Saturday, April 10, 2010

(not) taking one for the team

Our older child, Little Boo, was born while I was finishing a post-doc. I had time off at her birth, but I did not have formal maternity leave, for various reasons.

Our second child, Boo Two, was born this past November. I worked out a non-standard maternity "arrangement". The whole concept of maternity leave in academia would be grounds for another blog post, but I digress.

When I announced my pregnancy to Divine And Wonderful Department Chair, To Whom I Am Eternally Grateful (DAWDCTWIAEG, for short), DAWDCTWIAEG encouraged me to consider stopping my tenure clock. Here's the kicker: She doesn't think I need to stop my tenure clock because I will need an extra productive year in order to be tenurable. Actually, I was planning to go up for early tenure, and I already have a stronger publication record than is strictly necessary for tenure at this institution. No, the reason DAWDCTWIAEG wanted me to stop my tenure clock is because - get this - nobody has ever done it before!

Actually, that's not strictly true. Some faculty had stopped their clocks in the past for various reasons. No woman in our department, though, had ever stopped her tenure clock because she had a baby. DAWDCTWIAEG really hates the lack of precedent. She herself, when still untenured, had been told by senior colleagues not to stop her clock when her son was born because it would "send the wrong message" to the tenure committee. Now she fears that no woman wants to be the first, because blazing the trail could mean putting her own career at risk.

DAWDCTWIAEG feels I'm the ideal trailblazer for the tenure-clock policy. I have a strong enough record for early tenure, so surely there is no way my colleagues could refuse to give me tenure later, even if I took the "mommy track" and stopped my clock. Maybe I should jump on this opportunity to "take one for the team", and make the path a little easier for my junior colleagues.

I'm not going to, though. Yeah, I know, it would be a blow struck in defense of feminism, equal rights, and apply pie. It would also mean foregoing job security - not to mention a hefty pay raise - for one (possibly two) extra years. See, I'm still planning to go up for early tenure, if I can, and stopping my clock would make that much more difficult.

Sometimes, striking a blow for equal rights means asserting my right to put my own career goals first. I don't think many men would be criticized for doing so.

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