Scientists Want More Children

Department of Sociology, Rice University, Houston, Texas, United States of America.
PLoS ONE (Impact Factor: 3.23). 08/2011; 6(8):e22590. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0022590
Source: PubMed


Scholars partly attribute the low number of women in academic science to the impact of the science career on family life. Yet, the picture of how men and women in science--at different points in the career trajectory--compare in their perceptions of this impact is incomplete. In particular, we know little about the perceptions and experiences of junior and senior scientists at top universities, institutions that have a disproportionate influence on science, science policy, and the next generation of scientists. Here we show that having fewer children than wished as a result of the science career affects the life satisfaction of science faculty and indirectly affects career satisfaction, and that young scientists (graduate students and postdoctoral fellows) who have had fewer children than wished are more likely to plan to exit science entirely. We also show that the impact of science on family life is not just a woman's problem; the effect on life satisfaction of having fewer children than desired is more pronounced for male than female faculty, with life satisfaction strongly related to career satisfaction. And, in contrast to other research, gender differences among graduate students and postdoctoral fellows disappear. Family factors impede talented young scientists of both sexes from persisting to research positions in academic science. In an era when the global competitiveness of US science is at risk, it is concerning that a significant proportion of men and women trained in the select few spots available at top US research universities are considering leaving science and that such desires to leave are related to the impact of the science career on family life. Results from our study may inform university family leave policies for science departments as well as mentoring programs in the sciences.

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    • "Such perceptions may turn women away from careers they think involve significant mathematical skill (Correll 2001). Although scientific work may affect both men's and women's family choices after they become established scientists (Ecklund and Lincoln 2011), expectations for the challenges of trying to balance family responsibilities with career demands may have a greater influence on women's career entrance choices (Mason and Ekman 2007; Reskin 1993). If scientists perceive one discipline as requiring a larger time commitment than another, women interested in having families may be discouraged from pursuing the more time-intensive discipline. "
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    ABSTRACT: Efforts to understand gender segregation within and among science disciplines have focused on both supply- and demand-side explanations. Yet we know little about how academic scientists themselves view the sources of such segregation. Utilizing data from a survey of scientists at thirty top U.S. graduate programs in physics and biology (n = 2,503) and semistructured interviews with 150 of them, this article examines the reasons academic scientists provide for differences in the distribution of women in biology and physics. In quantitative analyses, gender is more salient than discipline in determining the reasons scientists provide for gender disparities between disciplines, suggesting that gender may act as a “master status,” shaping the experiences of scientists regardless of the gender composition of the discipline. Qualitative interviews confirm this interpretation and reveal that scientists also perceive mentoring, natural differences, discrimination, and the history of the disciplines to be important factors. Results contribute to research on the relationship between emotional labor and occupational gender segregation conducted in professions such as law and nursing.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2012 · Gender & Society
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    • "Individual choices, such as deferring careers during childrearing years, might also explain, at least in part, why women spend significantly longer time as assistant professors than do men [4]. Interestingly, in a very recent analysis of the impact of the scientific career on family life, although nearly twice as many women as men reported having fewer children than desired because they pursued a science career, family factors impede talented young scientists of both sexes from persisting to research positions in academic science [22]. "
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    ABSTRACT: The proportion of women occupying academic positions in biological sciences has increased in the past few decades, but women are still under-represented in senior academic ranks compared to their male colleagues. Primatology has been often singled out as a model of "equal-opportunity" discipline because of the common perception that women are more represented in Primatology than in similar fields. But is this indeed true? Here we show that, although in the past 15 years the proportion of female primatologists increased from the 38% of the early 1990s to the 57% of 2008, Primatology is far from being an "equal-opportunity" discipline, and suffers the phenomenon of "glass ceiling" as all the other scientific disciplines examined so far. In fact, even if Primatology does attract more female students than males, at the full professor level male members significantly outnumber females. Moreover, regardless of position, IPS male members publish significantly more than their female colleagues. Furthermore, when analyzing gender difference in scientific productivity in relation to the name order in the publications, it emerged that the scientific achievements of female primatologists (in terms of number and type of publications) do not always match their professional achievements (in terms of academic position). However, the gender difference in the IPS members' number of publications does not correspond to a similar difference in their scientific impact (as measured by their H index), which may indicate that female primatologists' fewer articles are of higher impact than those of their male colleagues.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2012 · PLoS ONE

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