Tuesday, June 18, 2013
It's Her Factory
Apparently, at least the States, "family formation negatively affects women’s, but not men’s, academic careers... [f]or men, having children is a career advantage; for women, it is a career killer". It's hardly surprising that women face disadvantages relative to men in US academia: what's remarkable about Colin McGinn is not that he sent a series of sexually suggestive emails to a female graduate student, but that his university decided this was behaviour worthy of sanction. US academia does not sound like an attractive place to be a woman. What's interesting is that while forming a family is bad for women, it's good for men. Married men do better than their unmarried colleagues. The effects of 'the pram in the hall' are not just significant, but they pull in opposite directions depending which gender you are. That, I think, suggests two things about the problem. First, the cause of the problem isn't babies as such, but patterns of division of domestic labour. Unmarried men tend to do worse than married men, perhaps, because they lack an unpaid domestic servant who ministers to their needs and allows them to avoid doing any work apart from paid work. Second, the author's solutions, which focus on making academia more sensitive to the demands on parents' time, can't be a complete solution. This is not just because men will not take advantage of these entitlements to spend time with their families but use them to further their careers, but also because it's only if you have unreasonable demands on your time in the first place that work as flexible as thinking and writing about things are incompatible with child-rearing or indeed any other commitment apart from paid work. End the tenure track.