Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Why can't more conferences do this?

My partner is participating as a "mentor" of a summer school. This means that he gives a series of lectures, and works intensively with a small group of students, as well as more generally with all the attendees. The school is designs to be a place where graduate students work intensively with each other and mentors on developing a small set of skills.

Somewhere along the line, the organizers decided that since this was an opportunity for up and coming academics to learn crucial skills that will help them succeed in their future careers, the issue of work/life balance needs to be addressed as well. My partner will be presenting his thoughts on striking this balance.

I've been to conferences where there have been panel discussions about open problems in the field, I've been to conferences where there have been discussions about going on the job market. But unless it is specifically a conference for women, I have not encountered a discussion about 2 body problems or kids.

I love, love, LOVE the fact that they have asked a male in a dual academic situation who is doing most of the parenting this year to talk about this. Although knowing the organizer, the thought process on "who to rope into this" probably was "Hey, you're a young academic, you have a family, go give this lecture," with little forethought about the implications of what his specific situation and/or gender may have on the lecture.

I've given him my thoughts about what points I would raise if I were doing this:
  • Short term sacrifice solutions to 2 (+ epsilon)- body problems are not worth the career hit they are likely to cause.
  • To the guys: If your female partner is also an academic, the traditional housework (and child rearing) workload sharing is not cool, unless you have discussed ahead of time that she doesn't want as glamorous a career as you do.
  • Differences in how having a child has affected our academic social lives.
There are other issues that we would both like to raise about child rearing in general, but it is hard to decide what is useful advice for people who are generally career oriented, versus what is specifically important advice for academics. Also, we have no ideas on how to actually resolve a 2-body problem, otherwise, we'd discuss that.

We are talking suggestions. What do you wish someone had said to you in a conference like this? Or, if you've been lucky enough to be in a mixed gender room with this discussion, what was said that worked?

1 comment:

  1. Travelling to conferences is a big issue if you have a young kid. Should the mother take the kid with her if she goes to a conference and try to arrange child care in site? Or should her partner stay home with the kid?