Yesterday a couple of friends shared a story from Inside Higher Ed titled “Keeping Quiet on Family.” The article is a summary of a recently published study in PS: Political Science & Politics, “Expectant and Nursing Academics: The Interview Experience of Moms in Political Science” (gated), written by Angela Lewis at the University of Alabama-Birmingham.
Lewis’s article is the first to document the experiences of pregnant or nursing moms during interviews for academic positions in political science. Using data from 349 female political scientists who responded to an online survey, Lewis found very few women who reported to have been pregnant or nursing when interviewing for positions (14.9% and 11.8%, respectively). More interesting were the anecdotes respondents shared in open-ended responses to the survey. For example:
When I interviewed the first time, pregnant, the worries that had led me to keep it a secret were confirmed. I was asked about my family life by three different faculty members. I was deeply uncomfortable with the entire interview. Further, I doubted my own abilities — I was exhausted throughout the interview, given the stage of the pregnancy; uncomfortable because I could not enjoy a glass of wine at dinner, and could not tell anyone why I would not drink. I could not imagine telling them why I was so tired, and why I could not drink. The entire situation was miserable.
And here’s a tidbit from a woman who was a nursing mom at the time she was interviewing for positions:
I did not ask for accommodations because I did not want to bring up the fact that I had a new baby and needed accommodations. In retrospect this was a mistake because I did not have time to pump, which was distracting, uncomfortable,a nd also I ended up leaking during my job talk (but fortunately only I knew this). It was very difficult.
“Keeping quiet” sums it up about right.
I thought I’d share my own recent experience. I had a baby in October, and he is breastfed. In December, I was invited for on-campus interviews, to be scheduled some time in January or February. Before I got on the phone with anyone about the details of my visits, I had to make a decision about whether I was going to bring up the fact that I was a nursing mom and would like to be accommodated. Both places I was invited to were great departments, and I wanted these jobs badly; I definitely wanted to put my best foot forward. However, after a little more than two years in the profession (and five years as a mom), I knew that no matter how great a job was, if I had to “keep quiet” about my family, I was going to be miserable. Thus, I let both places know that I had a breastfed infant at home and so I could not go for an extended period and I would need breaks to express milk. And BOTH places were accommodating. In fact, one of the people coordinating a visit didn’t skip a beat when I asked and said that they had a few options to choose from (including flying the baby with me to the interview), and would be accommodating for whichever was best for me. At both interviews, sufficient time was set aside for me to pump, in a private office. (The real challenge in my experience was making sure there would be enough breastmilk for my son during my absence. The second biggest challenge was transporting the breastmilk pumped during the interview and all the equipment used to express it and keep it at a certain temperature.)
If I had to advise someone else in a similar situation, I would say it depends. In my case, I already had a job (many people interviewing for positions are not so fortunate), so I had less to lose. My interview experiences also may not be the norm — the two places I interviewed struck me as being very family-friendly. I know there are places that are not. I want to tell everyone to just do what I did because it’s better for your mental state and every department should be accommodating and if they’re not, they’re jerks and you don’t want to work there. But you might need to work there.
One last thought — when interviewed for the Inside Higher Ed piece, Lewis said:
We need to tell more of the success stories … of women who have successfully navigated the tenure track as a mother. We need to hear more about women who do it well — or at least try to do it — and don’t have that expectation that we have to wait.
The problem with our ability to tell these success stories, is that doing so requires that we have them first. I have met a few tenured women who have been able to do start a family pre-tenure, but there aren’t many. We need more women to be successful and I’m sure we’ll tell their stories. Until then, we might find a lot of women keeping quiet.
P.S. The same issue of PS: Political Science and Politics has another article that may also be of interest: Women Don’t Ask? Women Don’t Say No? Bargaining and Service in the Political Science Profession. In a future post, I’ll talk about negotiations, drawing from my recent experience on the job market.
Last night I wrote a post about Madonna’s recent trip to Malawi, and the accusation from her charity representative Trevor Neilson, that President Banda’s sister Anjimile Oponyo is holding a grudge against Madonna, which soured her visit to the country. Just today the online news agency Nyasa Times published a response from the Malawian government about Madonna’s recent trip and the accusations lobbed at Oponyo:
State House has noted these claims and misgivings. State House has followed the debate incidental to these claims with keen interest, and would wish to respond as follows to put the record straight:
1. Neither the President nor any official in her government denied Madonna any attention or courtesy during her recent visit to Malawi because as far as the administration is concerned there is no defined attention and courtesy that must be followed in respect of her.
2. In any case, even if the defined parameters of attention and courtesy existed in respect of Madonna, the liberties of discretion to give or not to give that attention or courtesy would ordinarily and naturally remain the preserve of the host. Attention or courtesy is never demanded.
3. Granted, Madonna has adopted two children from Malawi. According to the record, this gesture was humanitarian and of her accord. It, therefore, comes across as strange and depressing that for a humanitarian act, prompted only by her, Madonna wants Malawi to be forever chained to the obligation of gratitude. Kindness, as far as its ordinary meaning is concerned, is free and anonymous. If it can’t be free and silent, it is not kindness; it is something else. Blackmail is the closest it becomes.
4. Granted, Madonna is a famed international musician. But that does not impose an injunction of obligation on any government under whose territory Madonna finds herself, including Malawi, to give her state treatment. As stated earlier in this statement, such treatment, even if she deserved it, is discretionary not obligatory.
5. It should be put on record that Madonna did not come to Malawi at the invitation of the President nor her government. In other words, she was neither the guest of the President nor of her government.
6. For all that is known, she came to Malawi like any other visitor that feels like coming to Malawi. Such visitors don’t have to meet with the President and are never amenable to state attention or graces.
7. If the argument is that because she is an internationally renowned star, and, therefore, Madonna believes she deserved to be treated differently from other visiting foreigners, it is worth making her aware that Malawi has hosted many international stars, including Chuck Norris, Bono, David James, Rio Ferdinand and Gary Neville who have never demanded state attention or decorum despite their equally dazzling stature.
8. Among the many things that Madonna needs to learn as a matter of urgency is the decency of telling the truth. For her to tell the whole world that she is building schools in Malawi when she has actually only contributed to the construction of classrooms is not compatible with manners of someone who thinks she deserves to be revered with state grandeur. The difference between a school and a class room should be the most obvious thing for a person demanding state courtesy to decipher.
9. For her to accuse Mrs. Oponyo for indiscretions that have clearly arisen from her personal frustrations that her ego has not been massaged by the state is uncouth, and speaks volumes of a musician who desperately thinks she must generate recognition by bullying state officials instead of playing decent music on the stage.
10. For all that is known, Mrs. Oponyo has never been responsible for arranging state meetings with foreigners who are looking for those meetings. If Madonna was indeed a VVIP and a regular guest of State Governments as she wants to be seen and treated, she would have been familiar with procedures that have to be followed to get such meetings. They don’t happen by simply sneaking into a country whose President and Government you scarcely desire to meet.
11. Even if Madonna followed the procedures to have her meetings with the President or government officials, the administration reserved all its rights to grant the meetings or not.
It must be noted that the President, Her Excellency Dr. Joyce Banda and her Government are ready to welcome any philanthropist seeking to assist in improving the welfare of the people of Malawi knowing that Her Excellency, herself, is a known philanthropist. However, acts of kindness must always remain as such; they must not smack of blackmail. In addition, let philanthropists not hold to ransom the President and any official of her Government because they showed some kindness to any Malawian.
Madonna recently visited Malawi, and managed to forget to take her manners with her. First Jezebel and then Gawker published a story about Madge’s informal letter to Malawi’s President, Joyce Banda. Perhaps thinking President Banda was just another girlfriend she might go dancing with, Madonna addressed the president by her first name.
Both outlets (among others) did a fine enough job shaking their finger at the pop star that I could almost leave well enough alone. But much of the Western reporting missed the controversies surrounding the more substantive issues of Madonna’s trip to Malawi.
First, Madonna is over-claiming credit for the work she is doing with buildOn to build schools in Malawi, detailed in this article by Malawian journalist Mabvuto Banda and this article by Malawian journalist Ralph Tenthani (and then there’s this one from the BBC). Madonna is touting her recent partnership with buildOn for constructing 10 schools in Malawi, when in fact, they’ve built 10 school blocks, some of them at existing schools. Maybe the Material Girl doesn’t know the difference between schools and school blocks (a school block is a cluster of classrooms, and a school is a cluster of school blocks), and maybe I’m just splitting hairs — but I would like a bit of truth in advertising. If I gave someone a laptop in a village, can I say that I created a technology center in that village?
Then, responding to the less-than-enthusiastic reactions she was receiving in Malawi (huge turnout from schoolchildren at her events notwithstanding), Madonna’s charity representative, Trevor Nielson, lashed out at President Banda’s sister, Anjimile Oponyo, the former executive director of the school Madonna promised to build but later reneged. Malawian journalist Phillip Pemba quoted Neilson as saying:
“Madonna has no problem with the President of this country. But Anjimile Oponyo, who is the sister to the President, is demanding money and matters are in court. Her contract was terminated as head of Madonna’s girls’ school project in Malawi.
“She is now using her position [as Principal Secretary] in the Education Ministry to create trouble for Madonna. She is using her office to avenge on her personal grudge with Madonna and pursue her personal financial interest. We are surprised that she is doing that,” said Neilson.
And then I read this at the close of the Gawker story:
Trevor Neilson, Madonna’s philanthropic advisor, accused Banda of being influenced by a “grudge” her sister Anjimile Oponyo holds against his client, who fired Oponyo from her position as head of Raising Malawi a couple years ago on suspicion of theft. (A report by Neilson’s Global Philanthropy Group consulting firm placed much of the blame for Raising Malawi’s failure to construct a girls’ school, after receiving $3.8 million in funds to get started, on Oponyo, who is alleged to have mismanaged funds for personal gain. At the time, Malawi officials blamed Madonna for failing to provide the $15 million she promised.)
In an earlier post about Madonna, Malawi, and Anjimile Oponyo, I discussed how the New York Times was unfairly characterizing Oponyo’s compensation as extravagant. But now we are leaping to Oponyo as being a thief. There was gross financial mismanagement of Raising Malawi funds in the United States; as Oponyo wrote in an email, “No money for the school came to Malawi.”
Finally, I’m never a fan of poverty porn or people as props. Did the patient in this picture consent to having this photo taken?
I’m leaving Texas. And this place. As of July 1, 2013, I will be an Assistant Professor of Government at Smith College. The position is in African Politics and is joint with the Five Colleges Consortium, which is home to an engaging African Studies Program.
There are certainly things I’m going to miss. And in a forthcoming post, I’ll be specific about the things in College Station that I really loved.
At the same time, I’m excited about what the future holds for me and my family. My husband will be taking an appointment at Amherst College (be on the lookout for a forthcoming post about dual career couples), my son has a guaranteed slot at the Smith College Center for Early Childhood Education, and my daughter will be at one of two fantastic elementary schools in Northampton, depending on where we end up living.
I thank haba na haba readers for sticking around through some thin posting as I’ve been busy with the new addition to our family, while also juggling job interviews (I’m also thinking of writing a post reflecting on my experience looking for jobs this year). I hope to be more active with writing here than I have been the last six months.
Paper submissions must reflect WGAPE’s broad research agenda on core issues within the political economy of African development, including ethnic politics, civil conflict and violence, decentralization and democratization, and corruption and local governance. Graduate students are particularly encouraged to apply. The choice of papers will be based on full paper submissions.
- Submissions are due on Friday, March 22, at 11:59pm PDT.
- Successful applicants will be notified by April 4, 2013, and will be invited to attend the full symposium. Presenter travel and accommodations will be covered (amount capped).
Consider submitting a paper and please forward to those who you think will be interested.
Malawi’s former president, Bingu wa Mutharika died suddenly of a heart attack almost a year ago, and only in the last week have we any detail on the events surrounding his death. A week ago, a report on the nature and circumstances surrounding his death commissioned by the current president, Joyce Banda, was released. The report is 105 pages long. And fascinating. There is a lot I could write about the report (and its aftermath), but life has made other demands on my time. Still, I’m sure many of haba na haba‘s readers would be interested in seeing the report in its entirety.
As I read it, I had a few questions:
- How could the president’s personal physician not have the phone number of a doctor at the country’s major hospital in his cell phone?
- Why would you advise someone to torture the body of your brother when it is impossible that such actions would produce any positive change? And how long after you learn of your brother’s death does one wait before machinating for power? To me, these two questions are strongly interrelated.
- Was it public knowledge that Mutharika had a heart attack in 2009? I don’t remember learning of that in researching a paper on transitions in Africa (that focused primarily on Mutharika).
- Why ask to embalm him for 100 years?
- Finally, why the name Daniel Phiri?
I’m curious to hear what readers think of the report.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for haba na haba. Mostly, it reminded me how much I didn’t blog this year compared to last year. Interestingly, half as many blog posts in 2012 yielded twice as many visitors. Should my 2012 resolution be to blog half as often? Already I feel like I’ve missed out on writing about some important events (i.e., the Ghanaian election, Gettleman’s winning the Pulitzer for “his vivid reports, often at personal peril, on famine and conflict in East Africa”, etc.). But, I’ve had another, much cuter, responsibility to take care of since October.
Here is a run-down of the 2012 stats for haba na haba:
- In 2012, there were 70 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 305 posts.
- The busiest day of the year was April 5th with 894 views. The most popular post that day was Presidential Incapacity/Death in Malawi Means VP Takes Power – Constitution.
- These are the posts that got the most views in 2012:
- an herbal cure for HIV? (49 COMMENTS; February 2012)
- Presidential Incapacity/Death in Malawi Means VP Takes Power – Constitution (9 COMMENTS; April 2012)
- global health corps seeking new fellows (1 COMMENT; January 2012)
- UPDATED: Update on situation in Malawi: Joyce Banda is President (7 COMMENTS; April 2012)
- spring semester study tips: how to take notes (4 COMMENTS; January 2012)
- The top referring sites in 2012 were:
- haba na haba blog readers came from 158 different countries. The most were from the US, with the UK and Malawi rounding out the top three countries.
What’s not captured in the stats compiled by WordPress.com is how much the blog has helped my academic career this past year. For example, all of the blogging I did in the wake of Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika’s death led to a paper with Boniface Dulani in African Affairs.
Blogging isn’t all roses, however. The most-read and most-commented post is one I’ll have to discuss another time. Suffice it to say I am happy it has brought a lot of traffic to the blog, but I’m worried it’s not for the right reasons.
I wish a happy 2013 to all of haba na haba‘s faithful readers. Here’s to what I hope to be another year of productive blogging!