Ph.D. graduate Jen King challenged universities and the tech sector to do a better job accommodating parents in her commencement speech at the School of Information’s graduation ceremony on Saturday.
“It is an incredibly difficult undertaking,” said King. “The lack of support that is available to parents is something that all of us, I think, know.”
King started the I School’s Ph.D. program in 2009 with a 6-month-old baby, and had her second child four years later.
King studies online privacy and how people make their privacy decisions; her dissertation focuses on how people make decisions to disclose their personal information to companies. She is also the co-director of UC Berkeley’s Center for Technology, Policy, and Society, a student-led policy center at the I School.
“When I told people I was pursuing my Ph.D. with young children, many asked me if I was crazy,” said King. “And, frankly, I wondered if I was. The conclusion I came to is that anyone who works full-time in this country with young children is a little crazy, whether you’re in academia or the private sector.”
And it is especially hard for female scholars in traditionally male-dominated fields like technology, she added.
King noted the progress Berkeley has already made, observing that three of the I School’s four 2017 Ph.D. graduates are parents. “We’re not the majority in our program, but what was once exceptional — to pursue your degree while pregnant, or as a parent — is now a lot less so.”
Women at public universities have the law on their side: Title IX, which guarantees equal access to educational opportunities. “But laws cannot create change on their own,” said King. She challenged the graduates to understand that “supporting gender diversity isn’t just about giving women access while keeping the same rules in place.”
“And it’s not just about leaning in and leaning in and leaning in until you fall on your face. It requires restructuring the entire workplace to allow for a range of opportunities for participation, for women and men, for birth parents and co-parents.”
Read the full story on the School of Information website.