The fourth barrier, Parenthood, illustrates that the issues for women are not research or teaching, but parenting and mobility as a cause for self-selection away from academia. While the National Academies of Science (NAS) rejects the idea that woman scientists are less committed to their careers, research has identified difficulties in work-family and/or work-life balance as a significant cause of the “disproportionately high departure rate” for women, the collision between the ticking biological and tenure clocks supporting the “leaking pipeline” theory.
Rosser, in a study of the careers of 450 women scientists and engineers at academic institutions found that balancing work with family was the most significant challenge facing women scientists.
Another study based on a nationally representative sample of PhD holders, found that women who successfully pursue academic careers are less likely to marry and have children and more likely to divorce, than men who succeed in academic careers or women who drop out of the pipeline to tenure. This study revealed that factors affecting women’s success “spill over into the family, or the reverse, the family spills over into the job.”
Here is an example of research that demonstrates how stereotypes about men and women affect job candidates. A highly-credentialed resume was randomly assigned a male or female name. Each male or female applicant was then randomly described as a fundraiser for a neighborhood association or a coordinator of the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA), labeling them parents. The investigators hypothesized that participants would stereotype mothers as nurturing and put family first, and also stereotype fathers as breadwinners. These hypotheses were confirmed and in conjunction with describing the ideal employee as putting the organization first, they found that fathers were considered good employees and mothers were not. This resulted in a hiring bias against mothers.
Our research identified a “seesaw” for women scientists balancing their “Raison d’être” (reason for career) and “2nd Shift” (household duties following a day’s work for pay). A great deal of literature represents these two key areas of research. We found that often family is front and center for women but at the edge of men’s lives, a fact congruent with gendered norms. Time for women in our study is “gendered” where women have to take care of the majority of household duties as compared to their male counterparts.
How has your career changed you as a parent and how has being a parent changed your career?
How do you balance your seesaw?