Motherhood 'detrimental' to women's scientific careers, study concludes

February 14, 2012

Women with advanced degrees in math-intensive academic fields drop out of fast-track research careers primarily because they want children – not because their performance is devalued or they are shortchanged during interviewing and hiring, according to a new study at Cornell University.

"Motherhood – and the policies that make it incompatible with a tenure-track research career – take a toll on that is detrimental to their professional lives. Even just the plan to have in the future is associated with women exiting the research fast-track at a rate twice that of men," report Cornell human development professors Wendy Williams and Stephen Ceci in the March-April issue of the journal American Scientist.

"It is time for universities to move past thinking about underrepresentation of women in science solely as a consequence of biased hiring and evaluation, and instead think about it as resulting from outdated policies created at a time when men with stay-at-home wives ruled the academy," said Williams, who founded the Cornell Institute for Women in Science, a research and outreach center that studies and promotes the careers of women scientists.

For the study, Williams and Ceci analyzed data related to the academic careers of women and men with and without children in academic fields, including math-heavy ones. They found that before becoming mothers, women have careers equivalent to or better than men's. "They are paid and promoted the same as men, and are more likely to be interviewed and hired in the first place," Williams said.

Explore further: Overworking husbands drive working wives back into the home, study finds

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The study builds on previous research by Williams and Ceci published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showing that women in math-intensive fields did not face discrimination in hiring, publishing or funding.

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5 / 5 (1) Feb 14, 2012
Now...let us see how long it takes for THIS data to get front page billing on CNN, or BBC!?
I could wager it will be on BBC before it makes it to CNN and will be on FOX news, yesterday..
3.7 / 5 (3) Feb 14, 2012
Of course it is, once you have a child that child is your priority, I have a one year old with another on the way and I never thought I could care about another living thing as much as I do for him. I didn't even want kids, he was a surprise, but he is now the single greatest source of happiness in my life. This shouldn't be a gender issue though, it should be equally common to have stay at home dads and career moms in my opinion. Society will gradually overcome such gender stereotypes.
5 / 5 (1) Feb 14, 2012
Motherhood and fatherhood are not symmetrical. The involvement of the mother is absolutely higher, in the first years specially. The father is necessary, but his contribution is secondary, men produce money, buy groceries, fix things, clean the house, laundry, etc.

Women breastfeed! Can anybody tell me a more intimate experience for a human being? that being naked, covered by his mom skin, drinking warm sweet milk?

We, men, can't do that. Men can't provide anything even closer to it. The best theory, the best experiment, the best machine, the best stunt, all fall short to provide years of intimacy and future health that a mother can bring into someone's life. Yes, we can caress our children, we can make them laugh, but still, we can't do the magic of a mother.

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