Gender and Getting Ahead in Academia

One from the archives, which still seems relevant.

Paul Cairney: Politics & Public Policy

Summary: a blog in which I, an increasingly privileged, white, male Professor in the UK, give advice on how to get ahead in a profession that may have already changed since I started. My advice is to be lucky and/ or work until you are ill and alienate your family.
Two panel discussions at the UK Political Studies Association conference 2013 perhaps showed a great and enduring gender divide within the profession. One, focused directly on equality and diversity, largely discussed the barriers that women face when trying to combine a research-active career with taking primary responsibility for raising a family (there was also a man on the panel, discussing issues such as paternity leave and sleep deprivation (*and other things – I only walked in at the end of the session*). Another, focused on impact, saw a successful male professor advise people to follow their interests, only to be…

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2 responses to “Gender and Getting Ahead in Academia

  1. Josephine

    Hi Paul,
    You’re missing the major gendered argument in this article (and maybe it was in the part of the session you missed).

    1) Your point about working until you alienate your family.
    With tenureship, the prime time to be alienating your family is when women are at the peak of their child bearing years (if they want a family). The PhD system, nor the junior academic system knows what to do with a women who is on maternity leave. Does this mean she published less during the same time? Or does it mean it took her longer to get to the same level of seniority? How does one put maternity leave on a CV? Do men ever put paternity leave on their CV?

    2) Until 2015 in the UK, men do not have access to paternity leave (except two weeks), but women are entitled to longer maternity leave. Often while university institutions, some of this is paid, a lot of it isn’t. So there is a class issue here for parents who can afford a mother to take unpaid leave. But further, women are forced to choose between a) taking maternity leave and taking a break from their career, b) forcing the husband to quit his job so she can go back to work, c) having a two week old baby in nursery (or home care if you’re lucky enough to have family in the area, which I’m sure you realise in academia often takes you away from your home institution!) This is a structural bias that men do not face because they will not and cannot take paternity leave! (again, this will change in 2015!)

    3) You mention working until you alienating your partner.
    I think what you mean by this is, in order to be a tenured professor institutionally you need a partner who is very forgiving. They need to follow you while you’re trying to find the right institution that will hire you as a junior academic, they need to take the majority of the care responsibilities (as you’re alienating your family, and your partner), and it also means their career will have to be second priority. While you do mention that perhaps you are being selfish, in what way do we see men taking this role for female academics? It’s definitely not impossible but it’s not within the traditional norms.

    There is a very good article about this recently in the Guardian.

    • Thank you for your thoughtful reply, Josephine. Hopefully the post suggests that men should not exploit these greater opportunities simply because they have them.

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