“The most important finding is that family formation negatively affects women’s, but not men’s, academic careers. For men, having children is a career advantage; for women, it is a career killer.
In 2000, I greeted the first entering graduate-student class at Berkeley where the women outnumbered the men. I was the first female dean of the graduate division. As a ’70s feminist I cautiously thought, “Is the revolution over? Have we won?” Hardly. That afternoon I looked around the room at my first dean’s meeting and all I saw were grey haired men. The next week at the first general faculty meeting of the semester I noted that women were still only about a quarter of the faculty, and most were junior.
Our Berkeley research team has spent more than a decade studying why so many women begin the climb but do not make it to the top of the Ivory Tower: the tenured faculty, full professors, deans, and presidents. The answer turns out to be what you’d expect: Babies matter. Women pay a “baby penalty” over the course of a career in academia—from the tentative graduate school years through the pressure cooker of tenure, the long midcareer march, and finally retirement. But babies matter in different ways at different times. A new book I co-wrote with Marc Goulden and Nicholas H. Wolfinger, Do Babies Matter? Gender and Family in the Ivory Tower, draws on several surveys that have tracked tens of thousands of graduate students over their careers, as well as original research.*
The most important finding is that family formation negatively affects women’s, but not men’s, academic careers. For men, having children is a career advantage; for women, it is a career killer. And women who do advance through the faculty ranks do so at a high price. They are far less likely to be married with children. We see more women in visible positions like presidents of Ivy League colleges, but we also see many more women who are married with children working in the growing base of part-time and adjunct faculty, the “second tier,” which is now the fastest growing sector of academia. Unfortunately, more women Ph.Ds. has meant more cheap labor. And this cheap labor threatens to displace the venerable tenure track system. [Rest.]