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 Post subject: Advice re pregnancy and job changes in academia
PostPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2012 4:21 pm 

Joined: Mon Aug 20, 2012 12:06 pm
Posts: 2
Hi,

Background: I have a masters in public health and will be defending my PhD in a month. I'll be joining the faculty at the top school in my field in a non-tenure track 2 year position (with possibility of extension). I've been advised by multiple people at my institution that if a tenure track position does not open up within two years, I should move to a tenure track position at another school (and eventually get recruited back to my current institution). Bottom line: I may be looking for a job in 2 years, and so will my husband, since he will be finishing his PhD program around that time.

I'm 31.5, so we would like to expand our family within the next few years. We are struggling with the timing, however. If we wait a year to start trying, I may be job-hunting while pregnant or with a newborn - I'm not sure how that would be seen by prospective employers. If we wait two years, I start off my new position with a pregnancy - not sure how that would be seen, either. And we're not quite ready to start trying immediately.

Is there anyone on here with experience hiring/recruiting? Would you consider hiring a pregnant woman or one with a very young infant? If it makes a difference, I have a strong CV, have always received excellent reviews from my supervisors, and have won a number of grants and awards.


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 Post subject: Re: Advice re pregnancy and job changes in academia
PostPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2012 4:30 pm 

Joined: Fri Sep 12, 2008 12:29 pm
Posts: 1609
Location: Seattle, WA
I am pretty sure it's illegal to avoid hiring someone because they are pregnant or have a newborn.


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 Post subject: Re: Advice re pregnancy and job changes in academia
PostPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2012 5:59 pm 

Joined: Thu Apr 05, 2007 3:05 pm
Posts: 1329
It may be illegal but that doesn't necessarily stop people from doing it, or from factoring it into their decision in some way. I spent a few years negotiating grants and contracts at a university, and my primary role was to protect the academic freedom of our faculty: we never accepted funding if the funder was allowed to approve or otherwise control the content of the final research paper, or could make unilateral changes to the scope of work. So if a faculty member was studying the effects of cigarette smoking and received funding from a tobacco company, we'd only accept the grant or contract if the tobacco company had no contractual ability to influence the results of the final paper. Does that mean that the source of funding cannot influence a study's outcome? I think you can figure out the answer yourself ;-)

Anyway, I think the answer to the question at hand is that it probably depends on who's doing the hiring and how that person or that committee feels about dealing with the complications that would arise under the various scenarios you described. It's far from an uncommon occurrence in academia or any profession, though, so it's not like the committee is likely to have to think this through for the first time. And if they want you badly enough they will figure out a way to accommodate you.

I have a biologist friend who pursued her PhD and her first academic positions as the mother of three young children, one of whom was born while she was in her PhD program. She's been a tenured professor for about 12 years now.


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 Post subject: Re: Advice re pregnancy and job changes in academia
PostPosted: Tue Aug 21, 2012 3:41 am 

Joined: Mon Feb 07, 2011 6:33 pm
Posts: 1146
Location: Illinois
stannius wrote:
I am pretty sure it's illegal to avoid hiring someone because they are pregnant or have a newborn.

brad wrote:
It may be illegal but that doesn't necessarily stop people from doing it, or from factoring it into their decision in some way.

It is illegal, but also extremely difficult to prove that it is the reason someone wasn't hired unless they do something really stupid like, tell them.


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 Post subject: Re: Advice re pregnancy and job changes in academia
PostPosted: Tue Aug 21, 2012 11:32 am 
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Joined: Wed Sep 23, 2009 9:01 am
Posts: 5357
I work in an academic institution but not in a field anywhere close to public health. I'd make two comments:

First, academic institutions vary widely. In my institution the "top" level administration has almost no power. The president of the university has virtually no influence over me. My department routinely ignores university policy because, well, we can with no consequence. In other universities the departments have far less power and they have to comply with policies. It really comes down to funding. If departments are largely self funding then they will call the shots.

Second, academics are going to be concerned with your ability to do your job and your accomplishments/fundraising ability. No one will care if you are pregnant or anything else as long as you can do your job. But if they think a pregnancy will keep you away from teaching or bringing in money, they will avoid you. You will never know it. It doesn't matter what the top level policy is. I've been on search committees. Things are discussed that shouldn't be. No one cares what the law is.

You'll need to get a read on the institutional and department politics to decide how to play this. Personally I have never seen or even heard of any discrimination against pregnant women in my university but since I work in a different field I might just not be aware of it. I know there is some activism to address "women's issues" at my university and things related to not hiring pregnant women never come up. They focus on child care, breastfeeding rooms, and that sort of thing so I tend to think there is no problem. But frankly, if the department you are applying to consists of a bunch of old faculty (men or women) you are going to have a harder time than if it is mostly younger faculty.

Good luck.


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 Post subject: Re: Advice re pregnancy and job changes in academia
PostPosted: Tue Aug 21, 2012 1:15 pm 

Joined: Fri Sep 12, 2008 12:29 pm
Posts: 1609
Location: Seattle, WA
Can you ask around to some faculty members who have kids? At a different institution if you're worried.


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 Post subject: Re: Advice re pregnancy and job changes in academia
PostPosted: Tue Aug 21, 2012 3:59 pm 

Joined: Mon Aug 20, 2012 12:06 pm
Posts: 2
Thanks, this is helpful. I am aware that it is illegal, but pretty hard to prove and people also often have sub-conscious biases. I should have mentioned that this field involves a lot of travel to low and middle-income countries, which is obviously curtailed in the last trimester. That said, the positions in this field are almost entirely funded by soft money, so I guess as long as you are bringing grants in they probably don't care.

Stannius - I think part of my concern is that there are very, very few tenure-track women with children in my department - off the top of my head, I can think of 4 (out of 40-50) - and several of those waited until they had tenure to start trying, which is not an option in our case unless we adopt.

I guess I need to wait a few more months until I am actually on faculty and have a better sense of the environment. Right now my mentors are all men, women without kids, and one non-tenure track woman with kids who seems content to stay in that position.


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 Post subject: Re: Advice re pregnancy and job changes in academia
PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2012 8:56 am 

Joined: Mon Apr 25, 2011 7:37 am
Posts: 446
I ditto doinghomework. At the department I got my degree in, all the female professors i knew either had children AFTER they received tenure, or were childless. My advisor told me that "between holding down a professorship, being married, having a child/kids, you can could do 1 well, 2 mediocrely, and 3 not at all."
In a research position I experienced discrimination after I got pregnant, and had to leave that position. It didn't matter that it didn't affect my work ability, it was no go from that point forward.
Despite what the institution may say on the matter, the individual departments (and supervisors) may have varying views on this matter.
It appears there are different rules are for men. There, if the applicant has a spouse, (esp if they have children) they are considered an asset and support system.
If you decide to have a child now, simply try to be as productive as you can during the next 2 years, to show prospective employers that having a child did not impact your effectiveness/productivity at work. But sad to say I wouldn't be surprised if a few places rule you out simply because you do have a child.


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 Post subject: Re: Advice re pregnancy and job changes in academia
PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 9:28 am 

Joined: Wed Sep 12, 2012 7:33 am
Posts: 43
As an Investment Advisor and a soon to be father of twins (which is still crazy to me) I have some insight. First off, the fact that my wife was already employed somewhere helped tremendously because she had built up leave time and worked long enough to acquire leave time for the birth of our children.

I would advise getting in the door wherever you can immediately. Honestly, I don't know much about the academia job process but getting in the door and already being there prior to getting pregnant helped my wife and us considerably.

On the financial front I have some other advice. Honestly try to save ahead of time as much as possible and pay down as much debt as possible to keep your monthly expenses as skinny and thin as possible to allow for more flexibility. Even at this point we don't know if my wife will quit work or not. We are told a baby changes everything and all we can do ahead of time is prepare for those options. I think even now for you and your husband it might be nice to start preparing now.

Michael Goldberg
Goldberg Financial, LLC
Clifton VA
You can follow my blog here: http://financeinlife.blogspot.com/2012/09/markets-on-fed-watch.html


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 Post subject: Re: Advice re pregnancy and job changes in academia
PostPosted: Tue Oct 23, 2012 2:45 pm 

Joined: Tue Oct 23, 2012 2:22 pm
Posts: 7
Location: Texas
mels wrote:
I guess I need to wait a few more months until I am actually on faculty and have a better sense of the environment. Right now my mentors are all men, women without kids, and one non-tenure track woman with kids who seems content to stay in that position.


I think that's the best option right now. Anyway, if you become pregnant when you're part of the faculty they won't fire you, right? Also, I wonder if you can bring your baby in school later when you get back to work? I know of someone who actually brought her child to school and she'd just place her in a stroller while she's handling classes. Or is there an option for you to be allowed a few hours of breastfeeding time for your baby, that is if you intend to breastfeed? I read somewhere that there is such a thing. So perhaps you could find out about that as well.

I hope everything turns out fine for you and good luck on becoming pregnant!


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 Post subject: Re: Advice re pregnancy and job changes in academia
PostPosted: Tue Oct 23, 2012 3:08 pm 
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Joined: Wed Sep 23, 2009 9:01 am
Posts: 5357
jorgeb wrote:
Also, I wonder if you can bring your baby in school later when you get back to work? I know of someone who actually brought her child to school and she'd just place her in a stroller while she's handling classes.


Employers are not required to allow employees to bring babies or children to work. But the University that I work at has a written policy allowing people to bring kids to work "occasionally" as long as the work area is safe. Not all universities have such policies though.

jorgeb wrote:
Or is there an option for you to be allowed a few hours of breastfeeding time for your baby, that is if you intend to breastfeed? I read somewhere that there is such a thing. So perhaps you could find out about that as well.

Um, yeah there is such an option. In fact, it's available in all work places in the United States. It's a federal law. Employers must provide time off and a safe, convenient, private location (not a bathroom) for a woman to breast feed or express milk any time she needs to. The implication is that they must allow the baby to be there although that is untested I think. The law says the time and frequency must be reasonable...but I pity the employer that tries to restrict it. They will have all sorts of women's groups as well as the EEOC and other federal agencies breathing down their neck.


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 Post subject: Re: Advice re pregnancy and job changes in academia
PostPosted: Tue Oct 23, 2012 3:38 pm 

Joined: Tue Oct 23, 2012 2:22 pm
Posts: 7
Location: Texas
DoingHomework wrote:
jorgeb wrote:
Also, I wonder if you can bring your baby in school later when you get back to work? I know of someone who actually brought her child to school and she'd just place her in a stroller while she's handling classes.

Employers are not required to allow employees to bring babies or children to work. But the University that I work at has a written policy allowing people to bring kids to work "occasionally" as long as the work area is safe. Not all universities have such policies though.
jorgeb wrote:
Or is there an option for you to be allowed a few hours of breastfeeding time for your baby, that is if you intend to breastfeed? I read somewhere that there is such a thing. So perhaps you could find out about that as well.

Um, yeah there is such an option. In fact, it's available in all work places in the United States. It's a federal law. Employers must provide time off and a safe, convenient, private location (not a bathroom) for a woman to breast feed or express milk any time she needs to. The implication is that they must allow the baby to be there although that is untested I think. The law says the time and frequency must be reasonable...but I pity the employer that tries to restrict it. They will have all sorts of women's groups as well as the EEOC and other federal agencies breathing down their neck.


It's good to know that there are policies like that. Though I don't know if you can actually teach with your baby in school. My friend already has a one year old son and she can barely work, to think her job is home-based and done online. How much more if the baby's just a few months old. Well, if she can manage taking care of her baby and working at the same time, kudos to her! :)


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