Friday, August 22, 2008

Ms. Ph.D.

This article from Inside Higher Ed yesterday talked about a study from the University of Washington Center for Innovation and Research in Graduate Education entitled "Finally Equal Footing for Women in Social Science Careers?" The question mark pretty much says everything.
Generally, the evidence is very positive for women — as their careers start. Women are slightly more likely than men to have their first jobs on the tenure track (42 percent vs. 40 percent) and slightly less likely than men to have faculty jobs off the tenure track (26 percent vs. 28 percent). But these figures reverse themselves 6 to 10 years after a Ph.D., at which point men are more likely to have tenure or jobs outside of academe (generally with higher salaries than those for professors) and women are more likely to have jobs off the tenure track.
So in other words, as soon as women get higher up in academia or as soon as they start having children -- a lot of academics put off children until they get through tenure -- the picture looks much less rosy. Additionally the article notes the difference in partners of those in academia:
Men are more likely to be married 6-10 years out (79 percent to 71 percent). But the more significant difference may be who male and female social scientists marry. Women still “marry up,” the report says, noting that women in the survey are much more likely to be married to fellow Ph.D.’s while men are more likely to be married to people with less education than they have.

Just this week, a Stanford University study noted that academic woman at top research universities are more likely than their male counterparts to be married to fellow academics — and noted that this makes their career advancement in academe more difficult as they need to navigate dual-career issues. The study on the social sciences suggests that this situation extends well beyond the top universities examined by Stanford.
Generally speaking, academics tend to marry academics, but this seems to be an important and significant life choice. There is a great deal of history behind the whole notion of "marrying up," but this study suggests that such a notion may actually hurt a woman's career. A lot of social research shows that in couples where both partners are driven career-types -- especially when there are children involved, the woman's career often tends to take a back seat to the man's.

It seems that before women get bogged down in the 6-10 years out of a Ph.D. program, they succeed on almost equal terms. The study is just another piece of the social science research that tends to show women "volunteering" to take the back seat for the sake of her partner.

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