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To Stay on the Track

The choice for many female academic scientists comes down to this: a career or children, writes the University of Utah's Nicholas Wolfinger at The Atlantic. He and his colleagues surveyed researchers at the 10 University of California campuses, asking them what has made early-career scientists decide not to pursue their goal of being a professor at a major research university. "I could not have come to graduate school more motivated to be a research-oriented professor," Wolfinger says one woman told them, saying she added, "Now I feel that can only be a career possibility if I am willing to sacrifice having children."

While women receive more than half of the bachelor's degrees awarded in the sciences, they become a smaller fraction of the population moving on to master's and doctoral degrees and to tenure-track positions and full professorships, he notes.

He suggests that making academia more family-friendly may help boost the number of women who stay in that pipeline, as both marriage and motherhood appear to hinder women's career success. Wolfinger notes that polices like tenure-clock stoppage and parental leave are steps in the right direction.

However, he says that those policies need to be entitlements rather than accommodations and open to both female and male faculty, as a way to reduce the stigma of availing one's self of them. Further, to encourage younger scientists, he adds that such policies should be extended to graduate students.