Conversations with History: Achieving Equality for Women with Mary Ann Mason

Conversations with History: Achieving Equality for Women with Mary Ann Mason


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(wind rushing) – [Announcer] This program is presented by University of California Television. Like what you learn? Visit our website or follow us on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with the latest UCTV programs. (upbeat electronic music) – Welcome to our
conversation with history. I’m Harry Kreisler of the Institute of International Studies. Our guest today is Mary Ann Mason who is a professor and co-director of the Center for Economics
and Family Security at the University of California
Berkeley School of Law. Her most recent book
co-authored with her daughter Eve Mason Ekman is
Mothers on the Fast Track: How a New Generation Can
Balance Family and Careers. Mary Ann, welcome to Berkeley. – Thank you Harry. (laughs) – [Harry] Well you’re
already at Berkeley, sorry. Welcome to the program. – Nice to be here in this room. – Thank you, welcome to our program. Where were you born and raised? – I was born in Minnesota,
Hibbing, Minnesota. Bob Dylan country. One of the coldest places
in the world. (laughs) And then we moved quite a lot. Went to college and graduate
school on the east coast and then came to California
where I’ve been happily here for more than 40 years. – And looking back, how
do you think your parents shaped your thinking about the world? – Ah, that’s a good question. My father’s an immigration officer. They were not intellectuals. They were very good, decent people. I think they shaped it in
part because we moved so often that we were always new places,
moving, seeing new things. And as an only child I spent a lot of time observing what I was seeing. So in some ways it was
a very good preparation for anyone to be a student of the world. – And so in traveling did you
met a lot of different people at a very young age and
different sets of friends? – Yes, very much. I think the most memorable
probably was a convent school in Winnipeg, Canada, very strict where the nuns were very strict mainly boarding students and
some commuters like myself and it was always dark in Winnipeg ’cause it’s so far north, so I’d start out with my three buses at
seven in the morning and then I’d take the three
buses home in the dark in the dark and it was in
many ways a bleak time, but I made such good friendships and I got to really admire the teachers. I saw a whole different culture, in a way, that I wouldn’t have if
I’d been in a regular, fun high school and having
a good time. (laughs) – Was there discussion
around the dinner table about world issues and
also women’s issues? When did that first
enter your consciousness? – Not around my kitchen table. Most of the discussion
was what did you have for lunch today, and I think
the basement needs fixing or something of that nature. Very good people, but as I
say, it wasn’t very worldly inside the house, very supportive. – And any teachers along this– – Yes.
– Circuitous route. – Yes, in terms of the
women’s movement, I mean, I graduated from Vassar in 1965, which is really just on the cusp. When I was a senior in college I remember I was reading both Bride Magazine ’cause maybe like half of my classmates was going to get married
right away on graduation and I also picked up Betty
Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique. It was just amazing the juxtaposition and it really was that time in history. I had one professor at
Vassar, Carl Degler, a wonderful historian and a great mentor and I did my thesis with him
and he was very encouraging. He said you must go to graduate
school, you must get a PhD. And they were very good at Vassar because they encouraged women to do things that wasn’t so common at that time. If I’d been at another school I would not have gotten
that encouragement. And I said, “Well thank
you Professor Degler, “but I’m sorry, I’m getting
married this summer. “I’ll go back to school sometime perhaps, “but I have to go where my husband is.” And he asked me where my fiance was. And he said, “Oh, well, “they have a wonderful history department. “You can go there and I’m
sure you can get a fellowship, “a national fellowship,
why don’t you apply for it? “I’ll help you.” “Oh, thank you Professor Degler.” And then he actually, he didn’t stalk me, but every time he saw me on
campus he’d come over and say, “Miss Mason, have you
applied yet, Miss Mason?” “Oh Professor Degler, I’m
getting around to it.” So finally I applied and I got it and so I started a PhD program
where my first husband was getting his PhD and I knew we’d be there just for a short time,
but because I’d started and really loved it I continued when we moved out to Berkeley. And he made all the difference. – And what drew you to history? – Well I was a history
major as an undergraduate and it was, now that I think about it, it was kind of like my
early days of traveling. It was seeing the world
from different perspectives. It was just to me opening up all, more interesting than novels ’cause it was whole civilizations
and whole governments and just all of world’s
knowledge was there. And then I loved, loved, loved, those were the days when
you spent time in the stacks just with your nose in the primary sources reading letters from
the French Revolution. Just very exciting. – And so talk now, let’s relate this to your emerging consciousness
about women’s issues. You mention reading Betty
Friedan as an undergraduate. So I get the sense in reading about you that the life you were living
and the movement around you, the women’s movement
really opened up your, so there was an interaction there between the life you were living and what the women movement was saying. – Right, I came out to Berkeley in 1967 and that will raise anyone’s
consciousness about everything. It was the days of the
riots and the free speech and the anti-Vietnam, is
was really quite thrilling and all your suppositions
and understandings of everything are just up for grabs. So it was very active,
and the women’s movement was very nascent then, this
was just the end of the ’60s. It started to grow and I joined the consciousness raising
movement like many women. And then we started, I was teaching while I was a graduate
student at a small college, Holy Names College in Oakland and we got together all
the women in California who were teaching history
at four-year colleges and there were eight of us. It was really a very tiny band
and a lot of closed doors. Only 1.3 women historians
in all the UC campuses, in all nine UC campuses. So I think that raised my consciousness more than anything else to know that it still was such a closed door. That there was a lot of
talk, but very little action in terms of opening the doors. When I finally got to Berkeley
as a professor in 1989 things had changed dramatically and I think at that time about
15% of the faculty were women but it was only 2% of
all the faculty in 1972. So it was a huge shift
during that period of time. – As a historian, what was your focus and how did that focus change over time? – Yes, it was American labor history, which is part of American social history. So in some ways it really
didn’t change over time. It’s always looking at the
masses rather than the classes and what they’re doing
and what’s happening. And I did my dissertation
in The Bancroft Library on a California labor
leader and I loved it. I loved every minute
of being on this campus during my dissertation. I didn’t get back for many years, but I really loved being here at the time. Like graduate students,
these were the best years of my life. (laughs) – At a certain point you decide that you want to move beyond history and undertake a law degree. – Well, I don’t know that people’s lives, certainly women’s lives
are not that, I think, clearly guided from within. What happened is a small
college that I was teaching at, they didn’t go coed, but Saint Mary’s, which was the men’s college. A similar thing happened in the east coast when men’s colleges went coed and a lot of the women’s
colleges lost their, basically lost their students. So they let go all of
their lay faculty one year and I had just actually
had a child by this time. He was just a year and a half, I think. And I just didn’t want
to be a gypsy scholar or a sort of, I just didn’t know. So I went to law school
just because I didn’t know. And I continued to teach history while I was in law school actually. So I actually went over three
years, three and a half years and was always teaching history first at San Francisco
State and then actually full time at Saint Mary’s. Again, looking back you
make patterns of your life retrospectively I think
rather than the time you just sort of move with the flow. But I did like law a lot, it
was very interesting to me and still is. – And several of your books
are actually on family law and divorce and the rights
of children and so on. – Yes, rights of children
and child custody are my specialties, and step
parents to some extent as well. So I did spend many
years teaching children and the law and family
law, juvenile court law. – And how do you account
for this particular focus, or do you?
– Ah, that’s a good question. Yes, actually I know exactly why I did. I wrote a book in 1989
called The Equality Trap which was about basically
opening up the doors to women but not leveling the playing field so that you’re kind of
setting women up for failure. And women themselves at that time did not want to be accommodationist. So they were not asking for
any kind of mommy tract. Paid leave or flexible time,
this was considered to be, in fact my book was
considered to be a little bit of a traitor to the movement
’cause I was talking about accommodations, and then I realized when I came to Berkeley that
the way that you can do that is actually through children. You can think about women’s
issues through children and get a lot of the
same structural changes that you might have if you
had just focused on women. And at that time, to be honest, I suppose I was playing it a little
more safe than perhaps, just in the sense that
being a feminist anything was not necessarily a popular thing in terms of getting
tenure at Berkeley then. But more than that, I really
was interested in children, who were very, very understudied. Even now, there are so
few books about children and children’s history
and children’s culture. We’ve actually started,
Paula Fass here on campus has really begun this
movement and many of us are doing the history of
childhood in various ways. – It’s interesting
because it is very clear that central to your work is
kind of a focus on the family. – Yes.
– And you just suggested that in a way that the
early feminists my have been overly dismissive of the
family in their efforts to get liberation and equality for women. Is that a fair assessment?
– Well, yes. I mean I think it’s an
understandable assessment because women have always
been so closely stereotyped and caught in the family
that there was no opportunity for them to change or grow,
so I certainly understand why there was a rejection of the family. In fact in my years when
my children were born it was kind of the don’t
ask don’t tell years. You didn’t bring them to school. You didn’t even tell your professors or the professors, I remember
when my son was born, I think I was finishing
my PhD and professors kind of looked at your pregnant self and never mentioned it
and you didn’t mention it and that was the way it was. So it wasn’t considered an advantage and it was considered something
that was your own problem. It was not a social or
a workplace problem. – You probably have thought a lot about how the women’s movement
have had to evolve. And I assume you bring a
kind of a sense of history and a historian’s way of looking at that. Talk a little about that evolution where as we do this
interview we’re celebrating the anniversary of Betty Friedan’s books. So there’s a lot in the
press and this new book by the CEO of Facebook Sheryl
Sandberg on leaning in. So reflect a little on what you’ve seen of the women’s movement and how
it’s impacted you and so on. – Of course when I think
of the women’s movement as a historian I think of 1848
and Seneca Falls Convention, the first women’s rights convention and the suffragettes and
mainly in those first years women tried so hard to get
just very basic rights. And those rights were really
voting rights, not so much, and to some extent divorce,
but the women’s movement actually was always very
mixed on the divorce issues. But the current women’s
movement has really been focused on economic gain and in
entry into the workplace. And it’s really not coincidental
that it’s the same time that the family wage is no longer possible and can’t support women and children. My father did on an
immigration officer’s salary and bought a car and a little
house, but not possible today. So the workplace opened
up not because the women banged on the door, it opened
up because the economy shifted and we needed two incomes to do it. But it also opened up for
women going into professions and fields that had been
very dominated by men. So that’s the thrust of this
current women’s movement, which was not the case for
the older women’s movements. And because the thrust was to get into the economic structure I think the first wave felt strongly that they had to do it on men’s terms. It was the only way they’re
going to be able to make it. And to some extent there’s
still a truth to that, a strong truth to that. So there was really a fear of recognition that there would be
anything holding them back or anything that would possibly
tie them still to the family either psychologically or
structurally or whatever. And that really began to change happily. As I said, I wrote this book in 1989 that talked about accommodation
in the workplace, nyet. And then in 2000 when I started
working on this issue again as graduate dean I was
really pleased to hear that it was a welcome
voice, my voice was welcome and people were looking at
structure, structural change and not just on doing it like the men. Children and families had
been noticed in the meantime. And that was very good,
although I have to say the younger generation, my
daughter and her friends never knew that there’d be any problem because they assumed that,
although they had no children and had no family,
because they were raised in such an egalitarian
atmosphere they didn’t recognize that they might run into bumps at all. So I asked her to write the book with me so she could interview a lot of the women like Dianne Feinstein,
women who had been there and done that with families. It was a very, very
strong experience for her. – You’re suggesting in your work and now that really both the
family and women’s issues sort of feel the pressures
of the changes in society both internationally and nationally. So globalization enters
into this discussion. Inequality enters into this discussion. And also the divisions
within the women’s movement, namely working class
women who have to work versus professional women
who, say, can hire a nanny to do some of the functions at home. – In The Equality Trap I called
it women who worked to live and women who lived to
work and to some extent that division was even clearer then than it is now I think
because the first group of feminists who got into
professional organizations were very, very strong and
organized and brought suits and they opened the doors. And the second group now, I think, is wondering why it all didn’t
turn out like they wanted. Like Anne-Marie Slaughter’s
book on how hard it is you can’t have it all, et cetera. I think this is very good that
this debate is raised again because I think it was quiet for a while and now they’re raising it
with kind of different stakes but a lot of the same old arguments. – Do you think there’s
a better conversation within the women’s movement
between the different classes within the women’s movement so that professional wealthy women
can understand the situation of working-class women
who really have to work? – No, and I think that’s
never been the strength of the women’s movement. It’s always been very
articulate, well-educated, professional or at least
certainly college-educated women. Often authors or journalists, et cetera who have run the conversation. Not much attention to the most women who are the low-income
workers and have to work. The only thing I can say about that, which is kind of interesting. In the last 30 years,
the great time divide that women who are lower income actually are working
fewer hours partly ’cause they don’t have enough hours. They’re working hourly rates often. And women who are
professionals have shut up in terms of the number of
hours that they’re working, many more hours than the women
who are more low-income jobs. So we’re essentially
working harder all the time if you actually shattered
that ceiling anyway or got even into any kind of profession. – So you are a lawyer, you are a historian and then you become
university administrator. – Yes.
– And so talk a little about that before we
get into one of the way you try to address the women’s
issue as a graduate dean. What’s the difference
in the skills required for each of these professions? – Well, they are different skill
sets, no question about it. I mean, this university
system has a tradition of taking people from the faculty. And the strong part about that is that you’re on the side of the faculty, although people say you’ve
gone to the dark side and you understand the
inherent problems with faculty. You understand the structure
of the university, probably. But many people who are
pointed at these jobs with these huge budgets,
they have never looked at an accounting sheet or
have much sense of that or have worked with personnel before. And any kind of manager,
those are the two big things. The budget and the personnel. So that is kind of a steep curve for many. Actually I had some administrative jobs when I was a lawyer, so
I had a little experience on a smaller scale. Berkeley has as you know more
graduate students than anybody so it’s a much larger
scale in terms of budget and personnel, but also the good part about large institutions
like this you just say, well, send it to legal, to some extent. You have to manage it, but
you have a lot of people to help you as well, and very talented mid-level administrators
at this university. The reason I wanted, well
actually I was kind of surprised that they wanted me to be, and honestly I’d been active on the campus and I was acting associate dean for a period of time and I enjoyed it. The thing I liked most
about it both in terms of faculty-centered kinds of service and also being the associate
dean is that you get to see the wide breadth of this
incredible university. Most of us are just
stuck in our departments and you just see the same
limited number of people, but this is such an
incredibly fabulous place. 105 graduate programs. I always said, I could
recognize the name if I saw it, but I couldn’t rattle
it off, there’s so many. And each of them has got
just a wealth of information, brilliance, discovery, innovation and it’s just breathtaking,
that was the most wonderful part about being dean to be able to all of it, the whole scope of it. – So in this new position,
how did you come to identify the problem of women, their
careers, and the university? Was this just a natural
choice given your background? – Well, it was a natural choice. It was made a lot easier
because when I first arrived there was a small research unit that had been put in
place by my predecessor Mark Golden, who’s been
my partner in research all these years was a staff person and he came to me and he said, “I know you’re interested
in family issues.” I guess he knew something
about my background. He said, “We have this great database “and it’s got all the PhDs
that ever got their PhDs “since 1973 and it’s longitudinal. “They follow them through
every two years, 10%. “I can ask questions
for you like I can say, “look at your graduate students now. “Who is going to fall out,
who’s going to stay in? “What affect does family
formation have on them?” I was thrilled because this
is the kind of information that I knew could really
make a difference. I mean, data speak. If you’ve got numbers and you’ve got, I knew that much about the university. The only things that change things are when you’ve got a lot of evidence to show why it needs changing. And he’s a great researcher
and we started out and did the research, started
with just a baseline survey of all the UC faculty on family issues. How many children do they
have, what concerns they had, had they ever used any
policies, et cetera. And that was a real catalyst, ’cause then we had some real information, and then we started
crunching some of the numbers with this survey of doctor recipient. And the Sloan Foundation found me. And literally this is what
the Sloan Foundation did in those days, if they found someone who they thought was doing
really interesting work in the area, in this case, was work family they just supported you, so
they supported us for 10 years. And that allowed us to add, actually just maybe one more person. It almost a small staff and
to sort of thing big visions about what we could do
next, so it was a wonderful, thrilling time because
we produced the data. We did the UC faculty, we did
all the doctoral students. We did all the postdocs in the systems and we had these huge
samples that nobody ever had. You could really say
something pretty strong about how graduate students
felt about the university. Did they think it was family friendly? What were their plans? And you could get an enormous
amount of information just by asking people. Surveys are not easy to do because no one likes to answer them. So we had to rely on the
president of the university and the chancellors to
really kind of push people along to do it, but they were
willing, they were willing. So we had a really good
timing and set of issues that was critical, clearly,
to a lot of people. And producing all the data that we did at a time when nobody else
had data was very timely. – And were the right
questions already being asked, or did you have to come in and say, well what about this and what about that? So what was the degree of addition that you were bringing to the table in addition to identifying
what could be done here because of your knowledge of the problems? – Well we did, we created the survey so you could ask all the
questions you thought would be relevant and we
tried to do some carry-through questions between the
faculty and the postdocs and the graduate students
like, how busy is everybody? Looking at a household for a particular, if you have a child and
they’re mother and the father, who works the most hours? And you saw a distinct and
almost identical second shift for mothers between the
faculty and graduate students and the postdocs who had
children in the home. And a huge second shift,
an additional 20 hours to what the fathers were
doing and 30 hours over or 40 hours over what
everyone else was doing. When you see it like that
and you see ’em identical, you know this is not
just a generational issue that things are still pretty
much the way they were. That particular finding and
the slide that we had with it I think was one of the most
eye-opening for everyone to know that it’s still
largely a mother’s problem and that is an issue. That was one of the ground-breakers. So we knew the questions and then in terms of what policies to do, really fortunate there were people in the
office of the president who had some ideas. A lot of people have good ideas and although this system is
large and sometimes ungainly it’s very centralized, so
when you’re doing anything like personnel policy or
leaves or maternity benefits all the campuses do it all together. So we could do UC-wide
family friendly policies in one fell scoop. (laughs) – Now I wanna break this down
and walk you through the data in a minute, but I think
a very important point that you make in summarizing a lot of this in one of the papers that I read is that previously most
of the focus had been on ensuring women’s equality
by looking at representation, you know, and salary.
– Yes. – But what was being
added now to the equation was measuring also what
was happening to the family who was assuming the burden of
responsibility in the family and what were the costs of that for women in their efforts to be equal in society? – We were adding that, we
were adding another thing ’cause we stood the basic question. What is the effect of family formation on the career lives of men and women on its head and asked what is the effect of careers on family and here we showed even a greater discrepancy than who gets to be a tenured faculty in terms of those people
who are tenured faculty, who has children and a
marriage and who doesn’t. Huge gap, I think it’s 42%
for tenured faculty women versus 75% for tenured faculty men. So you have a gap in both ways,
kind of a double gap there. There are fewer women at the top and those that are have fewer families, fewer children and are
less likely to be married. So it’s kind of a double whammy. I call it double trouble
for gender equity. (laughs) And then we also did find the discrepancy in the hours of work, as you say. – Right, so in this data, were you surprised
by some of the findings or did it just confirm what
you had already thought? – What I was really surprised at is that most of the
leak out of the pipeline both men and women likely leave, but more woman than men actually occurred, well after they got their PhD, but they changed their mind
during the graduate school years and during the postdoc years. They make up their mind, they
changed their career goals away from their original choice and are more likely to drop out, highly more likely to drop
out of they have children. Like with postdocs, a
woman who has a child while they’re a postdoc is 41% say they’re no longer going
to pursue their career. Just too damn hard. Whereas the fathers, only
20% change their mind and single women, 19%,
so you have a huge gap. And the graduate students
as well, a huge gap from the beginning when they
enter their graduate program to two or three years later
they have already changed their minds because they see
the faculty more differently. They don’t have that many women models. If they have a child they’ll
definitely, or not definitely, but far more likely not to go on. So you see that the impact of policies is not just on faculty where
there had been some attention, but also on the graduate
students and the postdocs. So I put a lot of attention
with those two groups as well to try to keep the pipeline going. – At the heart of all of this seems to be questions about woman’s role in the family and whether women, and
I gotta be careful here, I say this, but that women are different and we should embrace that
in the sense that they… Well no, I don’t think I want
to say what I was just gonna. What I wanna say is that
the default position is that women are the
custodians of the family in a way that men had not
been, but the structures if changed might change that relationship. – Right, and one of the major focuses on changing the structure was to get fathers to participate more. And I have to say, we’ve been
quite successful at that. In 1980, I think it was President Gardner had actually put in
place for the UC system some family-friendly policies
like stopping the clock and a semester off of
teaching for childbirth that had been in place. They were incredibly far-sighted and progressive at the time. By the time we did our survey in 2002, most people didn’t even know they existed. It had fallen totally out of favor and the women sometimes used ’em, but fathers never used them
even though they had access to stop the clock and some
childbirth leave as well. So the new policies we put in place really focused on fathers. They now get at Berkeley a
semester off from teaching if they are at least a halftime caretaker. And mothers get two semesters
off and stop the clock and the really good part is
men are really taking it up and we’re really seeing
fathers participating in child raising in a way
that we haven’t before. And this is happening at
other universities as well. It’s the only way, ultimately,
our first feminist. Well, the early feminist days
in the 1970s the belief was as long as you’d got women out
in the workplace, et cetera, the home would take care of itself and equality would simply happen. But it didn’t happen and
it wasn’t just because, I think men increasingly want more time with their babies, even,
childcare for sure. But the workplace did
not make it possible. Now even if the workplace
makes it possible they have to get over the cultural issues of men are the breadwinners
and women are the nurturers. Those are still very strong and in place although you probably know that
35% of all American families are headed by single women breadwinners. And of those that are married, women bring in 40% of the income. So the breadwinner issue
is not what it used to be by any means, in fact I think
there isn’t any clear division between mothers and fathers
in terms of bringing things into the household, but the
culture still supports that to some extent, so that’s a real barrier and one of the things we’ve
really tried to work on ’cause unless you have the
father playing the game the mothers won’t either. – So in a way, what the data tells you is that the way the family is structured is not conducive for achieving equality for women and that one has to tinker
with the family structure, change the culture of the family structure so that men share more
equally in the burdens of household work, taking
care of the children, daycare and so on.
– Right. But it really all begins
with structural changes in the institutions because
men don’t have the opportunity to stay at home unless they’re given some sort of parental leave
or incentives to do so nor do women, so you have
to have the workplace change for both men and women and
then the home will reflect that or could reflect that if
the culture worked at it strongly enough, and as I
said, I feel some good things happening here at Berkeley particularly ’cause the percentage of men talking this active service modified duty to help with childbirth and
babies has really grown. And the percentage of, the number of babies born
to assistant professor women has doubled since 2003 and
has gone up 60% for men. So we’re in a baby boom. (laughs) It’s embracing the idea of parenthood. Now this is not a fix and the fix is not going to be simple or easy, but I think there is a realization that it’s not gonna work unless
fathers participate as well. And the fathers actually like it. All the opinion polls
you see it, they all say I wish I could do more, it
doesn’t make it easy at work. I’m teased if I do it or I’m
not going to get promoted. There’s discrimination against me for being the mother,
playing the mommy role and that’s still not culturally accepted. – And previously before
you institute these changes when you looked at the
data, men were not suffering in the way that women were. Women were essentially
opting out of the system in order to be the caretaker at home and to take the time to have children whereas the men continued to
go on their merry way in a way. – Yes, and in fact
married men with children are the most successful, not
just in the university world, but across the board partly because they don’t have as much
responsibility at home, but also partly because I
think there’s the attitude, for instance in science
that if a man has a child then he’s really serious. This will really hold
him down ’cause he has, you know, responsibilities,
makes him more responsible. Woman has a child, well,
bye-bye, she’s left science, she has other priorities,
she’s not going to be a responsible scientist,
so it’s a negative image for the woman and a
positive image for the man. That’s only part of it of course. The structural issues
are important as well. So it’s a combination, but the
structure has to change first in order to make it
possible for the culture to promote fathers to
spend more time at home. – And how hard is that
politically to do actually? – Well it becomes, the good part about any kind of cultural change. Nothing happens, or just
institutional change, and then all of a sudden
it happens quickly because it gets competitive. We named our project
the UC Competitive Edge and the idea is that we were gonna have family-friendly policies
so we would get the best and the brightest and actually
it has worked to some extent and all the other universities now have to get on the
bandwagon, so the competition has kinda changed, used
to be that if you went to an interview you’d never mentioned if you had children or
family, it was a no-no. Now often people will say. And we have this great
family-friendly policy. They’ll bring it up themselves. It’s really a real sea-change in terms of how people look at those policies and think of it as an
asset rather than something they’re going to avoid talking to. Most these research
universities now have someone whose main position is to
help families when they arrive to find jobs and to find schools and also to help women
through these issues if they are a faculty. Less attention paid to
postdocs and graduate students, which is something I’m still
writing about, caring about. – Another structure that you identified as this data began pouring out
was the structure of tenure basically.
– Yes. – And as I understand it,
the problem here is that the child-bearing years
for women coincide, namely 30 to 40 coincide,
especially in the sciences with what is perceived
to be the creative period when careers take off and
research piles up basically to then justify tenure. Talk a little about that. – Well I call those years
the make or break decade. And it’s not just for scientists or even just for university professors. In all the professions
that’s usually the time, if you’re in business or if
you’re in law or medicine. By the time you’re 40 you
have to have basically firmly pinned down your
career and your place in it and everything does pretty
much happen during that decade. You finish your training,
you begin your job, you do whatever, the
academic world is tougher because it’s intense, it’s up or out. You really don’t have any wiggle room. And you have those six
years, whatever it is, five or six years to get to tenure and they’re gonna be probably
the most intense years of your career because
much is expected of you and plus teaching all new courses. I mean, it’s a very tough time for all new assistant professors. And even places that didn’t really require too many publications now require them. So it’s a hotbed, and
because in the academic world it takes longer and longer to get that PhD for many different reasons, but you often don’t get a PhD until you’re
33, 34, or your postdoc ’cause scientists finish
early but take a while, so you’re really brushing onto
40 by the time you get tenure it’s 40 plus, so women
are likely to kind of wait if they’re going to get tenure or think, I just can’t do this, or have that child at the most busy time and
can’t make the real push to get tenure and drop out then. So it’s a really difficult problem. It’s more intense in the sciences perhaps because sciences are so competitive and their belief is that
if you leave the lab for 20 minutes practically
you’ve lost the game. There is this notion that it’s a race and if you go to the race at anytime you won’t be able to get back in. But you see it across the board. So the idea that somehow
your career is over if you haven’t made it by 40
really needs to be changed in terms of how we look at the, ’cause you’re going to have
another, probably 40 years or 30 years of work in your career and if you miss the boat
during that period of time there haven’t been many second chances. So second chances is another thing that I’ve really promoted. I can’t say that I had much luck here at the university system,
when you’re out you’re out, but in the science world,
’cause I also deal with NSF and NASA, the idea of reentry postdocs is getting some traction, so I’m hoping that the reentry postdoc,
which would be good for all kinds of fields actually, and certainly good in the academic world. – So the idea is that you could
drop out, but then drop in. – Drop in again once you had, and I think for most people, at any rate, it’s the first three or four years that are the most intense
in terms of child raising. It doesn’t mean that
children don’t need attention all the time but they have
spread out into a larger group. They don’t really want
just mommy all the time. Or they want to have a
structure outside the home and they do, they’re in preschool,
they’re wherever they are so you’re less essential
in terms of the time factor that goes into it, and
also just less in terms of the physical factor, they’re
no longer attached to you literally in the same way,
breastfeeding or whatever. So it is quite reasonable for many women after two or three years if
they take that long to come back and men as well, I mean,
or for any family event. It’s not just childbirth,
we have family events throughout our lives, often unpredictable. It can be just an illness. It can be your spouse’s illness. Could be your mother or father’s illness that take you out of the workplace. Much easier later in life
because if you have tenure or security of employment of some kind you can take that time and
they can’t do anything. They can’t fire you for it, basically. – So the argument opposed to
making life for women easier who want to have children is what? Is it that, well, this is the way we do it and this is the way we’ve always done it? Or is it, well this is
the most creative time in a scientist’s life and if
we don’t get that creativity out of them in this period
then it won’t happen? What’s going on here? – Well science is, as I say, is more likely to think this way. I think law or English
literature or any other field could understand the value of
coming back after three years and not having lost your mind, literally. But in science there
seems to be this belief that you can’t think like a scientist. I think what’s going on here
is just partly a reflection of the competitiveness the
grant world has gotten into. But what the granting
agencies are doing now is discounting the resume gap. In other words, looking
at your grant applications and thinking, if you explain
that there was childbirth involved here then it’s a different view that they’ll take with it,
which is a very good thing. The reentry postdoc. I mean, there are many things
you can do to rethink a system so it doesn’t have the
same punishing effect just in this one period of
time because these scientists have trained for a long
time and a huge investment has been made in them, it takes a least, I think a half a million
dollars to put someone through a PhD and then more
for a postdoc, et cetera. And this lost investment
as well as lost brains and it’s a foolish kind
of economic analysis. So this is kind of the message
that I’m trying to get across and actually seems to
be working pretty well that we have to look at this differently. It may be that people do, or some people do their most productive work up to 30, but that doesn’t mean that all
scientists do that, either. I’m sure many scientists do wonderful work in their forties as well and fifties. And again, a highly trained
mind should not be let go, and that is what’s happening too often. – One of the issues that keeps coming up is the change in the status of women as related to the broader
changes in society. And so you pointed out earlier
that as there was greater and greater inequality
that the woman’s salary was needed in the home to keep
the family fiscally sound. Now in addition another change
that’s going quite clear relates to what you call the second tier. So given the situation
that was in existence, women, if they didn’t drop
out, you say they dropped down to second tier positions,
adjuncts, part-time lecturers and so on, talk a little about that because that was a benefit
to the system as a whole, but not necessarily to women.
– Yes. The fastest growing sector of academia is the second tier, the
part-time and adjunct. The percentage of tenure-track
faculty has gone down from something like 58% to
37% over a period of 20 years. And that’s largely because the model is use more adjuncts, use more
part-time, and it’s largely been disproportionately
women with children. There’s now a labor
force that is, I suppose, kind of stuck and will take those jobs even though they’re incredibly underpaid, under-benefited, marginalized, et cetera. So we’re kind of raising
the second tier in academia and making it a whole lot more worse. Well not worse, whole lot worse by reducing the number
of tenure-track slots. It’s a different model for academia. I won’t even, I probably shouldn’t talk about what’s happening
at UC, but nevermind. We’re going to use it, but
in the state universities there are far more faculty
teaching undergraduate courses who are not tenure-track
than there are tenure-track. In the university it is has not had that partly because we have
lot of graduate students who help out who have had
a pretty good faculty ratio that’s reducing and reducing and reducing. And now the classes are
being taught more frequently by adjuncts or lecturers, et cetera. In professional schools the adjuncts have always had strong role
like in law or public health because it is a professional school, so the training on the
ground is quite useful. But now you’re seeing it in
many other fields as well. I think that’s very bad for academia. A lot of women will say
that it’s good for mothers ’cause then you don’t have all
that pressure to get tenure, but it’s bad for academia
’cause it just dilutes the equality of works so much
you don’t have the possibility of innovation and free
thinking that you have with the tenure system therefore
you’re not going to have the kind of innovative knowledge
and culture contributions that you have now with the tenure system. And eventually, probably
sooner rather than later, the best and the brightest
will not want to get PhDs. They’ll consider this, particularly if there are very few jobs
even for men as well as women. There’s just no place to go. I fear that that is happening, so I really promote the tenure system even though some people say
it works negatively for women because I think if you had a
different kind of tenure system and in fact one of our
reforms was to put into place a part-time pre-tenure as
well as post-tenure track. So you actually can in the
UC system now go for 10 years in a part-time position and still come up for tenure after 10 years. – Two important tools that
you identify in your work as graduate dean and now
in the work you’re doing to promote these ideas is on the one hand the role of the law, the legal system. And you reference Title IX here, which guarantees these rights. But then the other is getting
the word out, basically, that people should know their rights and seek to realize them.
– Yes I just actually today I think finished a law review
article on just this topic because almost no one knows. Whenever I lecture to
other universities I say, how many of you knew that
pregnancy discrimination is part of Title IX? Huh, it is? So it’s unknown, and Obama administration has put a very big drive
on Title IX compliance because not just pregnancy discrimination but sexual harassment
and other aspects of it have not been that well
followed or complied with. And as part of this, he
doesn’t mention this, but NASA guidelines do. Pregnancy discrimination is a strong part. And that’s particularly important for the kinds of things
that I’m concerned about because you have these
graduate students and postdocs who do not generally get
protection from FMLA or Title VII because they’re often considered trainees rather then employees, so
they don’t get any kind of legal protection and this will give, Title IX will give them
the same kind of protection they would get under
Title VII or under FMLA. It also means that if they
have to drop out of a course or a class that they
have the right to go back and regain their status so
they don’t just lose momentum and fail to graduate or fail to finish on the project that they’re on, et cetera. It gives them a lot of
protecting in hiring and at all kinds of ways that
they’re just not aware of so that in general students and certainly you can understand this are very reluctant to complain about anything
because these are the professors and their livelihood, but
if you have a strong system in place where people know
that they have the right, they don’t have to complain
directly to the professor. They can go to the Title IX officer. It can be done anonymously,
it will be checked out and then of course if they
don’t get satisfaction they have the right to sue as well. That will often guilt a
university into action in terms of complying or
doing more in this line. I do think this is a very fruitful way because it would change the culture, particularly for graduate
students and postdocs and I think it would
help everyone to know it who’s employed on it within
educational institution that receives any federal money that they have a lot of rights
they’re probably not aware of more than just workplace rights. There are all these rights
about being accepted into educational programs, not
being kicked out, et cetera. Really a rich database
which have been not known and not complied with, but I think that is going to be changing,
so I’m hopeful about this. Another new frontier. (laughs) – What is the responsibility
of the individual woman student or the young professional? What is it that they can do for themselves beyond the change in structure, beyond the law, beyond the
dissemination of information? – Well first of all, they
should know their rights. To fully use the kinds of tools they have and to know the workplace
policies that exist and to push for them, that. But aside from that I think
you’re probably talking about the lean in issue. (laughs) – Right.
– Well I do think, it’s not totally black and white. She clearly doesn’t talk enough
about institutional change or about about family, et
cetera, ’cause that is, at least our research shows
clearly the major reason why women drop out, but it is true that women often don’t negotiate well. They don’t ask for enough,
they are perhaps more reluctant in some cases, to some
extent it’s density as well. When I was first dean, I was
the first woman graduate dean. I was the only woman dean on
campus for a couple of years. And it is a little intimidating
to be on the cabinet and everyone is not a
woman and you have to act in a different way. You learn how to talk lowly
and slowly and wait and pause. Not to speak too much, but to be sure that you reference
someone else with the hope that they might actually
reference you sometime, which rarely happens to women, and then to always have a lot of data. So I’d come in armed with
PowerPoints. (laughs) And obviously that’s not my background. I’m not a statistician but the
only way you make your points is to sort of not so
much do it like the guys, but to be serious and to show
that you’re a serious person. That got easier as more women became deans and their voices were
different kinds of voices and it was just, with
density things do improve. And as you know, women
are not always so good about helping other women,
particularly the older school. I guess I am the older
school, but nonetheless, in my day the older school wasn’t because you know, they’d
made their sacrifices and they got here by
whatever means, et cetera. Or they chose not to have children and why should they do your work for them? So this is not necessarily a girls’ club that help each other,
although I have to say at this university when
I first came the AAW, which is the faculty women
association was wonderful. They had everyone be a kind of mentor from a different department
and they really did help the young assistant
professors ’cause they’d had a terrible time getting
tenure in previous years. A couple of lawsuits helped and
the mentoring helped as well so they can be very helpful. As I say, the density helps,
also the issue of service, and there’s been some research on it. Not ours, but others that
even women who get tenure often kind of slog out
as associate professors and their pay shows the kind
of sloped pace they’re on ’cause that cumulatively
means they get paid less toward the end of their career. And one of the major reasons,
according to this research, was that they’re always
asked to do more service then are men, and maybe
they’re less likely to say no, I don’t know, but women
do more service overall generally speaking than men do, at least according to this research, which is not something
I’ve researched against. – Bottom line is that
we have to achieve this complete and real access for women because they can bring their
creativity, their intelligence and maybe a different set of values as we look at the array of
policy issues that we confront. – Yes, I mean, this is
a very disputed area whether women really do have
different leadership qualities et cetera, but I think it’s fairly clear that they’re more cooperative
in terms of their style. And they’re less likely
to blow up. (laughs) At least the women I know, I don’t know. It’s not necessarily
because they’re women. It’s because they’re also
managing children and family and a dozen other things
that they get to be. I would actually rather hire
a mother of three children who are perhaps in school by this time than almost anyone else ’cause
they just get things done. They don’t waste time,
there’s no doubt about it. They’ve got a task and
they’ll get it done. So I think those qualities are
very good in women as well, whether they have children
or not I think they’re good. So I haven’t written on
this or examined this but just observationally women do make more cooperative
leaders and are less likely to fly off the handle and
do rash things. (laughs) You know, that doesn’t mean
that they’re better leaders than men, they just
have a different style. – Looking back at your career, I’m curious how you would
evaluate the interplay between political
movements, the legal system and the changes that
occur, but then essentially the power that comes with
administrative positions to actually try to make change. We touch on all three
of these in your career and it seems like it takes all of them and not one or the other is enough. – Well, there are individuals
who do wonderful things whether they’ve had a background
in this nature or whatever. The issue with
administration is interesting because I’m doing this work now, which is largely policy
work, our research is. And it has a conclusion in policy otherwise I wouldn’t
find it that interesting just to be another publication
is not that interesting to me but it’s not the kind of
work for which you get tenure or climb the ladder and I didn’t do policy
work for many years. I wrote A History of
Child Custody in America. I wrote a lot of law reviews. I did things that were interesting to me, but were not gonna change the world because I wasn’t in a position to and it’s not what you do as a professor. You want to do things that are scholarly and you’re rated only on your
contribution to scholarship, not on changing the world, so
when you’re an administrator you have more power to change the world and if you take off your,
I must get tenure hat then you really can use research, I think, in a positive way, but
not that many faculty can. And the faculty on this
campus have such brilliance among them it’s always wonderful when someone makes use of
their work to change the world ’cause rarely are they
in a position to do it. ‘Cause you know, outside of politics where you are in a position
and you’re encouraged, that’s why you’re
elected, to change things. I don’t think university administrators are elected or appointed
to change things. (laughs) so it’s something you take on if you, maybe the president is or the chancellor but others are meant to kind
of run the ship of state. But some make wonderful changes, too. – But by bringing
information to the agenda you can make some change.
– Yes, exactly. Unique information, ’cause if
I had that unique information and was not a high-level administrator it would be much harder to get
any policy results from it. So those positions are
very important for that. – If students were to watch this video and your reflections on your own career, what advice would you give
them in terms of preparing for the future? – Well, just don’t give up your dreams. It may not happen exactly how you think. I think we should actually
have a high school class called life 101 in which
they do a life script. I mean, they can review it
every five years or whatever, but to have a sort of a long-range idea of how you would like your life to unfold and check in on it and not give up on it because you’re gonna be waylaid. So take second changes when they come. I’ve had several second chances in my life which have allowed me to be here, have allowed me to do a
number of different things, and you have to just grab them
when they come along your way because I think almost
everyone gets a variety of opportunities, at least
in this country they do and they pick and choose
some or the others. The other advice I give to women, at least in this book I did,
don’t marry a jerk. (laugh) You know, all the women that
we interviewed for this book who were very successful
like Dianne Feinstein or corporate heads or women
who had really had it all, more or less, they almost
all attributed their success to their partner, not because he had done half the diaper changing or whatever, but the partner was totally supportive economically and otherwise
and always took their career as seriously as his own. And that’s really the
criteria for an equal marriage and it allows women as well
as men to flourish in it. If it meant that he’d
have to make the move, and among academics that’s often the case. You have a dual career
family and unfortunately it’s a two-body problem
and it’s more often that the man’s body gets
the choice than the women’s, those kinds of decisions
which are very hard and academia’s particularly tough on them because you’re only
limited to a number of jobs in certain geographical. But actually make sure
that the partner you have is not holding you down,
they’re pushing you forward. – Well, on that note Mary
Ann I want to thank you, but let me show your book
one more time to our audience ’cause it’s a very succinct manual for the problems that
we’ve been talking about. So thank you again for–
– Thank you Harry. I enjoyed it very much.
– For being on our program. And thank you very much for joining us for this conversation with history. (upbeat electronic music)

One thought on “Conversations with History: Achieving Equality for Women with Mary Ann Mason

  1. Prof. Mason's most important advise came in the last few moments of the interview when she said "Don't marry a Jerk".

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