Yesterday I went to a symposium on graduate education, which was actually pretty interesting. The plenary speaker was a woman who is the dean of the graduate college at UC-Berkeley. She talked about her research into the effects of family choices on the success of male and female academics. Basically, as expected, men could generally have a whole tribe of offspring, and it didn't change the likelihood of them achieving tenure. For women, on the other hand, it was a completely different story. It was really interesting because she examined the same question from many different angles. I'm certainly not a social science expert, but it seemed like she did a pretty thorough study.
If you define success as achieving tenure, then childless women were the most successful, followed by, amazingly enough, single mothers. Women who had their children before obtaining their Ph.D. came in third. For men, their parental status was not as significantly correlated to their success rate.
Many women Ph.D.'s end up in what she called second-tier jobs, as adjunct, part-time, instructors with no job security and no chance of promotion. An amazing statistic that she gave was that something like 60% of men academics who were married with children had a spouse who worked outside the home only part time or not at all. For women academics, that number shrank to 8%.
She also talked about all the nice policies that Berkeley has implemented, including automatically granting professors a one-year extension of the tenure timeline and 1-2 semesters of no teaching upon the arrival of a new child. And she implemented a policy at Berkeley that grad students who have children get a $5,000-$8,000 grant upon the arrival of their child. Here, our insightful leadership grant us a generous two-week maternity leave.
This dean from Berkeley seemed to be on friendly terms with our Graduate College dean, so it seems like she might be able to influence him to implement some of the reforms she has made at Berkeley. But I'm not going to hold my breath, because I know how slowly the wheels turn around here.