New Evidence of the Motherhood Penalty in French Academia: The Fertility of Women and Men in the Doctoral and Post-Doctoral Years

Mathieu Arbogast , CRESPPA-GTM (CNRS) & CEMS (EHESS)

The “motherhood penalty” is regularly described as a key factor in the unequal female access to academic positions and especially the “fast track” prestigious ones. But, even though some data exist on the female higher dropout rate at the post-doc stage, little is known about the fertility choices and calendar during the doctoral and post-doctoral years. An original survey on this specific subject, one of the largest ever made (821 individuals), brings data on the fertility comportments and on the reported explanations of the respondents. An important share of the sample became parent during the PhD, sometimes even before. Nevertheless, a minority of childless women state that childbearing and parenthood are incompatible the non-tenure period, because of the demands of the intense competition and the pressure of international mobility. Many respondents extensively explained their choices and the factors which lead to their fertility choices. Strikingly, academic men become fathers earlier than women, whereas men become fathers much later than women in the general population. Professional uncertainty and material insecurity weight heavier on the women’s choices than of the men’s. The gendered asymmetry is also very clear when it comes to the negative impacts of parenthood on the academic life. Fathers report less often and less numerous negative impacts, whereas mothers bear a heavier burden in their couple and suffer more negative impacts in academia. Overall, the diversity of the situations is important in both sexes, but the motherhood penalty is still a reality.

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 Presented in Session P1. Poster Session Fertility, Family and the Life Course