This is the fourth installment to a series of articles I have published in The Daily Princetonian that attempts to shine a light on the gender gap in Princeton’s faculty and the causes for this gap. Princeton’s reports on gender equity in hiring have acknowledged this problem and even proposed solutions, but actual implementation has been scattered.
As an institution and a workplace of learning, Princeton should establish programs proven to improve women's and men’s workplace experiences and reduce employee attrition — especially by providing affordable and accessible childcare.
Where are all the women? Many of them are at home, working the second shift of childcare because they can’t afford not to.
According to data provided by Princeton for 2018, of the 1,163 tenured and non-tenured faculty members at the University, 432 — 37 percent — are women. Only 27 percent of full professors are women. As of 2018, only 256 of the 814 tenured faculty members — 31 percent — were women. In 2013, most U.S. four-year colleges only hired female applicants for one-third of their faculty positions, and between 2011-2016, Princeton fell in the middle of the highest-ranked universities for gender parity in hiring.
Princeton’s 2013 Report on Diversity acknowledged that childcare concerns are a significant obstacle for female academics, especially as they attempt to advance their careers. The report notes, “Once they are recruited, Princeton must strengthen basic services for postdocs. At present, they receive limited central institutional guidance regarding access to University services and benefits, such as housing and childcare.”
In the competition to recruit senior faculty, the report states “the University must continue to address limited opportunities for faculty spousal employment and quality childcare” to remain competitive. With respect to the “leaky pipeline” in academia, female associate professors told the University about the “particular need for continued support of female associate professors to ensure that their careers did not stall when family pressures increased once tenure was achieved. Access to convenient childcare is a regular concern for faculty and is a factor in recruitment as well.”
The average cost of early child care in 2013 in Mercer County was $13,351, roughly 13 percent of the median income in the county at that time. The demands for daycare have overwhelmed available programs, leaving many postdocs and tenure-track professors with limited options. While Princeton opened a childcare facility in 2017, the cost is still out of reach for graduate students and doesn’t meet the needs of many of the professors on campus.
The timing of childbirth and academic career advancement also hurts women to a greater extent than men. According to researchers at UC Berkeley, “the tenure system is the leading example of a setup that handicaps women faculty, as the six or seven years when a junior faculty member works toward tenure are also, typically, the optimal years for having children. Conferences and fieldwork away from home are other staples of academic life that put strain on faculty with caregiving responsibilities for young children or dependent adults.”
While the American Political Science Association offers childcare at their conferences — a rarity in academia — the cost is still prohibitive for many parents, forcing them to miss conference events and responsibilities.
Not all women are mothers or even primary caregivers. Yet, when the dominant culture pushes women into the primary caregiver role when they do choose to have children, institutions should restructure accordingly to allow those raising the next generation to contribute to knowledge production and pursue fulfilling careers.
Research is better when a more diverse group of people create it. When a certain group faces systemic barriers to contributing, it is in all of our benefit to provide the resources that help overcome those obstacles.
The University has professed its commitment to hiring and promoting more women. In order to live up to that promise, the institution should listen to what female faculty say they need and subsidize or sponsor childcare programs on campus.
Madeleine Marr is a junior from Newtown Square, Pa. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.