An Open Door Is Not Enough

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Today’s Chronicle of Higher Education features a provocative “Balancing Act” column by  Mary Ann Mason (Berkeley).  In “Frozen Eggs  Oocyte Cryopreservation is not the Secret to Professional Success in Academe,” Mason reports some eye-catching statistics:

Among the professions charted by the [2000] census  : faculty members, physicians, lawyers, and CEO’s, between the ages of 35 and 50  : women in academe, no matter how many hours they worked, reported fewer children than women in all other professional fields.

Among female faculty members who worked between 50 and 59 hours a week, 41 percent reported children in the household, compared with a robust 67 percent for female doctors.

It is easy to understand why women who work long hours are less likely to have children, but what about men? Why does their fertility  increase  with the number of hours they work?

In part it’s because men are still perceived as the primary breadwinners. For men in the professions, more hours worked translates into children but also into partners who do not work full time. The evidence for that is stunning. According to 2000 census data, 52 percent of male professors have wives who work part time or not at all, while only 9 percent of female professors have partners who work less than full time.

Marriage rates reveal the same paradox. Of those professors who achieve tenure, 70 percent of men are married with children, compared with only 44 percent of women. But women win in the singles category: Twenty-six percent of tenured women are single without children, as compared with only 11 percent of tenured men.

The full column is available here (pay site – sorry).  52% of male professor have wives who work less than full-time but only 9% of female professors do?  To evaluate that data more fully, we need to know how the stats from other professions.  But the marriage and child-bearing statistics are surprising enough on their own.  70% of tenured male professors are married with children, but only 44% of tenured female professors are.

To me, these statistics illustrate (again) how elusive gender equality remains.  How many generations must we wait?  Mine is the generation that never questioned that all doors would be open to us.  And they are. But liminal equality is not full equality.  Getting in the door is not enough.

-Bridget Crawford

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