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Motherhood “Detrimental” to Women in Math-Intensive Sciences

Motherhood “Detrimental” to Women in Math-Intensive Sciences
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While women make up 33 percent of the faculty at doctoral institutions today, they are significantly underrepresented in math-intensive fields such as chemistry, physics, mathematics, engineering and computer science. In 2007, women full professors in these fields numbered only 4.4 to 12.3 percent of faculty at the top 100 US universities; they comprised only 16 to 27 percent of assistant professors. In a new study in American Scientists, Cornell human development professors Wendy M. Williams and Stephen J. Ceci argue that motherhood is the reason.

Why Are Women So Underrepresented in the Math-Intensive Sciences?

Usually three other factors — ability differences, occupational and lifestyle preferences and sex discrimination — are cited as the reason for women being underrepresented in math-intensive fields. Williams and Ceci review these while arguing that they are unlikely causes.

Surveys have indicated that women tend to be more interested in careers involving living things such as medicine, biology, animal science and psychology, rather than fields such as computer science, mathematics, physics and engineering. Nonetheless, in 2005, women and men were almost equally represented among college math majors; women indeed tend to get better grades in math courses. While sex discrimination in publishing, securing grants and being hired for academic jobs was a factor historically, a 2004 – 2005 survey by the National Research Council committee found that “women applicants were actually more likely to be interviewed and offered tenure-track jobs than were their male competitors, and that there were no differences in tenure and promotion rates for women and men.”

Motherhood Can Be “Detrimental” to Women’s Careers in the Sciences

A desire to have children and for family life is “the single most important factor in explaining women’s underrepresentation” in the math-intensive sciences, say Williams and Ceci. Noting that “women’s optimal fertility is between ages 18 and 31,” the authors write that, for a women seeking an academic career in these areas, the “most significant physical and emotional challenges of their lives” occurs at the same time as she encounters the “most significant professional challenges” in a tenure-track job.

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77 comments

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12:19AM PST on Feb 8, 2013

Women can have both if the family has the support to raise the children. That means child care and a little more forgiving schedules. It seems like universities have child care on campus more often than not, and the learning environment seems wonderful for kids. It seems like it should be easier for professors to have children than other professional jobs?

6:06PM PST on Mar 6, 2012

Where are the fathers...???

12:00PM PST on Feb 20, 2012

Why is this news?? A full-time professional job requires at a bare minimum that you are working 9-5 five days a week. That doesn't include commuting or the fact that very few professionals only work 9-5. How on earth are you going to do that and take care of children?
I wish there was less pressure on women to have children. They are seen as freaks if they choose a career over motherhood, so they try to do both, and everyone (the job, the child and the mother) suffer as a result.

6:29AM PST on Feb 19, 2012

Grazie per le informazioni

12:55AM PST on Feb 19, 2012

Thank you for the information.

6:28AM PST on Feb 18, 2012

i have a wild idea - why don't the fathers actually pull their fair weight in child rearing? no, i am not talking about the money - 90% of households are dual income. i am talking about scrubbing crap out of the toilet.i am talking about shopping for groceries and making three meals every day, doing the laundry, washing the floors - all the things necessary to keep children healthy.

but men won't even do this for themselves, because they feel that doing their own work in the house is beneath them. scrubbing their own crap out of the toilet is beneath them, but it isn't beneath the woman.
the kid is 50% his - so how about him getting off his entitled ass and actually doing what is necessary to have a child? both have to work ten hour days, but only the man comes home and slings it into a chair, while she does her housework, then his, her child care and then his.

THAT IS DETRIMENTAL to her career. equal rights? you must be joking. she is "allowed" to have a career and a child - as long as she does all of the work that both she and the man should be doing. he gets to have a career and someone to do all of his unsavory work for him.

5:06AM PST on Feb 18, 2012

Science is most Important and without we would be dying of diseases from getting on the computer today. Science is so Important! I would like a math chip plz :)

3:22AM PST on Feb 18, 2012

Gloria M., how is science "detrimental to the planet"?!

I still don't understand the difference in conditions for women, between a math/science-related academic career and any other academic career. Do other faculties already provide some of the benefits for mothers that the study and article recommend?

3:19AM PST on Feb 18, 2012

We can't change biology........

12:54AM PST on Feb 18, 2012

WOMEN CAN HAVE BOTH AND HAVE FOR YEARS, WHY ARE THESE IDIOTS TRYING TO COME OUT SAYING WOMEN ARE NOT ABLE TO HAVE FAMILIES AND WORK, THIS IS DEGRADING, AND SHOWS THE RESPECT GOP/TEAPARTY HAS FOR WOMEN. GOP/TEAPARTY FEAR WOMEN THEY HATE WOMEN IF WOMEN CAN'T BE CONTROLED IF WOMEN FIGHT FOR THEIR RIGHTS, THEY FEEL STRONG WOMEN ARE DANGEROUS!!!!. THEY WANT WOMEN WEAK,HELPLESS, AND CONTROLABLE!!!. THEY WANT TO TAKE OUR RIGHTS, IF WE VOTE THEM BACK IN THAT IS JUST WHAT THEY WILL DO. VOTE VOTE RIGHTS VOTE VOTE VOTE STRAIGHT DEMOCRAT, DO NOT VOTE A THIRD PARTY. GO DEMOCRAT. DIANA.

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