Getting tenure is hard. The work load is tremendous. More women than men tend to think it is not worth the effort and, if they have kids, that feeling becomes more so. They are not rejecting science but they are opting for a higher quality of life. Studies show that male scientists often wish they had made the same choice.
A new study from Cornell University is nothing new; but some advocates have ignored data since the 1990s, including all of the advances liberal academia has made regarding diversity, so these points need to be made again. Women get more Ph.D.s than men, women get tenure and faculty jobs more than men and, for the first time in history, young women score as well as men on math tests before they reach college. That's a big win for science and society. Sure, biology has more women and physics has more men but nothing in that fact says women or men are being blocked out of those fields by their genders or that those fields are worse off because their participation does not exactly match the overall population.
"Motherhood – and the policies that make it incompatible with a tenure-track research career – take a toll on women that is detrimental to their professional lives. Even just the plan to have children in the future is associated with women exiting the research fast-track at a rate twice that of men," report Wendy Williams and Stephen Ceci. "It is time for universities to move past thinking about underrepresentation of women in science solely as a consequence of biased hiring and evaluation, and instead think about it as resulting from outdated policies created at a time when men with stay-at-home wives ruled the academy," said Williams, who founded the Cornell Institute for Women in Science, a research and outreach center that studies and promotes the careers of women scientists, and does the current research with funding from the National Institutes of Health.Maybe our policies are outdated, though in countries like Iceland, which are held up as models for work-family policies, far more women than men take maternity leave even though it is available equally to both - and the government even pays child care but more women stay home to raise kids anyway. Obviously there is no issue in the private sector, lots of women are doctors and have children without issue, but claims that science academia are hostile to women are again shown to be without merit. Now, science is absolutely hostile, just like any job, but at a time when advocates are insisting the military should have no gender separation, claiming women in science need special environments is a little silly. Women in science do fine; women in the military have to have their own separate scoring system because the vast majority would flunk a physical fitness test if it were gender neutral.
Williams and Ceci analyzed data related to the academic careers of women and men with and without children in math-heavy academic fields and found that before becoming mothers, women have careers equivalent to or better than men's - just like the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows about women overall. "They are paid and promoted the same as men, and are more likely to be interviewed and hired in the first place," Williams said. Basically, women do take one for the team more than men and maybe that is wrong but they have the choice - that is the important point.Citation: Wendy M. Williams and Stephen J. Ceci, 'When Scientists Choose Motherhood', March-April 2012, Volume 100, Number 2 Page: 138 DOI: 10.1511/2012.95.138