Wednesday, March 18, 2009

field schedules

There’s a kerfuffle over at sciencewomen regarding fieldwork and families.

As I’ve advanced in a scientific career involving (mostly) fieldwork, the family situation of the field folks has gotten more obvious. As in, all the more experienced field people tend to be male. If they’re female, then they are childless and most likely don’t have a spouse either.

It’s one thing to bring your child into the field if you’re on some long-term exotic assignment. But in environmental consulting, my fieldwork was all over the place. I did get involved in some larger projects later on, but even then I would fill in for other projects on a fairly regular basis if needed. I could never predict where I would be more than a couple weeks in advance. So dragging around a small child would be impossible (ignoring, of course, the fact that the sites I was working on were hazardous).

I like being outside. I would like to remain a field scientist. But the fact remains that if I were to have kids, I’d have to either move into a strictly management/advisory position, or I’d have to leave the primary caretaking to my SO, who doesn't exactly have astounding job flexibility.

I have hope that as the next generation of geologists (who are more evenly split between men and women) progress in their careers, we'll figure out more ways to be more flexible and organize the schedules so that the "mostly field" folks have some dedicated time close to home.

1 comment:

A Life Long Scholar said...

I suppose that is a serious advantage for geologists in academia--the field areas are more likely to be child friendly. My Master's advisor and his wife took their daughter into the field (Brooks Range, Alaska) with them when she was two weeks old.

In addition, the academic field season tends to be summer, which would make it possible, I think, to send an older child to a summer camp whilst doing field work.

But what do I know? I've never wanted children--I'm too concerned about global over-population issues and being unwilling to contribute.