the local power outages in the Cincinnati area (h/t Rate Your Students.)  According to this story, “Miami University’s public relations spokesperson Claire Wagner says these are off-campus students whose houses still do not have power [as of Monday night].  She says the university, including academic buildings and food courts on campus, is running on a backup generator right now.”  Nevertheless, as student A— K—– explained, “We are being forced to take quizzes, exams and attend classes which will affect our academic standing within the university. Our academic standing may in turn affect our careers and the rest of our lives.”

Yes, that’s right A—.  This will go down on your permanent record! And I’m sure you’ve never, ever skipped a class before, so the thought of missing a scheduled class makes you apoplectic!  How dare the university hold classes when it’s functionally capable of doing so!  Like, what if they hold classes this winter because they have snow plows for the campus streets and sidewalks, and they don’t come and plow out your driveway too?  “No power!  No classes!  No power!  No classes!,” they chanted on that historic night of September 15, 2008.  What was the Civil Rights movement thinking, when it identified access to education as a key to empowerment?  Why couldn’t I see it before?  The real power is in not going to school!  How dare the man take away your right to skip class without penalty?  Eh, what can you expect from a “government school,” anyway?

This beats the beer riots of 1998, when for two nights in a row, privileged Miami students swarmed the streets when the bars closed.  They chanted “Rodney King!  Rodney King!” when the local constabulary started taking kids into custody because of their loud, public, and aggressive drunkenness in celebration of completing their final exams.  In fact, it was the very week that Historiann bought her first house right there in Oxford, Ohio, well within shouting distance of all of those drunken freedom fighters!  Good times, good times.

UPDATED 9/19/08:  According to this report, by Tuesday morning–the day after the protest against classes–the University was back on the grid, as were most local banks, gas stations, and the supermarket in town.  Also, by Tuesday afternoon, only 35 percent of Oxford city and township residences were without power.  The power outage remained a problem as of Thursday afternoon for only 12,000 Butler County residences.

Anti-cancer vaccine: too hawt 4 ur kidz?

How’s this for short-sighted?  Only 1 in 5 girls under 18 have received the HPV vaccine as of the end of last year.  In the same story, “Anti-Cancer Vaccine A Tough Sell To Parents,” NPR reports that according to a study of 10,000 mothers who are nurses, almost half are squeamish about giving the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine (the one that dramatically reduces the chance of cervical cancer!) to girls at the recommended age of 11 to 12, but more are OK with administering the vaccine to girls aged 15 to 18.

[Dr. Jessica] Kahn says that in a survey of 10,000 mothers who were also nurses, less than half were opposed to giving an 11-year-old the vaccine, compared with 90 percent who would agree to it for 15- to 18-year-olds.

“Nurses might be expected to be more supportive of vaccination,” Kahn said. “In a way, our study might overestimate the proportion of mothers who intend to vaccinate a 9- to 12-year-old daughter.”

But, she says, middle- to high-income parents tend to be more suspicious of vaccines. And that’s why communication between pediatricians and parents is important in easing concerns, Kahn said.

“If parents don’t believe the vaccine is safe, and believe the vaccine has serious side effects, that will weigh against their daughter being vaccinated,” Kahn said.

It seems like Dr. Kahn and NPR are conflating two issues here:  1) the unreasonable fear of vaccination that many middle- and upper-class parents have (which Historiann has written about previously here), and what I think is more at issue with the HPV vaccine, namely, 2) fears that daughters may actually have a SEX LIFE ZOMG!!!!111!!!!! someday.  If 9,000 nurses are OK with dosing older teenagers, but only about 5,000 are OK with dosing tweens, that means that about 4,000 have fears of adolescent sexuality rather than vaccine safety.  (And brace yourselves:  the NPR story reports that while the Center for Disease Control recommends that the HPV vaccine be administered to girls at ages 11 or 12, the Food and Drug Administration now recommends it for 9-year olds, “since the antibody response to the vaccine is better at younger ages than in the older girls.”)

Parents today engage in all kinds of preventive care and invest in all kinds of worst-case-scenario equipment in order to keep their little darlings safe.  And yet, we don’t think that the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps, and rubella) will send the message that our kids should go consort recklessly with diseased children because they think they’ll be safe.  We’d never think of accusing parents who strap their children into car seats and give their children bike helmets of planning to get into car and bike crashes.  We recognize that random bad stuff happens to people, and we should feel grateful that we live in a world where we can minimize the risk of disease and trauma. 

Parents who think it’s OK to vaccinate at 15+ but who balk at 11 or 12 (or 9) need to grow up, because their children surely will.  Administer the vaccine when it’s most effective–and if that’s age 9 or age 7 or age 6 months, just do it.  Resistance to the HPV vaccine is mostly about fears that vaccinated girls will become sexually active solely because of this one vaccine.  But, guess what, parents of daughters?  Your kid will become sexually active someday.  Your kid may also get cancer someday.  Since there is no vaccine yet that will prevent sexual activity, let’s go for the anti-cancer vaccine, m’kay?

All Along the Colorado (campaign) Trail


Our local NPR affiliate had an interesting story this morning focusing on the election in this swing state.  Listen to this interview of people in Johnstown, Colorado–famous for a local truck stop that makes giant cinnamon rolls.  It’s a town that’s full of foreclosures and economic anxiety–and yet, even the one “staunch Democrat” interviewed for this story says that he’s voting for John McCain, along with everyone else in the story.  It’s remarkable to hear.  Barack Obama held onto a tiny but fairly durable lead here this summer up until the most recent state poll was released yesterday.  Now, McCain now has a tiny lead over Obama.

Barack Obama was in Grand Junction and Pueblo yesterday and today in Golden at the Colorado School of Mines, and he’s turning up the heat on the economy talk, which is good to hear, but I don’t know if any of those voters in Johnstown are listening or are persuadable.  Denver, Boulder, and the elite ski towns notwithstanding, this is a very conservative state–not so much culturally conservative (although they are that), or movement conservative (although there are still “Sagebrush Rebels” here), as just congenitally conservative:  they’ve always been Republicans, they’ve always voted Republican, and they always will.

Colorado has been electing Democrats statewide in the past few years not because Coloradoans are changing, but because newcomers are changing Colorado.  I don’t know if the Easterners and Californians have arrived in sufficient numbers to tip the balance in 2008.  We shall see.

UPDATE 9/17/08:  Some stiff medicine by William Galston as to how to reclaim the advantage on the economy that McCain has taken from Obama.