The Productivity Penalty Impacting New Mothers in the Academic World

Despite strides in family-leave offerings, and men taking a greater role in parenting, women in academia still experience about a 20 percent drop in productivity after having a child, while their male counterparts generally do not, according to a new study by researchers in the department of computer science at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Researchers surveyed more than 3,000 faculty in computer science, history, and business departments at 450 universities in the United States and Canada in 2018. They also gathered data on publishing rates and institutions’ leave policies. About 80 percent of faculty had children. The results showed that mothers produce about three-quarters the number of papers that fathers do in their early careers. The bulk of that productivity gap comes shortly after the baby is born, the researchers found, with women producing 20 percent fewer papers than they would be expected to otherwise in the years following childbirth.

Among computer science faculty, in the decade after the birth of their child, mothers produce on average 17.6 fewer papers than fathers — a gap that normally would take roughly five years of work to close. All this matters, the authors note, because publishing is a key factor in determining who gets promoted and gets tenure. Those scholars end up teaching the next generation of researchers and crafting and shaping key public policies.

The full study, “The Unequal Impact of Parenthood in Academia,” was published in the journal Science Advances. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Gender GapResearch/Study


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