Productivity takes Leave? Maternity benefits and career opportunities of women in academia

In this paper, Vera Troeger, Professor of Quantitative Political Economy at the University of Warwick and Research Theme Leader at the Centre for Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE) looks at the effect of maternity benefits on the career opportunities of women in academia.

“May” children, holiday babies and post-tenure pregnancies: these are some of the labels attached to women’s choices of having children in an academic environment. Academic women seem to share a common burden in scheduling their maternity plans: to survive in academia and advance through the faculty ranks, women tend either to give birth during vacation time, or to postpone their motherhood status to the end of their probation period and the achievement of tenure.

The end result is, generally, an underrepresentation of women in higher academic positions (also known as the “leaking pipe problem”), lower salaries, lower research outcomes and rates of promotion, lower fertility, and higher rates of family dissolution – while family and children seem to have either no impact or even a positive effect on the patterns of men’s performance in the academic ranks. Thus, motherhood and professional achievements appear as conflicting goals even for women in academia, an environment that is usually praised for its flexibility in terms of working hours and thus family friendliness.

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