Adventures in (Post) Gradland

Thoughts on life after the PhD

Nobody Wins

I came across this truly heartbreaking post from Hack Education recently. For me, it highlights a problem that I’ve heard about a lot over the years: the idea that the completion of your PhD and the advancement of your academic career should ALWAYS come first, no matter what kinds of personal tragedies you’re dealing with. On a more extreme level, the idea that you have no real life outside of your PhD and your academic career, and that it’s frivolous to seriously consider the welfare of partners / spouses / children when making decisions about your career.

This is of course a problem in the corporate world as well. My big takeaway from Anne-Marie Slaughter’s much-debated “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All” article was that most offices still function as if all of their employees are men who have a wife at home taking care of the kids full-time. Or forget the man-woman difference–offices still function as if all employees have no responsibilities outside of the office. Working in a company in Japan, it’s remarkable to me to watch one of my male co-workers, a Japanese man in his late thirties, occasionally leave early or come in late because he has to take care of his kids. Amazingly, nobody seems to give him shit about it, but I do worry about how it’s going to affect his chances to move up in the company. (To be clear, I think it’s awesome that he does this, and he should keep doing it. I just also think it’s fucked up that he could be penalized professionally for it.)

Unfortunately, while companies (some, at least) seem to be waking up to the fact that they can’t just treat their employees as if they have no extra-office existence, I don’t see academia facing real pressure to make those kinds of changes anytime soon, mostly because the demand for university jobs is so intense. It’s also still a badge of pride to sacrifice everything for academia (which can feel a lot more noble than sacrificing everything for corporate advancement). But nobody really wins in either situation–the result is just academics / employees whose work AND family relationships suffer because they’re being forced to act as if the latter is less important.


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This entry was posted on August 30, 2012 by in (post) Grad life and tagged , , .
Anne McKnight

writing•translation•scholarship on Japan (and a few other things)

A Modern Girl / モダンガール

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