The Baby Penalty

Our research team at the University of California at Berkeley 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 as tenured 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 their academic careers—from the uncertain graduate-school years to the pressure cooker of tenure, through the long midcareer march, and finally to retirement. But babies matter in different ways at different times. Our new book, Do Babies Matter? Gender and Family in the Ivory Tower (written with Nicholas H. Wolfinger and Marc Goulden) draws on our research, as well as findings from the National Science Foundation survey that has tracked a large sample of Ph.D.’s (more than 160,000) from 1973 onward, and several other large surveys and interviews focusing on graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty members at the University of California.

Our most important finding is that family formation negatively affects women’s—but not men’s—academic careers. For men, having children can be a slight career advantage and, for women, it is often a career killer. Women who do advance through the faculty ranks do so at a high personal price: They are far less likely to be married with children than are their male colleagues. <Read more.>

Via Mary Ann Mason, The Chronicle of Higher Ed.