Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Accessible Research: Scientists want more children

In celebration of my colleague and friends becoming parents for the second time (congratulations Kirk and Charlene!!), here's a post on the desire to have children among academics.

This paper came out last year, but is very relevant. It is very short, open-access, and clearly-written, so I encourage you to click on the title, and read it for yourself.

Scientists Want More Children

Elaine Howard Ecklund1#*Anne E. Lincoln2#
Citation: Ecklund EH, Lincoln AE (2011) Scientists Want More Children. PLoS ONE 6(8): e22590. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0022590
"And, in contrast to other research, gender differences among graduate students and postdoctoral fellows disappear. Family factors impede talented young scientists of both sexes from persisting to research positions in academic science. In an era when the global competitiveness of US science is at risk, it is concerning that a significant proportion of men and women trained in the select few spots available at top US research universities are considering leaving science and that such desires to leave are related to the impact of the science career on family life."

I assume that their definitions of male/female are based solely on self-reporting (and didn't offer a transgender category), so I will use the same terminology here. Here are the take-home messages:

1. Faculty with children work fewer hours than those without, but the difference is much lower than stereotypes would suggest:

           Hours of work              
 No children      With children
Women/Men     Women/Men
     59.1/57.8           54.5/53.9

2. Women faculty have fewer children than men (although the average for both is under 2), and are twice as likely to report that they had fewer children than they wanted.

3. Even though women have fewer children than men, women are "more satisfied with their lives than men", suggesting, "that having fewer children than wanted has a more pronounced effect on life satisfaction of male scientists."

My conclusion: making the academic atmosphere more family-friendly will be beneficial to all who work there, without adversely affecting productivity.

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