ERIC Number: EJ848817
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009-Jul-10
Reference Count: 0
Is Having More Than 2 Children an Unspoken Taboo?
Chronicle of Higher Education, v55 n41 pB16 Jul 2009
By academic standards, Rebecca R. Richards-Kortum has it made. She is a full professor of bioengineering at Rice University, runs a thriving cancer-research laboratory, and is a member of the prestigious National Academy of Engineering. But with four children at home, she sometimes feels like an academic outcast. In fact, Ms. Richards-Kortum says she is most comfortable in her dual roles as professor and mother during the research trips she takes several times a year to southern Africa. Ms. Richards-Kortum is one of a very small number of academic women with three, four, or more children. In academe, where having even one child can slow down success, trying to manage multiple kids can be a career-stopper. Women with many children are seen by their peers and supervisors as less than serious about their work in a profession that often expects nothing short of complete devotion. Even administrators who consider themselves supportive of female professors with children may question the wisdom of those with more than one or two. Managing both a career and several children can be a challenge for any professional woman. In academe the prospect seems particularly perilous. Anthony Russell, an associate professor of English at the University of Richmond, who has three girls, says he has never felt disapproval from colleagues over his relatively large family. But, he adds, "I feel that I've lived in a different world" from that of his colleagues. Most of them who are fathers have stay-at-home spouses, while Mr. Russell's wife worked. That means he has done a fair share of child-rearing himself. If having a big family and a big career is so unusual and ungainly, how have some academic women made it work? Most of the female professors who spoke with "The Chronicle" started having children early on, during graduate school. They came to their first institutions with a baby or two in tow. Perhaps, says Mr. Goulden, the Berkeley researcher, they found sympathetic department heads right from the beginning who helped them make it possible to manage an academic career and a large family.
Descriptors: Women Faculty, Females, Womens Education, Womens Studies, Employed Parents, Family Work Relationship, Work Ethic
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Adult Education; Higher Education
Authoring Institution: N/A