Sandra Pouchet Paquet is Professor Emerita of Caribbean Studies and English Literature at the University of Miami. She immigrated from Trinidad to the United States in the 1960s to pursue higher education. Paquet’s entire interview in the Caribbean studies literary journal Small Axe Salon is worth reading for her insight into what it meant to be a woman of color and a mother in the academy at a time when there were few of either.
Sandra Paquet: Ever since leaving the Caribbean, my life has been work and family. Having family was terribly important to me. I [didn’t] care if people said, “Oh, you’re into babies now.”
SG: People said that?
SPP: “Yes. My uncle Carl would say, “You have to decide, Sandra, whether you are going to pursue an education and a professional life, or settle down and have a family. You can’t do both.” But I never envisioned life, once I met Basil, without children. Once I got started, I never envisioned giving up my own academic career, either. There’s no person I’m more sympathetic to than a student who is pregnant and trying to finish her dissertation. You just have to be very patient and prepare for the fact that it sets you back, so age-wise you won’t wonder what happened to you later on. You make choices because they’re important to you, and you need to have a ready answer to others’ questions [about them]. It wasn’t one or the other [for me]; I had to have both. I thought that made me a feminist.
I’m thrilled to be kicking off my interview series today. I’m going to be asking my interviewees six questions about their graduate training, thoughts about their career, and some individual identity and work/life balance questions. I’ve also asked them to write a short professional bio. If you are interested in being interviewed as part of this series please contact me at drjfs71 at gmail dot com. Just as a reminder, you can read more about my academic qualifications, affiliations, and interests here. In other words, I will follow standard academic protocol for maintaining anonymity and will email you exactly what the post will contain before I post it.
My first interviewee has requested to remain anonymous, so I’ll be calling this person Contented Post-Ac. CP-Ac graduated with a PhD from an elite humanities program in the Midwest in the last decade, spent seven years on the job market, and now has a #postac career as a tutor. Contented Post-Ac is a mixed race, heterosexual woman. One of the most striking things about Contented Post-Ac’s experiences is the ways in which her “lack” of a partner or children was seen as advantageous to career advancement by other grad students and faculty in her department, while she was simultaneously discouraged from co-ordinating departmental activities that could give her a sense of community and belonging at her university.
Short professional bio as written by Contented Post-Ac
I graduated with a PhD from an R1, elite humanities program in the Midwest. Following graduation, I worked as a tutor for a large education company and also as an adjunct at a private liberal arts university in the South while publishing and pursuing the TT job search for four years. I then became a university administrator and adjunct at another R1 university while still searching for TT positions. I finally gave up on my academic job search after seven years and now tutor and train tutors for a living. I am hoping to start a consulting business within a year.
1) Why did you decide to pursue a PhD? What was your training like? Continue reading
I’m thrilled that my roundtable, “Mothering, Love, and Labor: New Feminist Perspectives,” was accepted at NWSA – it will be an amazing overview of visionary ideas about mothering and labor with Magda Pecsenye, Elizabeth Bruno, Kirsti K. Cole, Roksana Badruddoja, Melissa Purdue, and me presenting.
I’m just as excited that my panel, “Caribbean Feminisms: Decolonizing Postcolonial Spaces” was accepted with April Mayes, Elena Machado Sáez, Dana M. Linda and me again, presenting. Congrats to everyone for proposing such great papers!
One of the persistent problems with gaining gender equality in academia is the leaky pipeline. The leaky pipeline describes the phenomenon where women make up significant numbers of PhD candidates, but there are progressively smaller percentages of women assistant professors, then associate professors, then full professors. Fewer women full professors mean that there are fewer female deans, provosts and presidents of colleges and universities. A failure to recruit and retain female faculty on the tenure track means that there will be a gender imbalance in terms of university leadership. The leaky pipeline has also been used to describe a similar issue with the recruitment and retention of faculty of color, who are also found in decreasing levels in higher university appointments.
Mary Ann Mason calls this the “pyramid problem,” and directly relates it to female faculty having children: “There are far fewer women than men at the top of the academic hierarchy; those women are paid somewhat less than men, and they are much less likely then men to have had children.” Citing the AAUP’s 2006 gender-equity indicators report, Mason catalogs startling statistics about women in our profession. Continue reading
I recently drove four seventh graders to a school activity. On the way there they discussed their health teacher’s upcoming open adoption of a baby, the teacher’s maternity leave, and her husband’s paternity leave. The dad was going to take the first parental leave so the teacher could finish out the quarter, and then the teacher would take a quarter off to be home with the baby too. This group of kids had lots of comments and questions about their teacher’s situation. However, I know we’re making feminist progress with family leave issues and work because of what these 12 and 13 year olds didn’t say:
1) While they were confused by what to call it when a dad stays home with a baby (“Is it BATERNITY or PATERNITY leave?”) no one suggested that a dad couldn’t take care of a baby by himself.
2) No one suggested that the teacher was a bad mom for not immediately being home with the baby.
3) No one suggested that it was selfish of the teacher to take a quarter off or that she shouldn’t be paid for this leave.
4) They all knew what open adoption meant. No one suggested at open adoption was “weird” or that adoption was a lesser way of making a family.