Monday, June 25, 2012

Answer: You can't have it all

GOOD THINKING: In an academic career, the decade spent rising to tenure and full professor overlaps EXACTLY with a young professional's prime reproductive years. This is true of both men and women. 

Early feminists mindlessly accepted 19th century rules of the workplace, and many older female academics are childless. But letter day feminists are chafing at having to make such a draconian choice. And so they are jumping out of the tenure stream and into contingent faculty positions so they have more time to spend with their children during their preschool years. Here is how Michelle Obama put it when describing the reasons underlying a dearth of female scientists in her 2011 speech to the National Science Foundation: "Women account for 47% of new PhDs in the sciences, but only 28% of tenured positions…Family formation, notably marriage and childbirth or adoption of children accounts for the major loss of female talent from the job pool between receipt of PhD and achievement of a tenured position in the sciences."

Once their children are older and they have more time and more desire to dive headlong into their careers, young professionals who made this choice are subjected to a rude awakening: They discover that employers treat people who have made this choice the way some men treat women they’ve deflowered: When it comes to hiring (or marrying), they want virgins—fresh-faced, untried, rising stars. They do not want to consider the “woman they’ve already had”--the worker who has done a good job for years in a temporary or part-time position

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