Bear with me as this post is going to be less about child development and more about working moms. I have written a bit about being a working mom and about gender issues before, and you might find yourself thinking, is this blog about children or about mothers? Make up your mind, will you? In my opinion, you can’t talk about children without sometimes talking about their mothers.
I’ve read a couple of interesting pieces lately about women’s status in the workforce and such. What really lighted a fire under my bum was this quote, given by Wendy M. Williams, a female researcher who is studying women in academia. Regarding the fact that women publish less than men in academia: “If a woman is interested in a field, but she has to devote time to three kids, she may not be submitting as often. I don’t see that as discrimination.” Now, in the last two decades, women published between 10.6% and 46.6% of academic articles, with an average of 27%. How is this not discrimination? Where is those three kids’ dad? Could he not kick in a bit? Don’t the male authors have children as well? Given that in academia publication is the currency with which one buys jobs and promotions, this is a very serious problem for female aspiring profs like myself.
To be fair to men, they are doing better. And by better I mean that they have doubled their share of housework and tripled their share of childcare (but I suspect it’s because their share was quite minimal when the count had begun). And it’s also not quite the individual man’s fault: a recent study found that men who request a family leave are perceived as more “weak and feminine”, and they are penalized for it at work. This creates a problem for men who want to help out with childcare.
To be further fair to men, as Debora Spar puts it, biology matters. Assuming a traditional “bring a child into the world” process, women have to take a minimum of 6 weeks to recover from childbirth. This time is obviously detrimental to their progress in the life-long career path. If they are breastfeeding, well, their productivity is obviously impaired, because no one can make milk and work at the same time. Sometimes women even take a full year out of 45 years of working to stay at home with a kid. Clearly, all the promotion action is happening during that year. That can’t be the result of discrimination. Sorry for the snarky tone, but this drives me a wee bit crazy.
And while pretending the discrimination does not exist drives me crazy, the thing that bugs me the most about some of the articles I linked to is the fact that they make it sound as if women who chose to stay at home with their kids somehow lose the competition between men and women. These are articles written from a feminist point of view, and are meant to clarify the inequality between men and women. But I don’t think that making women who chose to stay at home with their children feel like they’re dragging down the entire gender is helping anyone. Besides, turns out that it’s better not to work too much – not just for the soul, but also from a financial point of view. Also, the whole point – at least in my opinion – is that housework should count as much as outside-the-house work. I hereby challenge gender studies people to contribute some numbers: has anyone quantified the housework to compare it to outside-the-house work?