As academic departments look to achieve gender balance in their faculty, the competing demands of scholarship and parenting become more acute. A study released by the Association of American University Professors (and nicely summarized in the the Washington Post) provides more evidence that female academics are feeling overwhelmed.
It’s not news that the building years of a faculty member’s career overlaps exactly with a woman’s childbearing window. The burden of establishing a research agenda while raising a family puts women in “survival mode.” What struck me about the study was that professors who become fathers at the same age experience a positive effect. They do not miss opportunities for career advancement or suffer from the perception that parenting detracts from their professional work.
The message for universities seems to be accommodation. Make timelines for advancement more flexible. Allow options to take leave without penalty. As much as structural changes are needed, attitudes about working mothers need to change as well.
Tags: work/life balance