Can academic women find work-life balance?

BlogHer Original Post

As a Ph.D student writing her dissertation, teaching a class, raising an infant, and trying to spend quality time with her husband, I know first-hand how precarious work-life balance can be for academics. Academic bloggers weighed in this week with their thoughts on working women in general, academic women in particular, and academics with children.

Professor Piderit notes the long hours required by elite organizations such as universities:

Diane Bergeron indicated that the average number of work hours for associate and full professors in her survey sample was 55 hours per week, and the most productive individuals often work 70 hours or more! Surely, those types of demands for long hours made by elite organizations of their highly-educated staff (not just in universities, but in law offices, health care, and business) are going to put a strain on working professionals. Women in their thirties with children may be feeling this the most, but it affects many women without dependents, and many men, as well.

Belle Lettre reflects on what it means to choose to stay at home with the kids after investing a decade of your life and $100,000 or more into your education--and who gets to make such a choice:

So even if I don't myself have a child and then drop the dissertation to take care of him or her--I support everyone who does. Because they know what they are giving up. They know, better than Linda Hirschman, how many years and how much tuition they put into their careers. And armed with that knowledge, they decided to make a choice reflecting a personal priority. And I would not fault them for it. I would fault them if they made this decision uncritically, or from a position of blithe privilege. This is probably why I hate the Louise Story article so much--a bunch of dumb fuck sophomores claiming to have life planned out, happy play dates and all, before they have even graduated from college, faced the real world, or even met their future partners on whose salaries they will depend. And remember: women of color are less able to make this sort of "choice" between work and family.

Tomorrow's Professor Blog published a report by Christine Hult, Ronda Callister, and Kim Sullivan on women's work in academia. An excerpt:

Women faculty members were more likely to report negative interactions with colleagues; negative experiences with the process of evaluation, promotion, and tenure; difficulty balancing work and family life; and overwhelming workloads. These factors are interrelated in that women faculty typically advise more students and serve on more committees; neither of these activities is valued highly for promotion and tenure. Women faculty reported being left out of collaborations and informal networks and receiving little mentoring; all of these factors may negatively impact promotion and tenure as well.

Finally, Bitch Ph.D. estimates how many hours mothers need in a day.

What about you? How did you come to make the choices you have made? What influenced you most, and why?

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