Everyone agrees that postgraduate, postdoctoral and other early career researchers struggle with reconciling the geographical demands of their careers with personal and family life. A lot has been said (informally over a drink or during conference coffee breaks) and written (on blogs and in academic journals) about the fact that the current academic system is unkind and detrimental to researchers’ families, relationships, childbearing decisions, parenting, other care responsibilities, and mental health. Everyone (including myself) has a bunch of criticisms and reasons why the institutional conditions in academic employment are not optimal. But in terms of what these optimal institutional conditions are, can, or ought to be, there is no agreement! I find it fascinating how much opinions on this can differ. Here are two articles I read recently. I struggle to disagree with both. And yet, they have opposite arguments. The first one argues that in Germany mothers are pushed out of the labour market because of societal expectations to be “perfect mothers”, and in comparison, in France mothers are far more relaxed, they trust the state childcare services more, and return to work much earlier instead of “devoting themselves wholly to their offspring”. The article is not specifically about academia, but I have heard similar sentiments expressed by some of my interviewees in Germany who, for example, felt excluded and unrespected by their colleagues after one or two maternity leaves. The second article praises Austria’s system (which is similar to the German one) and says that it enabled the author to combine work and family life.
Article 1 (in German):“Es wird ein Mutterkult betrieben”
I guess all should be read in context. The second article (the one which praises Austria’s Mutterschutz law) is written by an American researcher who has been exposed to a much less kind system (to me it sounds unthinkable that in the US there is NO paid leave for new mothers AT ALL). However, it is very important to notice also the hidden injuries of the more protective German (and Austrian) system, pointed out in the first article by an author who has experienced motherhood and work in both Germany and France.
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A few related articles about Germany:
Gender Inequality in British and German Universities, Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, Volume 37, Issue 5, 2007
Academic career structure in Germany (online resource)
Gender Inequality in German Academia and Strategies for Change, 2001 (free PDF)
FRAUEN IN DER WISSENSCHAFT: Wo sind sie bloß?, Die Zeit, 13/2014
Attitudes to gender equality issues in British and German academia (in English, free PDF)
Paths to Career and Success for Women in Science, 2014 (Google book)
A round-up of some recent articles on academic precarity, and inequalities within [Western] academia, some grimmer than others.
France has plans to build a new star university in Paris South in the hope of getting that one university into global rankings. It would have 70,000 students and 10,000 researchers, it would be super modern and have direct connections to the airport, etc. Cost unspecified. In the meantime, the budget for higher education was slashed by 70 million meaning some universities won’t be able to pay their staff – well, the hourly-paid staff that is, those who are paid (at best) 2 months after the end of term. Also this tumbler shows what the non-star universities look like and will probably continue to look like:
(reblogged from https://www.facebook.com/ThirdLevelWorkplaceWatch?fref=ts)
“Academic science isn’t sexist” http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/02/opinion/sunday/academic-science-isnt-sexist.html?_r=1
“Science isn’t the problem, scientists are” https://chroniclevitae.com/news/804-science-isn-t-the-problem-scientists-are
The “Everyday Sexism in STEM” blog: http://stemfeminist.com/
If you read this, please, add more links and your opinions in the comments!