>>>> Women have different issues than other groups - even stuff like when you
>>>> have a kid and take a year off, how do you keep up on your mad
>>>> programming skillz?  Or program with pregnancy-brain?
> I'll grant you pregnancy-brain is probably only found in women, but
> some men take a year (or more) off to look after a kid and issues
> around that are not unique to women.  It's actually pretty
> disappointing anyone would suggest that only women take child-related
> career breaks nowadays, but I guess this is a global group.

I am another person who doesn't weigh in on threads like this often, but 
I think this bears some comment, and as someone not involved in the main 
strand of discussion, I feel like I can address this as a sidebar 
without derailing the whole conversation. I do have a point, bear with me.

This false equivalency gets bandied around quite a lot in academic 
circles (maybe elsewhere, but I lead a sheltered life). Let me assure 
you that there is a significant difference between what goes on in a 
standard pat leave and what goes on in a standard mat leave. Let us not 
forget that the entire process usually kicks off with a fully formed 
being being removed from the mother's body, either through a bodily 
orifice, or surgically. Either way, it's the mother who has to deal with 
the *very real* medical consequences of this miraculous yet historically 
very deadly event. Quite often, the first part of a mat leave is spent 
just recovering from same. Then of course, there is the fact that you 
have this new life form who pretty much needs to be held by you in order 
to live. In a plurality of cases, this means also being a walking food 
dispenser, but in any case it means close, constant supervision and lots 
of body contact.

I'm not arguing that there aren't many dads who do a great job of child 
rearing, but in your average, everyday, heteronormative context, this by 
default falls to the woman. Bringing it back to the academic context, 
it's not rare at all to see dads on pat leave back in the office working 
at (sometimes, but not always) reduced capacity, sometimes from day two 
or three. I have rarely if ever seen women on mat leave come into the 
office; they are busy dealing with all the issues above, which mat leave 
was invented to help deal with in the first place.

I will not even get into the dynamics of "missing years" in CVs and 
their implications for women who take mat leaves. Suffice to say, this 
is a real problem in the academic world, and tenure committees seem to 
have this weird blind spot around mat leaves.

So to my point: why am I bringing this up in this thread? Because when a 
topic like this comes up in general communities, it often has to be 
explained, just like this. For the marginal participant in a community, 
who might or might not start a discussion around these topics, how much 
less likely would they be to do so if they knew they were going to have 
to explain the particulars of why pregnancy and maternity are hard for 
professionals in our society? I can almost guarantee you this is already 
top of mind -- said participant probably does not want to have to 
unravel this whole messy skein of social and biological implications in 
an email thread with 3500 people. But they might be willing to ask their 
questions in a group that shares a common understanding of the issues 
and can talk about them without having to justify themselves or start 
from first principles. In a way, it's a lot like the reason a community 
like code4lib (or any other community) exists in the first place. 
Otherwise, we could just discuss everything on AllLibrariansEver-L.

Anyway, I hope you don't feel like people are piling on, MJ. I think 
it's a token of respect that every member of the code4lib community has 
for each other that folks *are* making the effort to understand and be 

Needless to say, I support wholeheartedly the idea of libtechwomen or 
any other venue -- if there are folks who feel it is needed, then that 
needs to be respected.



Stephen Marks
Digital Preservation Librarian
Scholars Portal
Ontario Council of University Libraries

[log in to unmask]

"Fearlessness is better than a faint heart for any man who puts his nose 
out of doors. The length of my life and the day of my death were fated 
long ago." --Skírnismál