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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Choices have Consequences

I'm a big believer in choices and consequences. As I tell my Sunday School class, you get to choose your actions, but not your consequences. Fortunately, consequences are rather easy to predict in many situations. (Although, I admit, not always. Like, for instance, who would have known that the consequence for eating an entire box of Hostess cupcakes would be a 3 pound weight gain--oh wait. Never mind.)

There's a new paper out that looks at what effect having children has on a scientific, academic career. From the abstract:
We find that women are less likely to take tenure track positions in science, but the gender gap is entirely explained by fertility decisions. We find that in science overall, there is no gender difference in promotion to tenure or full professor after controlling for demographic, family, employer and productivity covariates and that in many cases, there is no gender difference in promotion to tenure or full professor even without controlling for covariates. However, family characteristics have different impacts on women's and men's promotion probabilities. Single women do better at each stage than single men, although this might be due to selection. Children make it less likely that women in science will advance up the academic job ladder beyond their early post-doctorate years, while both marriage and children increase men's likelihood of advancing.

The blogosphere is in a tizzy over this. (Here and here for instance.) It seems obvious to me that what this paper is really about is that choices have consequences.

I can hear the whining now, but Evil HR Lady, it says that men advance when they have children and women don't. It must be sexism! Bah! It must be who they chose to marry. My husband chose to marry someone who was more devoted to family than career. Therefore, when my income dropped by 50% after giving birth because I chose to work part time and give up my management responsibilities, he was not surprised. By me being at home, I'm able to take care of more household responsibilities, freeing up his time for work. If women want their responsibilities around the house lessened so they can devote more time to work, pick the right husband before reproducing. Don't whine about it after it's too late.

It's neither sexist nor unfair. It's a choice. There are consequences. Take a deep breath and deal with it.

4 comments:

ArtK said...

I have to disagree with you on this one. If two people make the same choice and get different consequences, and the only difference between them is their gender, then this is the definition of sexist.

Your analogy of going to work part time is inapt. That was a second choice, entirely independent of your choice to have children. For this to apply to the situations in the paper, you would have to show that the women who were subject of the study also made that second choice to work less.

King Billy's favourite said...

There is also the effect (I can't find the surveys, but I know they have been done) that women taking a few years' gap due to children (or other care issues) earn less / get promoted less. Well, you would say, of course, as this woman has less experience. That may be so, but at some piont, extra years in a job doesn't make for extra experience anymore, although this may be different for different jobs. Time is a great equaliser.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if there have been any studies regarding the differences in pay between men who make the decision to stay home and those who don't. Or studies comparing the income and promotions of men who make the decision to be a stay at home dad/someone with a reduced schedule with women who do the same.

she said: said...

"I have to disagree with you on this one. If two people make the same choice and get different consequences,"

This is almost impossible in the real world to quantify. Two applicants almost never have exactly the same skills or education. Others things also play out such as impression prejedice.