More work equals fewer babies for female faculty

By By Jaime Winston

By Jaime Winston

According to a study released by researchers from the U and the University of California, Berkeley, most American women start a family in their 20s, but female professors tend to have children when they are 35 to 39.

Elizabeth Tashjian, an associate professor of finance, didn’t wait this long to have her children. Nineteen years ago, she was the first woman to give birth before tenure on the U’s business school faculty.

“It’s a huge issue for women trying to get tenure,” she said. “You’re working this huge amount of time and it is right at that period you want to have kids.”

The study found that female faculty members do not have as much time to raise children as other professionals.

The figures were created with data from the 2000 census, which showed female professionals in medicine and law have children earlier than women in academic fields.

The study showed the number of children under age one in homes of both male and female professionals. In each case, men had more children than women.

Researchers believe women faculty members have fewer children due to rigorous schedules to earn a degree and achieve tenure.

The study, “Alone in the Ivory Tower: How Birth Events Vary among Fast-Track Professionals,” also shows that female physicians have children more often than female faculty members because of the six or seven years it takes to get tenure.

“By then you’re 39 or 40 and that’s well past prime child-baring years,” Wolfinger said. “For men it’s easier because there’s not that tough career structure and biological imperative.”

Tashjian struggled with the full load of classes she taught just three weeks after her son was delivered. She had to bring him to her office quite often and care for a toddler she had during graduate school.

“I remember being so tired,” she said. “I was literally hallucinating.”

Tashjian also finds time as chair of the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women for the U, a group that reports to President Young about issues facing female faculty, staff and students.

About two years ago, the commission initiated a policy for parental leave, which allows expectant mothers to leave three months before a birth and up to 12 months following the delivery. The U also allows caregivers to extend their tenure period another year.

President Young recently assigned Tashjian’s commission to develop an initiative for on-campus child day care for faculty. The day care currently on campus is intended for students.

Mary Ann Mason, UC Berkeley professor and coauthor of the study, has also struggled to raise her two children while teaching college students.

She wrote a book for professional women with children called “Mothers on the Fast Track: How a New Generation Can Balance Family and Careers.”

Mason advises female faculty to remain in contact with the institution during the leave of absence. “They should stay in the game as much as they can and when they come back really promote themselves,” she said.

Despite initiatives and improvements, Mason said the rigorous schedules female faculty members have will continue to be a problem. “The figures will not change in the foreseeable future unless the structure of the workplace is changed to accommodate a family balance,” she said.[email protected]