[Parentsgroup-list] an outrageous practice

Christine Dianne Wenc wenc at fas.harvard.edu
Mon Jan 9 11:21:44 EST 2006

This is a tough one.  On the one hand, I think it is illegal. (?)  On the
other hand, in some cases having a kid might make you MORE likely to get
the job because it humanizes you.  But for others it might be the
opposite, especially if your child is very small.

Part of the interviewing process is to just see if you are able to
converse in a relaxed way like normal people, so is it possible some of
the asking about family is just part of this?

My personal feeling is that one reason behind all our problems is the
huge cultural divide between work and family which developed as a part of
the development of the professions in the first part of the 20th century.
(which also was happening between the period of intense sentimentalization
of middle-class motherhood and innocent childhood in the 19th c and the
renewal of this sentiment in the 1950s...it's good to keep in mind that
what we think is the "natural" family model is pretty culturally shaped).

So, for me, I think coming out of the
closet as parents is a good thing, frankly.  How will major
structural changes be made if we pretend we don't have kids?  I don't like
the present model that still assumes every parent is a father with a
stay-at-home wife at all, and I think it should change to reflect the
reality that most families are not like this (in academia or out).  Also,
how will we overcome the deeply-ingrained idea that
motherhood makes you unfit to use your brain analytically if we aren't
open about having kids?

Just my two cents, Christine

On Mon, 9 Jan 2006, Anna Shusterman wrote:

> Dear fellow parents,
> I have been talking to some friends on the academic job market. Invariably,
> they have been asked whether they have a child or a partner at interviews.
> This is true for males as well as females. Sometimes this is done in a
> somewhat sneaky way, for example they are asked by a grad student who they
> later find out is on the search committee.
> I think this is pretty outrageous, and the fact that it is pervasive does
> not make it less outrageous. Apparently, it is also illegal by federal law.
> I don't know what other people think about this. For my part, I am
> interested in thinking about ways to publicize and stop this practice,
> though I'm not sure that all would agree with me on those courses of action.
> I'm eager to hear other people's thoughts on the matter.
> Yours,
> Anna (G5 in psychology, mother to 19-month-old Max)

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