twitter facebook stumble upon rss

Why Is Academia So Hard on Working Mothers?

sign up for the momlogic newsletter Tweet This

Guest blogger Kate Tuttle: Flexible schedule. Summers off. Casual dress. Friendly work environment. Academia sounds like the perfect field for working mothers. Yet as a recent study out of Barnard suggests, women who seek to be both professional academics and mothers often find themselves struggling to succeed in either role.

woman at school campus
The study highlights the typical academic timeline. In most fields, once a newly minted Ph.D goes on the job market, she will be up for tenure after about seven years(if she's in a tenure-track job).Since the average doctorate is earned at age 34, that means that a woman's most critical and challenging work years are also the same years she's likely to be trying to have children.

Having a child is a difficult thing to pull off when you're in graduate school (after coursework, there's research and then a dissertation to write), and the task becomes even more daunting once one is on the tenure track. Teaching demands, requirements to publish, travel and present papers and the expectation of a book or major achievement in one's field ... it can all be hard to juggle with pregnancy, childbirth and the equally intense needs of young children.

Women trying to balance families and careers in other fields may be thinking: Cry me a river. And it's true that achieving a work-life balance in any field takes effort. But for some reason, academia feels even tougher, perhaps because so many "professor mommies" assumed it would be easier. As the Barnard study indicates, women leave the profession -- or jump off the tenure track -- at a rate that far outpaces men. And it's not hard to notice that the most successful women in any university typically are childless, if not single -- while male professors are often patriarchs of large families (the better to lecture to).

As the daughter of one professor and husband of another, I've seen this close up, and it makes me sad. Due to the nature of academic work -- the role it plays in shaping ideas in our culture -- something unique is lost when both sexes are unable to enter on equal footing. It may be that the tenure system is due to expire anyway (which would fundamentally change academia -- for the worse, I'd say), but until that happens, I'd like to see more women get the opportunity to pursue tenure without having to give up on their dreams of motherhood.

Whether that means changing the timeline, providing better childcare or just continuing to chip away at a culture that still somehow feels as conservative as the 1950s (despite its reputation as a world of radicalism), I'm not sure. But I hope the smart women currently earning their Ph.Ds can get on it. My daughter's about to start college, and I want her to learn from as many women as men.


next: Should Mothers and Daughters Be Friends?
71 comments so far | Post a comment now
Bypass Web Filters December 10, 2010, 10:28 AM

I really loved the site so I used my Digg account to digg it - should assist you

Outdoor Childrens Tents December 11, 2010, 10:16 AM

Top work always good to come across a really thoughtful website - I’ve bookmarked it.

DIY Snow removal December 11, 2010, 11:24 AM

Nothing better than Yahoo finding us a good website related to what I was searching for.

Bar Fridges December 11, 2010, 11:41 AM

Nothing better than Bing finding me a good website related to what I was looking for.

Memory Foam Slippers December 11, 2010, 11:59 AM

Searched Yahoo/Bing and ended up here - its good so I posted the site on my Facebook account !

baby Bathing accessories December 11, 2010, 12:16 PM

Searched Yahoo/Bing and ended up here - its good so I posted the site on my Facebook account !

simple dinners for two December 13, 2010, 10:17 AM

Searched Google and ended up here - its good so I posted the site on my Facebook account !

Photography Reviews December 13, 2010, 10:35 AM

Yahoo really did a great job helping me discover your blog - its good.

Best Value Theme Parks December 13, 2010, 11:21 AM

Top work always good to come across a really thoughtful website - I’ve bookmarked it.

Rv Parks December 13, 2010, 11:41 AM

I really loved the site so I used my Digg account to digg it - should help you

alaskan cruises for the family December 13, 2010, 3:15 PM

Google really did a gr8 job helping me discover your blog - its good.

coffee information December 13, 2010, 3:33 PM

I really loved the post so I used my Digg account to digg it - should assist you

using VOIP to save money December 13, 2010, 3:53 PM

Was looking for this - so I just tweeted your site on my account - thanks

Caring for a puppy December 13, 2010, 4:29 PM

I really enjoyed the post so I used my Digg account to digg it - should help you

steroids online December 15, 2010, 6:43 AM

It’s nice to find a site you can trust. I like the privacy of shopping online, but you never know what sites are okay. This site was recommended by a friend so I tried it. The service was great! I’m becoming a frequent shopper! ;)

steroids December 15, 2010, 7:02 AM

It’s nice to find a site you can trust. I like the privacy of shopping online, but you never know what sites are okay. This site was recommended by a friend so I tried it. The service was great! I’m becoming a frequent shopper! ;)

steroids shop December 15, 2010, 7:33 AM

I can’t but agree. I always wanted to write in my site something like that but I guess you are damn faster, LOL. Cheers

Super Walmart Bakery Birthday Cakes December 18, 2010, 1:48 AM

If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend.

buying steroids online December 25, 2010, 2:50 AM

Real impressive health summits, Im bookmarking this for more

danish diet December 27, 2010, 1:59 AM

I have beeing searching the Internet for this info and i wanted to thank you for the post. By the way, just off topic, where can i find a copy of this theme? – Regards


Back to top >>
advertisement