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Sunday, January 09, 2005

Holding back

Mothering in the Ivory Tower is examining gender inequities in academia. Her December 5th post is based on an article entitled, "Where the Elite Teach, It's Still a Man's World," which appeared in a recent issue of Chronicle of Higher Education. The article stated that men held more than 70 percent of professorships at top research institutions in the 2001-2 academic year in the United States.

I’m not a part of academia, but I suspect that the inequities found in American universities are prevalent in other professions as well. On the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, what is the ratio of men to women? What is the ratio in boardroom? Or how about corporate America in general? How many women are rising up to the director level and beyond? Moreover, of the women who make it to higher levels, how many have children?

A friend of mine--you’ll be hearing a lot about my spectrum of professional mom friends--managed a deal with her employer to work four days a week after her maternity leave. She has regular hours and is close enough to home that she has lunch with her son daily. She has also been in her job for a number of years and would like to advance in the department. But before there is even the prospect of such advancement, she already wonders if she would decline the opportunity if it presented itself. She is already concerned how a bigger job with more responsibility and longer hours would impact her current arrangement.

We are holding ourselves back. It is happening in the corporate world and probably in academia. This is not a problem that affects one industry or another.

Beyond volunteering to leave our jobs to raise families, jobs with fewer responsibilities typically are easier to turn into parent-friendly jobs with flexibility or job-share options. So even if a woman does not have kids, she might want to someday. And it is possible that is consciously or unconsciously preventing her from aiming too high.

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