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Women in Sociology -- Satisfied, but Not Equal

July 3, 2008

Women in sociology, 10 years after earning their Ph.D.'s, are achieving substantial professional success and high levels of research productivity, but also differ from men in some ways in their career trajectories, according to a new study released by the American Sociological Association.

The study is the latest in a series by different groups and disciplines to examine the status of women in academe. The sociology report, "Ph.D.'s at Mid-Career: Satisfaction With Work and Family," is based on a longitudinal study of sociologists who earned doctorates in 1996-7.

Among the key findings:

  • Male sociologists in the cohort were more likely than female sociologists to be married or living with a partner (83 percent vs. 68 percent), or to have children living with them (62 percent to 50 percent).
  • Among sociologists who are parents, women are much more likely to be divorced (21 percent vs. 1.4 percent). Roberta Spalter-Roth, director of research at the sociology association and one of the report's authors, said one reason for this was that many more women than men come to graduate school as single parents, having already been married and divorced.
  • Many sociologists who do have children do so before their tenure reviews, with the largest group having a first child 3-4 years after earning a doctorate.
  • Parenthood does not appear to limit research productivity, at least as measured by the number of articles published in refereed journals -- a key measure for the discipline. Mothers and fathers reported an average of 10.0 refereed journal articles since they earned their doctorates, while childless men and women reported an average of 9.5.
  • Mothers appeared, on average, to earn less than others in the cohort. The income question was asked with categories, not exact amounts. The median income for sociologists who are fathers, and for sociologists who don't have children, was between $70,000 and $99,000. The median income for sociologists who are mothers was between $50,000 and $59,000.
  • On many issues, mothers and fathers both reported high levels of stress related to advancing their careers while also caring for their families. Child care, the tenure process, and teaching loads were key issues for parents.

For many new Ph.D.'s entering academe, the key question about where they stand 10 years out is whether they have tenure. The results for this cohort were generally positive, across the board. The study found that sociologists without children were more likely than parents to reach the rank of full professor 10 years out. But looking at who earned tenure (combining the full and associate professor ranks), parents did better than those without children, and fathers were more likely to have earned tenure than mothers.

Faculty Ranks of Sociologists 10 Years After Earning Their Ph.D.'s, 2006

Rank Fathers Mothers Childless Women Childless Men
Full professor 8.2% 8.1% 9.6% 10.3%
Associate professor 73.8% 68.9% 57.5% 46.2%
Assistant professor 9.8% 13.5% 17.8% 20.5%
Instructor / lecturer 8.2% 8.1% 8.2% 7.7%
n/a 0.0% 1.4% 6.8% 15.4%

 

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