That sort of crazy talk sounds like it might be something from a right-wing political campaign, but it’s not. It’s from a letter published in this week’s Nature magazine. The authors, Timothy J. Roper & Larissa Conradt of the University of Sussex, responded to a Nature post-doc journal entry in a manner that appears sympathetic to the plight of women in science, until you read the last few lines. Then they pull a nasty switcheroo.
Here’s ~1/2 of the good part:
The career structure for young scientists must be made more family-friendly. This means, for example, making part-time work a real possibility, emphasizing quality rather than quantity of output, and taking career breaks properly into account when judging candidates for appointments and promotions.
These changes would benefit male as well as female postdocs. Many young male scientists would like to have stable relationships and families, see their partners from time to time and help bring up their children.
That’s when I found myself saying “yes, yes, yes. They get it.” And then I read this:
If these quality-of-life issues are not addressed, then initiatives aimed at bringing more women into science are to a large extent pointless, and brave words about equal opportunities are mere window dressing. Indeed, it could be regarded as unethical to encourage young women to embark on a career that they are unlikely to wish to continue beyond the age of 30.
So, according to Roper and Conradt, because things aren’t great right now and some women get discouraged and want to quit, we should:
- wait for a change to magically appear that makes this perfect for women?
- fail to encourage (or even actively discourage?) women from pursuing science careers?
- totally disregard the lip service just paid to involved fathers, because if we really believed that, we would have to discourage men from science careers too ?
- totally ignore the fact that some women never plan to have children and so are relatively unaffected by issues related to child-rearing?
- decide what’s best for young women seeking advice and mentoring based on stereotypes?
- ignore the scores of women who do want to continue in science past age 30, with or without children? After all, they’re just aberrations, right?
- completely ignore the majority of science-related jobs outside academia and where some of these issues have been better addressed?
I swear, the longer I stay on this beat, the more often I think Zuska’s onto something with the shoe-puking routine.
No? That’s not what Roper and Conradt meant? They don’t really deserve to clean their shoes? Then let’s try to rewrite their last paragraph. How about this?
If these quality-of-life issues are not addressed, then public proclamations of equal opportunities are somewhat meaningless and even honest initiatives aimed at bringing more women into academic science will not be fully successful. Indeed, even as we continue to encourage young women to pursue the full range of scientific and technical careers, we all must actively work to make academic science careers more friendly to both women and men with lives and families outside the ivory tower.
Ah much better.