The Chronicle of Higher Education has an article this week on the election of a record number of women to the National Academy of Science, the obstacles women face, and a forum on issues related to women in science. The words "women in science" tend to bring up the image of Marie Curie, Dorothy Hodgkins or, in a peevish moment, Larry Summers. These are not the women in science I'm thinking about. It's the hidden women, the women behind the scenes that fascinate me. The truly hidden women of science are the wives of the scientists who make it possible for them to work 80+ hours per week and still play golf.
A recent look at Princeton's cadre of science faculty, which is reasonably representative, one might presume of the larger cohort of top research universities, reveals that the majority of male faculty enjoy a stay at home spouse. None of the female science faculty are so blessed. On the face of it, this is not surprising, since the bulk of women with doctoral degrees are married to highly educated spouses. In these days, men (highly educated or not) do not frequently choose to stay out of the job market and work in the home. Women have more freedom to make such choices in the current social millieu. So what? So, the guys with spouses who work at home have staff. Someone to coordinate the school activities, the after school activities, the errands, the house repairs (who stays home for the plumber, eh?), the grocery shopping, car repairs, cooking, cleaning. Yes? In households where both work, say as science and math faculty, someone still must do those chores! And these things do take time. Outsourcing is expensive, particularly for younger faculty, and in some cases just not easily accomplished. (Again, who stays home for that plumber? Our toilet was stopped up for a week until one of our schedules was open enough to allow for someone to be here for the extended period of time required. I was trying to submit a paper, and my session timed out twice while I was trying to help the plumber identify the object that was stuck in the @#$% thing.)
So when we think about women in science, we must realize that much of the top-ranked academic research enterprise depends very heaviliy on the unpaid labor of women -- in science.
What if we done the Schrodinger's cat experiment?
6 hours ago in Doc Madhattan