There’s a new report out on the careers of social scientists, via Inside Higher Ed. The University of Washington Center for Innovation and Research in Graduate Education has published a report based on survey data from people trained in anthropology, communication, geography, history, political science and sociology. (See the full report here.) Oddly, for the purposes of this report, history is a “social science,” but economics is not. Wev. I wonder if econ would have skewed the data because it is still hugely male dominated?) Anyhoo, the reported results are just another verse in the same song we’ve been hearing all along: Men’s and women’s careers start out relatively equally at the time they finish their degrees. (The report suggests that women are slightly more likely to have a tenure-track job, and that men are slightly less likely to have tenure-track positions.) But, lo:
[T]hese figures reverse themselves 6 to 10 years after a Ph.D., at which point men are more likely to have tenure or jobs outside of academe (generally with higher salaries than those for professors) and women are more likely to have jobs off the tenure track.
Employment Status by Gender 6-10 Years After Ph.D. in Social Sciences
Job Status Women Men Tenured 30% 33% Tenure-track, but not tenured 32% 32% Non-tenure track 13% 9% Other academic 8% 6% Business, government or nonprofit 17% 20%
While the women in this study were less likely to be married or partnered, those who are tend to have “married up,” in that their partners are equally well-educated, whereas their male peers are married or partnered with people who have less education. To wit,
Educational Attainment of Partners of Social Science Ph.D.’s
Women Men Partner has Ph.D. 34% 17% Partner has other doctoral degree (M.D., J.D. etc.) 10% 7% Partner has master’s degree 27% 35% Partner has bachelor’s degree or less 29% 41%
Perhaps not surprisingly in light of those statistics, women in the social sciences are more likely than men to report that they changed jobs because their partners needed to move for professional reasons.
This study provides data for what I’ve observed anecdotally among friends and colleagues. Women, much more often than men, are in marriages that don’t privilege their career tracks. Should we conclude then that women are to blame for their own professional marginalization if they don’t prioritize their careers? On the one hand, I admit that I disapprove somewhat of people who earn professional degrees and then choose not to work in their profession. (That doesn’t mean they have to work for money, or that part-time or non tenure-track work doesn’t count–just do something to pay society back for the privilege of your education, and raising your own children, however worthwhile or gratifying, doesn’t count. You’re still pouring your resources only into your family instead of sharing your expertise and training with the wider world.)
On the other hand, there are deeply rooted cultural expectations that continue to demand that husbands be taller, older, better educated, and richer than their wives, so even feminist women seem to prefer mates who surpass them in height, age, education, and wealth. (Just as there are lots of men who wouldn’t choose a wife who was taller, older, better educated, or richer–it works both ways, of course.) So, more domestic labor may fall on the person whose career is not prioritized, and who may be engaged in part-time work or in work not as directly related to hir professional training. (I’m not saying this division of domestic labor is “natural” or even reasonable, just that sidetracking your career usually means that you’ll be the person in your family who plans more meals and does more laundry.)
Maybe it’s because I work in the early modern period, when people understood that marriage isn’t primarily about love or romance, but I think it’s more about work and duty, and creating “a little commonwealth” in which a crapload of work has to get done over the years. Love is great, but a worthy “yoke-mate” should assist you in the work you’ve chosen to do. I’ve long thought that if more women thought about their work (both professional and domestic) and chose mates who would prioritize their careers, they’d be better off. The problem is that many people choose their mates before they complete their educations, and they’re not thinking strategically about their own futures. What do you think? Did you think about these issues when you were dating (if, indeed, you’re married?) Or do you think that our cultural preference (men and women) for male dominance in marriage is too overwhelming to be combatted in heterosexual relationships? Sing it, sisters and brothers.
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