Women Who Have Children
Early in Careers Hurt Their
Chances to Achieve Tenure,
By Thomas Bartlett
Thomas Bartlett is an Assistant Editor at the Chronicle of Higher Education and regularly writes on
teaching issues. This article first appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education (Copyright © 2001
http://chronicle.com) in the February 12, 2002 issue. It has been reprinted in STATUS with permission.
WOMEN who have children early in
their academic careers hurt their
chances to achieve tenure, according
to a new report.
The authors of “Do Babies Matter: The
Effect of Family Formation on the Life Long
Careers of Women” said colleges should do
more to help female graduate students and
tenure-track professors who start families. “We
need to face these facts very early on and talk
about what the real work/family issues are,” said
Mary Ann Mason, dean of the graduate division
at the University of California at Berkeley, who
wrote the report with Marc Goulden, a research
analyst at the university.
The problems women with children face cut
across disciplinary boundaries. The report found
that women who had at least one child before
completing five years of post-Ph.D. work were
24 percent less likely in the sciences and 20
percent less likely in the humanities to achieve
tenure than men who became fathers during
that time. Women who waited to become
mothers until later in their careers, or did
not have children at all, were more likely to
For men, however, it was a different story.
Those who became fathers during the first five
years of their careers were actually more likely
to achieve tenure than men who did not.
Also, a majority of women who achieve
tenure in the humanities have not had children
in the household — 62 percent. The number
was 50 percent for women in sciences.
The trend remained consistent even at different
types of institutions. “The early baby gap is
evident at large, research universities as well as
small, liberal arts colleges,” Ms. Mason said in
The report suggests several ways in which
colleges could help women in academe who
have children, including:
- Providing mentors for graduate and
post-doctoral students specifically to
focus on family/ career conflicts.
- Stopping the tenure clock for childbirth
and caring for a young child.
- Creating faculty support groups for
- Accommodating couples in which both
partners work in academe.
- Providing a part-time tenure track with “re-entry rights” and discounting “resume
gaps” for candidates who have been
inactive for a few years because they
The report used data from the Survey of
Doctorate Recipients, conducted by the National
Science Foundation, from 1973 to 1999.
Back to June 2002 Contents
Back to STATUS Table of Contents