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From: "Justine Dymond" <>
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Subject: CFP: Motherhood and Academia (9/15/07; NeMLA 4/10/08-4/13/08)
Date: Tue, 10 Jul 2007 11:49:34 -0400
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An Office of One's Own: Motherhood and Academic Labor

In her groundbreaking essay, A Room of One's Own, Virginia Woolf advocates
for the material conditions that enable women's intellectual work. However,
Woolf famously never had children. As women gradually but steadily break
through the "glass ceiling" of academia, they also increasingly bring with
them the expectation that they, like their male counterparts, can have a
family and pursue an academic career. While fathers and mothers alike face
unique challenges in balancing academic work and family obligations,
pregnant women and nursing mothers remain disproportionately affected by the
physical demands of care required in the first years of parenting and,
simultaneously, the perception that parenting diminishes their commitment to
academic labor. This reality is compounded by the fact that women still fill
the majority of part-time and temporary positions in higher education,
lessening their resources to balance the dual pressures of work and
parenting. Recent attention given to the experience of women in the
academy-such as the 2002-2003 study at Utah State University-reveals the
systemic barriers to tenure success that women faculty face in the academy.
This roundtable for the Northeast MLA conference in April 2008 aims to build
on established research, both quantitative and qualitative, on pregnant
women and mothers in academia, and to provide an opportunity for the ongoing
cultural transformation necessary to effect institutional change.

While enduring, gendered barriers are disheartening, one positive trend
would seem to be more sustained attention to the institutional benefits of
policies and practices that are responsive to the needs of academic parents.
As Lisa Wolf-Wendel and Kelly Ward write, "If institutions want to stay
competitive and vie for the best talent in times of shifting labor markets,
then they must pay attention to work and family issues. If these same
institutions want to offer quality programs with qualified and talented
faculty (many of whom have small children), 'family friendly' policies must
be established." Some significant institutional policies, such as family
leave and tenure extensions, are widespread. Kathleen Christensen of the
Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has advocated the concept of a "dual ladder
program." However, these policies and proposals frequently apply only to
tenure track faculty, and as A.R. Hochschild has reported, only a small
percentage of faculty take advantage of "family friendly" policies,
suggesting that policy implementation is not enough to effect institutional

In drawing attention to the institutional barriers to women's "choice" to
have children while pursuing an academic career, we will take stock of the
changes that have attempted to address the needs of mothers in the early
stages of their academic careers. Discussants will read brief papers that
may encompass both personal narratives and research and then the roundtable
will invite discussion from all participants. The roundtable's aim is to
elicit discussants who bring a range of backgrounds and represent various
stages on the academic "ladder," as well as represent a range of
institutional types. I have chosen a roundtable format so that the session
might also create a "think tank" in miniature to generate more ideas for
institutional and cultural change .

Brief papers (1000-1500 words) that represent a range of backgrounds and
various stages on the academic "ladder," as well as a range of institutional
types, are welcomed. Autotheory and/or research-based proposals are

Please send a 250 to 500 word abstract and a brief bio to Justine Dymond at

Deadline: September 15, 2007
Received on Tue Jul 10 2007 - 11:49:54 EDT