Recently I compared notes with another FSP about what we tell younger women who ask us questions about careers and families and so on. We have both done many panel discussions, pizza lunches, and other formal and informal mentoring/role modeling activities over the years.
It was interesting for me to talk with her about Science and other issues because she is one of the most prominent scientists in the world in my general field, is about a decade older than I am, is the mother of more children than I will ever have, and is a senior professor at a large and famous private university.
Other FSP (OFSP): Do you get asked all the time about when is the 'best time' to have a baby?
FSP (me): Yes, that always comes up at women-in-science panels and lunches.
OFSP: What do you say?
FSP: I say that there is no best time, so if you want to have a baby, you should go ahead, even if you don't have tenure or a tenure-track job yet.
OFSP: That's exactly what I say!
Conclusion: 2 out of 2 Female Science Professors think that women should have a baby when they are ready to have a baby.
FSP: Do you get asked all the time whether couples should pursue their careers even if it means a long distance relationship or whether one member of the couple should sacrifice their dream career so that they can live together?
OSFP: Yes, that always comes up as well.
FSP: What do you say?
OFSP: I say that everyone has to decide what is best for their own situation and there is no one solution that is best for everyone.
FSP: That's exactly what I say!
Conclusion: 2 out of 2 Female Science Professors think that each academic couple has to figure out what is best for them, after carefully weighing the options.
OFSP: Do you think it really matters what we say, or is it enough that we just exist as examples of women scientists with families and careers, just to show that it can be done?
FSP: I hope it is enough that we just exist, because I don't know what I am talking about most of the time when I'm asked to give advice.
OFSP: Me neither.
Conclusion: 2 out of 2 Female Science Professors are much better at doing Science than being Mentors, but we are trying.
7 years ago