This article is a rarity in journalistic writing on women’s under-representation. Although it points to maternal caregiving responsiblities as a key factor– which is not at all a rarity– it takes that extra step of remembering that it’s possible for men to have caregiving responsibilities as well.
Instead of obsessing over mother-scientists, universities should strive to create an atmosphere that encourages their male scientists to be active fathers. Only then will both genders be equally compelled to confront the family-work balance issue that right now rests too squarely on the shoulders of women.
Some suggestions: Pay female scientists as much as their male counterparts, so that when scientist couples plan for a family, the woman isn’t automatically compelled to ditch her career simply because she earns less and he earns more. Have paternity leave on par with maternity leave; if you’re going to stop the tenure clock for child rearing, extend that offer to new fathers as well as new mothers.