How Marriage, Parenting, and Issue of Work-Life Balance Impact Women Academics’ Publication Rates

A new study led by Elaine Howard Ecklund, who holds the Herbert S. Autrey chair in social sciences at Rice University in Houston, Texas, sought to determine how women scholar’s roles as wives and mothers affected their academic publishing. Dr. Ecklund and her colleagues surveyed 5,756 biologists and physicists in India, Taiwan, the U.S., and the U.K. They found that parenting, marriage, and the strain of maintaining a work-family balance are all factors for women’s success in publishing. Family-related factors are not necessarily significant in every national context and scientific discipline, but when they are, they penalize women but not men.

The study found that the impact was different in some countries and not uniform across all fields. For example, the researchers discovered that the motherhood penalty for publication exists in India and Taiwan but only among physicists. Marriage has a negative relationship to publishing for women compared to men in both disciplines in Taiwan but only in biology in the U.K. And in the U.S., incidents of work-to-family tension tend to result in penalized publication rates for women in physics. Interestingly, gender disparities in publishing are more common among biologists than physicists despite the greater representation of women in biology.

For the US and the UK, the findings show that the struggle to balance family life and work is the leading factor behind disparities in publishing success.

Dr. Ecklund wrote that “on the basis of our US and UK respondents’ narratives, we wonder whether part of the reason why parenting does not significantly disadvantage women’s publication productivity more than we find is that women self-regulate to a large degree. They make personal choices to navigate between competing commitments by, for example, postponing family plans or not taking full maternity leave. Rather than institutions changing, individuals flex to the institutions.”

Dr. Ecklund joined the faculty at Rice Unversity in 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in human development and a master’s degree and Ph.D. in sociology, all from Cornell University.


Filed Under: Research/Study


RSSComments (0)

Leave a Reply