A new study released at a meeting of the American Sociological Society examines how male scientists balance family responsibilities. Through interviews with 74 biologists and physicists at various career stages, researchers got a picture of how male scientists are attempting to manage their family lives and intense careers. The study unfortunately found that a majority of men surveyed do not take on equal responsibility with regards to “home duties”.
About 1/3 of the men were classified as being “egalitarian partners”. They expressed the same concerns that many female scientists with children express, and discussed “the need to sacrifice…to try to make it all work”. A little over 20% of the men were classified as “neo-traditional” (meaning that they are in dual-earning households, but still subscribe to some traditional gender roles). This category was actually made up of mostly graduate students, and they felt that their wives were primarily responsible for home duties. The authors express that these men over-emphasized that their wive’s taking primary responsibility at home was their choice. It appears that many felt childcare and career sacrifice for children were women’s issue, rather than issues that would affect their own career. Thirty percent of the men were “traditional breadwinners”, who were usually tenured. They expressed the benefits they get from having wives who didn’t work outside the home. Perhaps the most shocking part of the whole article is the following:
“…others seemed decidedly less sympathetic to the impact of their choices. Asked, “Do you think that having children then is difficult to manage with being a scientist?” one physicist said, “No, absolutely not. That’s why you have a wife.”
Yes. Wives exist so that male scientists can do their jobs without having to worry about childcare. *facepalm*
This quote is really disturbing, because these attitudes pose harm to scientists of both genders with children. If academia is to strive to be more family friendly, all members must be aware of the difficulties of trying to balance a family and a career. Of course, not all scientists will choose to have children, but those who don’t cannot be so ignorant as to assume that work-family balance isn’t an issue. In addition, women scientists are more likely to have partners in academia. Causing these women to shoulder a disproportionate amount of childcare responsibility is detrimental to the advancement of women in science.