Women's academic success in the 'ivory tower' comes at the cost of lesser kids

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Washington, Apr 19 : Baby boon is not a term that can be used frequently with women professors, for when it comes to having kids, women in academia lag quite far behind other professional women, says a new study from the University of Utah.

Researchers owe this finding to the fact that it takes longer to achieve the job security of tenure in women in academia and concluded that gender equality in the "ivory tower" has come at a cost.

Headed by Nicholas Wolfinger, associate professor of family and consumer studies at the University of Utah, the study assessed the data from the 2000 U.S. Census, and has shown that the number of babies in professional families vary widely by discipline and by gender.

According to the data professors have fewer children than either doctors or lawyers, but surprisingly female professors were found to have the lowest number of babies of all. While male faculty are 21 percent less likely than male doctors to have a baby in their households, female faculty are 41 percent less likely than are their female physician counterparts.

"For female professors, the lower birth rate compared to women in other professions is not a product of differences in income or marriage. They truly are more likely to be alone in the ivory tower. We also found that female faculty are the most likely (13 percent) of the three professions to be separated, widowed or divorced," said Wolfinger.

When academics marry each other, the findings become more complex. Male professionals who are married to doctors or lawyers, or whose wives are out of the work force, are more likely to have babies than male professionals whose wives are academics.

"Many studies have examined the effects of childbirth on professional success, but few have considered how career choice affects fertility. If women are sacrificing families for their jobs, the sexual revolution has not come nearly as far as might otherwise be expected," said Wolfinger.

The basic test for women choosing an academic career, while also wanting to start a family, is the time it takes to achieve job security in higher education, which is known as tenure. Getting tenure makes it more difficult for faculty to take time out for children than either medicine or law, but it makes it particularly difficult for women.

Generally, professors achieve tenure at around 40 years of age, which biologically is past the prime childbearing age for women. This may be why female academics, unlike members of other professions, are most likely to have children in their mid to late thirties. On the other hand, depending on length of residency, many doctors and physicians will have careers in full stride by their early to mid thirties.

Besides having higher salaries, both physicians and lawyers have more options for part-time positions and the relative ease of moving between jobs. Faculty who do not achieve tenure but wish to stay in academia usually have to relocate.

The study was presented at the 2008 annual meeting of the Population Association of America in New Orleans.

ANI

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