We also discussed the difficulties associated with child care. The Dean set up a task force on the subject (I got myself volunteered for that one which met that very morning before the Dean lunch). I had to laugh when, at lunch, he said something like, "I'm gathering this is an important issue." Like, duh!
After the Dean rushed off to his next appointment, many of us stuck around to talk more. Mostly to just vent, but some constructive things were said. One of the women at lunch was Dana, who has a big two-body problem. Her husband is a professor at another university and they live halfway between the two schools, giving each of them a 90-minute commute. They have a 19-month old daughter. I had heard that Dana was leaving her job here, and she confirmed that at the meeting. She said she wants to have another child and just can't handle the commute any more. She is hoping to get a job at her husband's school and to work part time in a 20% hard money position. They are moving so that they will both have only a 5-minute commute. Privately she told us that one of the senior faculty in our dept told her not to have any more children. I can guess who it was, and I have to say he is kind of a nut job anyway, and I wouldn't pay too much attention to anything he says, but it's still very discouraging to be told that by anyone. We talked about the idea of having a fast tenure track and a slow tenure track. I like that idea.
On a personal note, during our conversation after the Dean left, I talked about my frustration with the fact that my husband feels that I don't spend enough time with my family when I only work 9-4:30 most days and I never take work home with me or work on weekends. Everyone at the table was shocked that I could survive working such few hours. So on the one hand I feel proud of myself that I can manage on less than 40 hrs a week. But on the other hand I feel somehow guilty that I don't work harder. Am I a great role model who is successfully balancing work and family? Or am I a traitor who gives all female profs a bad name for not working hard enough? I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't. No matter how hard we try, no matter what we do, it is never right, never good enough. So I always choose to just completely ignore what everybody says and follow my gut. My gut says 40 hrs a week is enough. I haven't worked more than that since I came to this school as a post-doc 7 years ago, and I'm not going to start now. In the immortal words of Sid Vicious, "all you cowboys can kiss my a$$".
Here's what I think we need to do: blow it up. I don't think we should try to tweek the current tenure system, we need to blow it up and start over. Why? 1. Tweeking says the current system is basically okay. It's not. 2. Tweeking will never be enough. Bigger changes are needed. 3. People need to know that major changes are coming. Tweeking allows them to be complacent and not really face the issues. 4. The current system doesn't work very well for men either. They just don't know it. It sucks and it is unfair to everyone, not just women.
Blow it up. Here's what I'd like to see. A variable tenure clock for everyone of 5 to 9 years. You choose when to go up for tenure, and you don't need an excuse to take a little longer. Some people are just late bloomers. Plus, we need more hard money non-tenure track positions. In exchange for the hard money, these non-tenure track people would teach more. Plus there should be a process by which people can jump back and forth from tenure to non-tenure track positions by petitioning the university. Again, you shouldn't need an excuse (like birth of a child) to do this. All kinds of stuff happens in life that might make a person want to puts things on hold, or speed things up. Universities ought to be flexible in these days when the job market as a whole has become much more flexible.
Do I have time to agitate for these changes? Nope. Maybe after I have tenure...