Thursday, January 27, 2005

What Really Happens with Paternity Leave

What with looking for lice and sketching out an outline for my book on menstruation, I have found it hard to keep my blogging paced to my thoughts. Here are a few things I’ve thought about lately.

First, in the book Taking Sex Differences Seriously (Encounter Books, 2004), author Steven E. Rhodes devotes his first chapter to exploring (exposing?) the different ways male and female faculty spend “maternity leave” time. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education (though you need a subscription to read the full article),

“Researchers for Mr. Rhoads interviewed 184 assistant professors nationwide -- 109 men and 75 women -- asking whether they took paid leave after the birth of a baby and how much child care they did during that time.

"Only 12 percent of the male faculty members took paid leave, compared with 67 percent of the women. But ‘while those males who took leave had ample opportunity to participate in child care and did so more than males who took no leave, they still did significantly less baby and toddler care on average than females in either group -- those who took leave and those who did not,’ according to the book.”

Apparently his conclusion is that it may actually be unfair to give male academics maternity leave, especially if they are using it to get ahead in their scholarship rather than care for their children.

I can’t say I’m surprised to learn that men did less child care than women. Yet even if a father wasn’t caring for his baby directly, he might have been doing a lot of the supporting work – cooking, cleaning, errands, caring of older children – that freed up the mother to care for the baby and herself.

I would hate to see regression in our family leave policies based on how much academic work male faculty completed while on leave. On the other hand, it is frustrating to see yet another venue in which a seemingly gender-blind system is actually disadvantageous to women.

Maybe that’s enough of my thoughts for today. I’ll save the rest for later.

Except that: J.K. Rowling had a baby over the weekend. The baby was delivered by an independent midwife. As said midwife is one of only three such women in Scotland, I speculate whether her privileged position has something to do with non-muggle lineage…


Post a Comment

<< Home