• August 28, 2015

Time Crunch for Female Scientists: They Do More Housework Than Men

When the biologist Carol W. Greider received a call from Stockholm last fall telling her she had won a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, she wasn't working in her lab at the Johns Hopkins University. The professor of molecular biology and genetics was at home, folding laundry.

Ms. Greider does many of the household chores, but she isn't alone. A number of her female colleagues also do more around the house than their male partners.

"It is not just housework. For women with kids, it is all the other stuff: scheduling sports and play dates, play dates, remembering all of the calendar events for the whole family," said Ms. Greider, who has two school-age children.

A new study from the Michelle R. Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University has found that female scientists do 54 percent of their core household tasks, such as cooking, cleaning, and laundry—about twice as much as their male counterparts. (Paid help and children made up some of the difference.) The results reinforce the findings of other studies. Most important, they indicate that women often have more obligations at home and lower retention rates in their fields.

A study published in the latest issue of Academe, "Housework Is an Academic Issue," found that women's academic rank had little impact on their household-chore percentage; senior and junior faculty members put in similar hours. Women also worked at their paying jobs about 56 hours a week, almost the same number of hours as men do.

Men contributed more to home repair, finance, and yard and car care. But those tasks took about one-quarter of the 19.3 hours a week spent in a home on core household tasks, according to the study.

Less Time for Academic Work

Jennifer Sheridan, executive and research director of the Women in Science & Engineering Leadership Institute at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, said many women in the work force—not just scientists—do a disproportionate amount of housework. But because a successful scientific career demands more than 40 hours a week, she said, female scientists could be especially affected.

Ms. Sheridan also said that more housework doesn't affect the quality of work but its quantity, which could make a difference in academe.

"Some studies of faculty productivity have found that women faculty may produce fewer articles, but the ones they do produce tend to be cited more frequently," Ms. Sheridan said. "But in an academic institution where the number of your publications or grants is the thing that is most highly valued, that is a problem."

Scientific groups are especially concerned about retention after the postdoctoral period. According to a report published last year by the National Academies, women made up 18 percent of the applicants for tenure-track positions in chemistry at Research I institutions between 1999 and 2003, although women earned 32 percent of the Ph.D.'s in chemistry. In biology, women made up 24 percent of the applicants for tenure-track positions, although they earned 45 percent of the Ph.D.'s.

Lorraine Tracey, vice chair of the National Postdoctoral Association's 2010 Board of Directors, said the challenge of raising a family and trying to work 60 or more hours a week doesn't appeal to many women. The National Postdoctoral Association has received a grant from the National Science Foundation to look at how to retain female postdoctoral students in academe and help get them to tenure-track positions.

Ms. Tracey, who is also a postdoctoral research associate at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, said additional personal responsibilities could add up over time for younger female scientists.

"If you have five hours a week less than your male counterparts available for your research over the five- to 10-year period of your graduate and postdoctoral training, this certainly adds up to a significant amount of time that I imagine could impact your competitiveness in the marketplace," she said.

Help With the Housework

One possible solution could be for universities to create more-flexible benefits packages that allow men and women to hire household labor. Londa Schiebinger, one of the study's two authors, said such cafeteria-style benefits would let employees figure out what sort of help they needed on an individual basis.

"You have labs and you have offices and you have experiment equipment," said Ms. Schiebinger, who is director of the Clayman Institute and a professor of the history of science at Stanford. "Another thing that people need to succeed is a good work-life balance. I think supporting housework is a way universities can guard their investment in these young faculty members."

American employers generally do not provide benefits to assist with housework, although some companies in other countries do, the study found. For example, Sony Ericsson in Sweden pays for housecleaning from some service providers, and the Swedish government is looking at tax relief for domestic services.

The recent economic downturn might mean that now is not a good time for universities to consider expanding employee benefits, Ms. Schiebinger said, but the study looked at long-term solutions and long-term problems.

Ms. Sheridan said a flexible-benefits plan is an interesting idea, although academe must also deal with deeper cultural issues. For example, she said, some female scientists come from cultures where hiring outside household help is taboo.

"So, this policy idea isn't a miracle cure-all to deal with this problem," Ms. Sheridan said. "A cultural shift is also needed, and that's far more difficult to achieve."


1. sanidine - January 19, 2010 at 06:01 am

I'm separated from an academic husband. My solution was to just let the housework slide - didn't go over well!

2. ovpstaff - January 19, 2010 at 06:23 am

And what about those of us who are single? We get to do it all - something that my married colleagues forget. But that's life, folks. There are ills in the world that need funding more than a "maid benefit!"

3. 11242283 - January 19, 2010 at 06:51 am

I can't believe someone really suggested that pay packages now include money to hire servants!! And maybe married graduate students should get that as part of their stipends. Usually I am adamant that academics (this one anyway) lives in the real world with mortgages, housework, etc. --- but now I'm not so sure. I haven't laughed so loud (or so derisively) in months.

Women do more housework than men throughout our culture. So, female sociologists probably do more than men, female anthropologists more than -- well you get the idea. At some point, since the reality of this has been more or less known for decades now, this is a matter between women and their spouses. Honestly, do the authors of this study really think universities ought to step in and compensate for what is, ultimately, a failure of communication between spouses? A woman has as Ph.D. in a scientific discipline, has survived the almost inevitable hazing in the lab, etc., etc. and she can't stand up to a husband who won't contribute more around the house? And somehow that is the university's problem? Please.

I'm a single-woman scientist in midcareer and I've had it up to here with the fact that "work/life" balance is just a code for defining perks for women raising children. As ovpstaff reminds us, we single people do it all (housework, yardwork, etc) except, in most cases, child rearing. But we do it on one salary and we don't have spouses to come home and deal with repair issues while we go to work.

When Schiebinger says that people need "good work-life balance" in order to succeed she is only thinking about 1) women and 2) most probably married women with children. I'll start listening to discussions of work/life balance when they start addressing the needs of all people -- women, men, married, single, old, young.

4. gimmeabreak - January 19, 2010 at 07:37 am

Don't do his laundry for a week or two. He'll get the message.

5. ucprof - January 19, 2010 at 07:45 am

The advice I always give finishing PhDs is to subcontract housework when they graduate. I tell them that as a postdoc, their time is the most important thing and they should not skimp on paying someone to come and clean and do laundry. Even if it seems a bit extravagant. I got married young and my husband is a working professional. He does not like to clean. Early on in our marriage I told him he would either do half the work or we would contract it out. He chose the latter and we have never looked back. Married now around 20 years and both very successful in our careers. The relative cost of cleaning was high compared to our salaries at the beginning, but not so now. It was an excellent investment. I'm a full prof at an R1 in the sciences.

I would give this advice to someone regardless of their gender or marital status. But I would say the advice applies to any working professional especially during the critical publish or perish years for young scientists. They have to look at it as an investment in their career.

Talking to younger women, I hear from them concerns about how to hire people to help them and general issues about having strangers in their house - rather than the cost issue. Those were certainly high on my list when I first started getting help with cleaning. I would guess these are much bigger issues than giving them money to hire someone - the incremental cost is just that, incremental cost. And I agree with 6:32am and 6:51am above that it would not be fair to give it only to married people and not to single people.

6. jaykosner - January 19, 2010 at 08:08 am

I was born in the era when men fixed cars and cut the grass while women stayed in the house taking care of the kids and doing assorted household chores. Regardless of degree or academic specialty family issues will always be present. I personally don't see anything wrong with a wife and mother, albeit a PhD wife and mother, folding laundry.

7. sdwragg - January 19, 2010 at 08:16 am

I wonder if by cafeteria-style benefits, it is suggested that there is a "pick X number from these benefits" e.g. not everyone takes or wants the wellness gym access, why not substitute home help?

8. profp - January 19, 2010 at 08:21 am

I would love to find ways for everyone, female and male, to balance work and life. And I would like to see more women succeed in academia, in all disciplines. But II don't think this study, as reported, provides compelling data:

"The study, "Housework Is an Academic Issue," found that women's academic rank had little impact on their household-chore percentage; senior and junior faculty members put in similar hours. Women also worked at their paying jobs about 56 hours a week, almost the same number of hours as men do."

Doesn't that suggest that women are spending as much time at work as men do? Is 56 hours/week sufficient for men but not for women? If senior women are spending as much time doing housework as junior women, and were able to attain academic success under those conditions, doesn't that suggest that the amount of housework they do is not determining tenure decisions?

Maybe a closer look at what women and men do during their 56 hours at work would be more informative. If memory serves, women faculty do more departmental and institutional "chores" than men do. Hiring household staff won't help that.

9. flora3 - January 19, 2010 at 08:36 am

Not only did I do more housework at home as a female scientist but I did more general lab picking up as well while the male faculty had much more time to climb the ladder. But lab safety was an issue for me and so I just did it. Hiring a new faculty member who is younger made my life much better in the lab however. Younger men do know how to help at home and at work.

10. 12068801 - January 19, 2010 at 08:56 am

I am NOT in the sciences -- I teach in the humanities at an R1 -- but I've found that it is only partly the clock-time that the extra housework a husband/family entail that is the problem. (And I DO have more to do than I would if I were single, although not if I were a single parent.) It is the mental time. As noted in the article, it is most often the woman in the family who keeps the calendar. I'm married to a staff member at our Univ. who works 8-5 so I have greater flexibility! I have a colleague (male, partnered) who receives a list every morning with any house-related chores he needs to do, which child he needs to pick up and when, etc., and he's quite happy about this as he doesn't need to plan it all out. MY huband, on the other hand, sees that as too controlling, even though he doesn't like to plan!

11. highereddiva - January 19, 2010 at 09:26 am

The fact is that higher ed. is still male dominated and still in the mindset that the faculty member can devote their entire life to research and "someone" else handles everything else. As a single female, I'd love to have a "wife" who took care of the house. Those men who don't clean up after themselves in the lab don't do it either because they are slobs at home or their mother or wife always picks up after them and they never had to do it themselves. Until men realize that they are part of the problem and the solution in this area, things will never change.

12. pcpbob - January 19, 2010 at 09:49 am

I'm struck by a couple of assumptions embedded in this article. It seems like the article assumes that all the women surveyed have not chosen to live their lives in the ways they are living them. Or that they lack the relational or negotiating skills to get the kind of relationship and balance that they prefer. Does the University really need to step in because highly-educated, accomplished, professional married women can't take care of themselves? Or is it possible that many women and men are making choices that favor family in ways that clash with insitutional reward structures? Wouldn't it make sense to look at how to make the university more friendly to people who want to invest in family and home, rather than farming family tasks out and not re-shaping the institution?

The next assumption has to do with the study methodology. Which, as I look at the original study, consists of self-report only. How much can we assume that self-report reflects the actual situation in the home? How confident can we be about someone's report of someone else's behavior? Absent independent observation, or surveying both parties in a particular relationship, I'm not sure how solid the findings are. That said, I'm not as conversant with the broad scope of the research as I could be, and I realize I could be missing important work that I'm unaware of.

13. 11132507 - January 19, 2010 at 09:55 am

All this proves to me is that a) some researchers' work fills gaps that can easily remain unfilled and b) some academics are seriously out of touch with reality. Women do more than their fair share of housework...wow, what a revelation. Who knew?

And in this type of economic climate, colleges should subsidize the cleaning lady? With positions being cut, budgets being slashed, endowments having lost money...how can someone even discuss this with a straight face?

14. smurs - January 19, 2010 at 10:57 am

Wow, some of these comments were so misguided I could hardly read them. The greater point is that women scientists are disproportionately affected by familial obligations, and that publication rates take a huge hit. In other words, the single most important factor in hiring/tenure decisions (i.e., publications) is NOT the best measuring stick for women with families, meaning some very high caliber scientists are not making the cut (to the ultimate detriment of everyone). I am a female postdoc who has been struggling with this very issue for years -- so much so that I have decided (about every other day) to leave the field. I have three school-aged boys, and literally the best husband in the world. He is 100% committed to equitable division of labor. Even so, he would be the first one to say that I do much more of the house work/child rearing. The issues are very complex, and for me it's not just the time involved, but the mental/emotional burden of "running the home". While many of my colleagues are focusing on a visiting scholar's talk, for example, I'm thinking, "what do we have for dinner... I'll have to stop by the store after work. Oh, and our youngest has soccer tonight so I will have to do that first...". It is exhausting! Heck yeah it would help to hire someone to clean and cook! All of my most successful female colleagues either: 1) have no kids, 2) have already hired help, or 3) have a stay home husband. Unfortunately, my productivity has taken such a hit that I fear I'm not a good candidate for an academic position anyway... and now we are left with huge amounts of student loan debt just a couple of years away from when my oldest will be ready for college. Remind me why I went in to this field??

15. mgbch - January 19, 2010 at 11:00 am

Sigh. Yet another article to discourage young women from entering a career in a STEM field. There are examples of people who balance things nicely in their professional and personal lives. Do things get crazy at times? Yes. Do we sometimes have too little personal time? Yes. But there are also rewards that come from a position that includes flexibility, the ability to pursue one's curiousity (research interests), allows travel to really interesting places. and provides job security for life. Think for just one moment of all the unemployed folks right now and how they might be viewing tenure.

I was upset, however, that the author refer to female Ph.D.'s (Nobel Prize winners to boot) as "Ms". With all the hard work to get an advanced degree and balance all that household work, we could at least acknowledge someone's title!

16. adamsapp - January 19, 2010 at 11:04 am

It must be a slow news day. Seriously, who cares? I agree with gimmeabreak. Let the laundry pile up until he has no clothes. He'll do it.

17. 11242283 - January 19, 2010 at 11:56 am

#10 asserts that she has more to do than if she were single -- but how does she know this? She likely knows about being single from her previous experience -- how long ago was that? How old was she when she married and had children? Being single at 25 or 35 is very different from being single at 50 or 55. No matter whether you are married or single, your life just gets more complicated and more embedded in lots of stuff. Having someone else around to help do deal with it may not make it easier (or harder!) but it does make it different. Married women (especially those with children) always assume that if they weren't married they'd spend every waking moment in the lab or at their computer. But the truth is that very few people do that and that single folks want some balance between the demands of their jobs, their labs, their computers and some sense of peace and freedom. Now you may assume that the life you want balanced between your work and your children is more important than the life I need balanced between my work and my family & friends and other commitments, but that is a value judgment.

18. phinellie - January 19, 2010 at 12:16 pm

This doesn't surprise me at all. I am a female academic (not a scientist), married with an elementary school-aged child. My husband is a liberal minded "enlightened" type, but he still doesn't "get it" about how much time is necessary to run the household. He goes to work in the morning after having taken an hour to go to the gym, another 1/2 hour to shower and get ready and 15 minutes or so to iron his clothes. In the same 2 hours (between 6 and 8), I have: taken the dog out, fed the dog, got the kid up, fed the kid, made the school lunch, packed up the school backpack, helped the kid dress / brush teeth, and gotten him out the door. Half the time I take him to school and half the time my husband does. I may or many not have time to shower (usually I shower late at night to be ready for the next day). I then have a 45 minute commute to school (arrive around 9:30). On the days where I do not teach at night, I have to leave by no later than 4:30 so that I can: get home, pick up the kid, pick up the dog, take the dog out, feed the kid, and make dinner. My husband comes in the door and has dinner. Then we all play / do homework. My husband then cleans and does the bedtime routine. All told, I have taken 3 - 4 hours out of my day to attend to household routine to 1 hour tops for my husband. I know, I know...it's my own fault, etc. Believe me, I have tried to point out the inequity of the situation - he just doesn't get it. On weekends and nights when I teach, sometimes he forgets to feed the kid (bedtime will come and the kid will then speak up) or take the dog out. However, there are only so many stands you can take as the clock is ticking and - like it or not - the kid has to get out the door and maybe, just maybe, if you can get everything done, there will be time after the kid goes to bed when other work can be done. It's frustrating. This might sound like a diatribe against my husband (really, he's great)or men in general, but it's not. This describes the life of most of my female parent friends who work outside the home (be they academic or non-academic). I don't know why that, in this day and age, things still turn out this way, but they do. I feel a little better knowing that a Nobel scientist is in the same boat that I am!

19. lindrud - January 19, 2010 at 12:38 pm

I am a researcher and clinician with 3 young children. I divide the responsibilities at home with my husband. I don't understand why more women don't do this...

20. annaanastasia - January 19, 2010 at 02:14 pm

You're all absolutely right. Women with husbands and/or children should just individually turn the entire societal tide in which we swim and announce "It's now 50/50!" And therefore, it will happen. Their husbands will awake an hour earlier to pack school lunches. Their children will dutifully come home and do their own laundry. And all the TV ads that depict women who are in love with their mops? Poof! Gone!

Or better yet, women can just "go on strike." And that's the answer we'll give when the truant officer arrives to ask why the kids are home alone after no one got them on the school bus, and why the baby's diaper hasn't been changed in days.

Have ANY of you read "The Second Shift?"

21. _perplexed_ - January 19, 2010 at 02:15 pm

So phinellie, I understand that it is hard...so why the dog?

22. jyodh - January 19, 2010 at 03:23 pm

I agree with #11 - science is traditionally male dominated, 24/7 field and the male scientists usually have wives staying home who do all the work. So this mentality is applied in the lab too - someone else will do all the maintenance work (grad students, postdocs, secretaries, and other academic professionals). Men are more used to delegating or assuming delegation is OK. In any field, the most successful people are those who can focus on task without distraction - time is a big factor here, but not the only one - it's MENTAL time also as #9 said. You are not focusing on the seminar speaker if you're focusing on soccer practice. Do the math.

The suggestion for universities to subsidize household cleaning isn't going to solve the problem of women dropping out of the pipeline after postdocs - there are too many variables to control - total income, whether or not you have kids, single or dual parenting etc.., And the reason for dropping out of the pipeline are much more complex than spending all your time cleaning instead of in the lab ranging from the pervasive 24/7 expectation for science productivity, to usually one spouse following the other's career, etc.. The culture of science has to change to adapt to demands of being sciencists and having kids (single or married).

23. annaanastasia - January 19, 2010 at 03:28 pm

perplexed - you're kidding, right?

24. 11242283 - January 19, 2010 at 03:57 pm

Anaaanaastia, I think we all get it that all of this is reinforced by centuries of societal forces ---- what some of us are struggling with is why the "solution" should be for universities to give women science faculty money to hire SERVANTS (who cares about their work/life balance?)!!!! That's the absurdity I'm reacting to.

25. shanna123 - January 19, 2010 at 04:01 pm

Have to say I find it disturbing to hear multiple messages referring to "the kid" or "the kids" like they're just another household pet or something...

26. sarcebf9q - January 19, 2010 at 04:20 pm

How about not marrying a man who does not believe in sharing the household responsibilities? That is why I did not get married until age 40.

But I would like to add that plenty of single people have loads to do around the house too.

27. _perplexed_ - January 19, 2010 at 04:26 pm

Absolutely not, annaanastasia. I take phinellie seriously, so as she has described it, a dog is a luxury that she cannot afford.

28. aifos - January 19, 2010 at 06:23 pm

I PARTLYblame the wives!

This was the scenario in our home. For the first two years, my wife wanted to breast feed exclusively. And this meant, by and large, that she ruled the roost. I did what I was told.

But the ruler of the roost likes things a certain way. And over the years, she took on tasks to ensure it was done her way.

Finally, when the kids were three and five, she told me she could not do it anymore: get the kids up, make their breakfast, make their lunch, send them off, wash the clothes etc. She wanted much more of my help. Initially, I agreed. But then I floundered. I could not figure out what was wrong. Finally, we sat down and discussed. And out came these words from my mouth (more or less): "you have it wired. You know what to do in what order. You get more done because you know the timing of the events and you have had three years to practice. If you want me to help, I will, but I need some major time and advice on the order to do these things." So she helped. She took the time to guide me. And in less than a few weeks, I was doing it - and in a remarkably efficient way, I might say.

I have since spoken with many male colleagues - and they see what I am saying. The wives like to control that aspect of the home. But they cannot simply say: "you do this today." For then we flounder. They must realize HOW AND WHY things got that way. In the beginning, my wife would say: "now you do this." And I would do it, only to flounder. THey she would take the job back and I would let her.

The fact is that a woman cannot simply expect her husband to take over - she must also reliquish the work and responsibiilty. And she must give him the same time to get up to speed as she had.

In short - they need to talk a bit more before they fully embrace the 50/50. We do it now. It took me time, but we now split it.

29. icpresident - January 19, 2010 at 06:32 pm

not much new here.....women secretaries and bus drivers and pharmacists and provosts etc live lives that mirror these statistics. Women who work outside the home do two jobs and this has been the case for years. We need to get better at making the case to all who reside within a household that it is "our" laundry and "our" groceries and "our" dirty floors that need attention. This includes children as well as adult spouses/partners. Anyone who can handle the remote control and/or a computer keyboard or an XBox can turn the dial on a washing machine and find the "on/off" switch on a vacuum cleaner. However, as long as this work is seen as "women's work" and not "our work" others will let the women do it.

30. aifos - January 19, 2010 at 06:34 pm

One more thing.
In such cases where a mother breast feeds, the bond between the children and the mother is powerful - extremely powerful.

For a few years there, I often felt like an outsider and would often get dejected.

Around the time I was receptive to helping, I was noticing my children notice me more. And I became much more inclinded to want to help with much more of those tasks because I felt like a daddy who had the support of his wife.

I think care must be taken to view the entire stage when wondering why men do not help around the house as much.

31. lindrud - January 19, 2010 at 06:59 pm

Aifos, I totally agree with you, women are often partially responsible....I think a big reason that my husband and I have been able to share the load is because if he does something differently than I, I do not care! I have asked women at work who were complaining about not getting help at home, why they were not getting the help....the anwer has been "Well, I don't like the way he does it so I end up doing it myself."
Women need to let their spouses do things their own way(as long as there are no dangers involved)....and should consider these issues before getting married...is this someone that will work with me, share responsibility or does him mother still do his laundry...

32. classicalprof - January 19, 2010 at 07:39 pm

#15. mgbch: the Chronicle actually refers to all its subjects without "Dr" or "Prof" whether male or female. (I had the same reaction as you when I first started reading the Chron.)

33. geoscientist - January 19, 2010 at 07:43 pm

How has having children somehow become a luxury conferred by society and raising them a mark of overprivilege? Every society needs a next generation and needs its best educated, most intelligent and highest achieving people to rear its own of that new generation. Women are not parasites if they have children and expect support and proactive help from both the husbands and the society which benefit therefrom. Who else will pay this generation's Social Security Benefits and Medicare? Importing the next generation seems a high national price to pay for misogyny and the self-centered lament of the childless single. The routine abuse of graduate students and harassment of women through the course of their degrees is surely dues and penalty enough.

34. jsch0602 - January 19, 2010 at 08:19 pm

Some government intervention is apparently needed. A law dictating which spouse takes out the garbage, who does the cooking, etc. These academics are not capable of managing their personal lives so have a government agency do it.

35. annaanastasia - January 19, 2010 at 08:29 pm

_perplexed_ - I would suggest that the HUSBAND is the luxury that phinellie can't afford. She already picks up after a dog and children. Why not lose the additional workload? (And no, I'm not kidding. If he can't remember to feed their child, that's practically like he's a child himself.)

And now, predictably, there are people who are trying to find a way to say that women contribute to the problem of women taking on too much housework (now that the men's contribution to the problem has been resolved, I guess). Here is my guess at how that scenario usually unfolds:

- Woman and man observe that chore needs to be done - say, dishes are in the sink.

- Man knows that no one really cares about his level of cleanliness; it's the baseline that men don't have to do any house work. In fact, he can only gain from this situation, because any effort he makes will earn him a pat on the head (if not from the woman, from society). Anyway, there is "real" work to be done for his paying job, or else he deserves to relax. He leaves the dishes "for tomorrow."

- Woman knows that the dishes have to be done or else no one will eat the next day, and she'll be the one blamed by society. That's because it's the baseline that women take care of this stuff. (Witness any dishwashing detergent ad - women are the caste that does house work.) Besides, she rationalizes, it's not that hard, and her mom always did them without complaint. And frankly, after a day of fighting sexism at work (lower pay, less prestigious assignments, etc.), one gets tired of fighting it at home. Thus, she does them - without complaint, because that would take more emotional effort than just doing the damn dishes.

- Repeat this over time for grocery shopping, laundry, feeding pets & children, and most other chores that can't be ignored for any reasonable amount of time. Woman finds it's easier to do the chores than fight about it or be labeled a nag, and man gladly accepts the free labor.

- Women then has to do so much house and family care to do that she has to be efficient, or she never has a chance of sleeping more than 6 hours a night.

- Man starts to realize his irrelevence at home, and complains about how he's not included. He then faults his wife because, in addition to her other duties, she hasn't developed a personalized Home Economics course to teach him how to do the most basic home care tasks. Either that, or he knows how to do house work, but he'll do a halfway job because no one's judging him anyway - he'll get a medal just for trying.

- Woman has to teach man, clean up after man's housework, and schedule man's "help" (and it's always secondary to man's "real" job). And man feels like woman doesn't appreciate all he does, compared to his buddies and his dad.

Where is the fault for the man who didn't stop the cycle before it began? When a man and a woman start sharing a home, why does the woman have to do the emotional work of monitoring whether the man is doing his share?

Why doesn't a man step up in the beginning before this dynamic even starts? After all - the woman is in the position of being labeled the "nag" who begs him to do the dishes. He could just preempt it in the beginning by doing those dishes THE FIRST TIME without being asked.

It's a very simple process to keep a home, really. I find it really perplexing that men who can split atoms while at work can't seem to figure out how often the carpets should be vaccuumed or how to load the dishwasher. It's not the complexity of the work - it's the lack of interest.

36. rambo - January 19, 2010 at 09:37 pm

so what? Keep doing housework. Why were feminists not mentioned or quoted????

37. ashley_nasello - January 20, 2010 at 08:33 am

"Women do more housework than men throughout our culture. So, female sociologists probably do more than men, female anthropologists more than -- well you get the idea." ----The article was not talking about men in general, but male scientists in particular.
"Why were feminists not mentioned or quoted????" ----Because it's not a feminist issue???? Duh. This one is all about the men...

Bottom line? Men will do as little as they can get away with. Always have, always will. And women will always pick up the slack, no matter their profession.

38. geoscientist - January 20, 2010 at 09:28 am

And then, of course, modern intellectual man has never used a screw driver, wrench, hammer, paint can, hose, or lawn mower, and sees no reason for those chores to be done by Himself either. In these egalitarian times, these chores also fall to woman because she is liberated and knows how to do them, fast. And so she does. Whereupon man demands to know why she is not pulling her economic weight and bringing in the six figures.

And O Best Beloved, the only one happy is the Cat, who walks by himself in the Wet Wild Woods....

39. fizmath - January 20, 2010 at 12:41 pm

Maybe the female scientists can invent a robot to do the housework for them, just like the Jetson family. This seems a stretch but devices like the Roomba are a start. I would think a dual income couple could afford to hire some help around the house. Another option is to choose a smaller residence.

40. tmbasford - January 20, 2010 at 01:16 pm

"How has having children somehow become a luxury conferred by society and raising them a mark of overprivilege? ....Women are not parasites if they have children and expect support and proactive help from both the husbands and the society which benefit therefrom."

Thank you, geoscientist! This sums it up rather nicely, and should be cross posted in the comments about pay inequities b/w genders, imo.

41. ukbiofac - January 20, 2010 at 01:51 pm

What I tell all the young graduate students: If your partner expects you to do all the housework, get a new partner who is actually your partner!

When I started my faculty position, my (male) mentor had one major peice of advice "get a maid".

42. cokids - January 20, 2010 at 03:43 pm

When I was asked if I was going to get a Ph D after my husband completed his, my answer was, "No!" I can't do that until I get a wife. While he worked in the library on Saturdays, I did the houseowrk and took care of the kids. Without someone doing that for me, I couldn't think of getting a Ph. D!!

43. _perplexed_ - January 20, 2010 at 04:00 pm

Annaanastasia-- no objection from me if phinellie keeps the dog but loses the husband...

44. amy_l - January 20, 2010 at 05:25 pm

"But because a successful scientific career demands more than 40 hours a week, she said, female scientists could be especially affected." Why does a successful scientific career demand more than 40 hours a week? Isn't that the real problem here? Many people don't consider their lives to be balanced if they're spending that many hours on one thing. Why shouldn't it be possible to be successful as a scientist while working a mere 40 hours a week? This is why domestic help only partially solves the problem. Lots of people (men and women) *want* to have time to maintain their own homes, or cook nice dinners, or spend the weekends with their kids. Does science want to lock those people out of the profession?

On another note, several women here have said they have egalitarian relationships, and that their husbands are committed to equality, and then they go on to describe a very unequal distribution of tasks. I'm sorry, but that doesn't count as egalitarianism in my book. I think the only solution is to sit down and make a schedule of what each person must do, and make sure to put in all the hidden tasks like maintaining the calendar, reminding the other person to do what they said they'd do, etc. Then make sure that those tasks are balanced out by equal effort on the other side. If it takes 2 hours every week to keep track of things and to pester others to do their chores, then that should be balanced by a 2 hour task for the other person. If it's emotional energy that's at stake, then make sure that's balanced out, too, by some emotionally demanding task for the other person.

I agree with people who say you have to let go of control and allow your partner to do things their way. But it's also very common for people to passive-aggressively resist their own duties -- unconsciously messing things up or "forgetting" to do this or that in hopes that the other person will take over the task. The only solution, I think, is to agree in advance on the standards to which work will be held. Make tasks specific - not just "so and so will clean the bathroom periodically", but "so and so will scrub the tub once a week." As long as both people can agree on the standards, and as long as it's in writing, then there's no wiggle-room later.

But you can take everything above with a grain of salt. I'm single because I got tired of dealing with this kind of crap, and I'm a much happier and more successful professor since I made that choice!

45. daaave - January 20, 2010 at 09:14 pm

annaanastasia - while there's certainly a risk of "blaming the victim" in this discussion, I think you might be too quick to dismiss the complex bilateral behavior behind things like allocation of housework and making changes to routine. amy_l put it well: You *do* have to let go, and both parties have to work to balance changes; and it's also very possible (and common?) to passively try to subvert such a change. If anything that a few years of therapy with my lovely partner has taught me (we're both untenured tenure-track faculty in STEM fields), it's that it takes a lot of work and communication to ensure that these responsibilities remain balanced when there's an initial difference in your preferences for things like cleanliness. Without that, it's very easy to fall into a division of labor along "how much I care about X" lines, without any intent to be inequitable. Being honest, of course, for me this meant understanding and supporting my partner's desire for a cleaner house and being willing to play an active role in achieving that. I'm sure we'll have the same renegotiation when we have kids.

But don't dismiss outright that achieving a balance takes a lot of work on the parts of both people in the relationship. Just like everything else, it boils down to being able and willing to communicate and negotiate. Which can be surprisingly hard and require a lot of time/energy that are pretty scarce when you're trying to pump out a stream of papers and Ph.D.s.

46. geoscientist - January 21, 2010 at 11:06 am

tmbasford, thank you! Please post a link and I will cross-post.

47. greenhills73 - January 21, 2010 at 12:26 pm

I am finding this discussion very amusing. I am a non-academic staff member but I would like to offer my two-cent's worth. My husband and I both work full-time (our four children are all grown) and we each have various household duties based on our interests and skills (i.e. I maintain our clothes, he maintains the vehicles, etc.) If I am on vacation and at home for a week, I am able to cook full meals because I have the time. When he is on vacation and at home for a week, I come home from work at my normal time and he asks, "What's for supper?"

48. mkbre0829 - January 22, 2010 at 10:01 am

My first reaction to the headline was 'uh, duh!" Like this is news for any working woman, folks? I'm a 50-ish PhD female with an 8 year old son. My soon-to-be-ex husband has an associate's degree in mortuary science and is a licensed funeral director. I earned my master's and PhD starting in my mid-30s and ending in my late-40s. Through it all, I worked full-time; married; had a child; took in a college-aged step child; maintained a home including doing laundry, cleaning, some cooking (he liked his cooking better than mine); and mowed and maintained the back lawn (the front lawn was his and had to be picture perfect). Yes, my husband was a Mr. Mom vis-a-vis child care and laundry (you'd have thought he was doing the wash for the world with all his self praise) when our son was tiny and I was doing a two-hour-each-way commute to work and working on my dissertation, but once that "paper" was done and submitted, I was back to doing pretty much everything, while he used his free time to find himself a girlfriend (sugar-mommy) who wasn't tied down by work, child-rearing (homework, cub scouts, religious ed, etc), and housework! Believe me, there's nothing news-worthy about female scientist doing more around the house than their male counterparts. What would be new, is if the men were doing as much housework as the women!

49. dlu39503 - January 22, 2010 at 10:42 am

When I saw the title of this article, I knew what kinds of comments it would generate. This is a laughable topic.

Toward the end of the comments I see the old "you can't blame the victim" line. annaanastasia's post is a good example of this; annaanastasia outlines all sorts of hypothetical scenarios where the lazy bum, loser husband somehow forces the fragile wife into doing ALL of the housework. Guess what, there is no victim here. If a female makes a bad selection in the man she marries, that is HER OWN FAULT! Perhaps what we need to do is have some system in place to help the poor, fragile females who don't seem to be able to see what kind of men they are attracted to. Oh wait, that would interfere with her right to make decisions. And her right to whine incessantly when she makes bad decisions. To the females complaining about the housework situation, were you forced to marry the man you selected? Were you forced to have children (if you have them)? Are you forced to stay with him? No? Then woman-up and take responsibility for your choices.

These silly, stereotypical, gynocentric articles show up in the Chronicle frequently and make the Chronicle look like a low-caliber publication. At the same time, it gives me an opportunity to chuckle about how bad many academics seem to be at making life choices. People, take responsibility for the choices you make. You are adults.

50. tolerantly - January 22, 2010 at 01:27 pm

Those of you complaining that single people have it tough -- you have no idea. Really, you don't.

You take care of yourself. That's a breeze. Try running a house big enough for 3-6 people, managing the schedules, academic, and social lives of 1-3 children, doing maintenance work on the husband (amazing how much attention men need, especially when things aren't going well for them), seeing that everyone's fed and clothed, remembering who goes to which doctor, making the phone calls, seeing that birthday presents are bought for all the friends' parties, seeing that the kids send thank you's to relatives, coordinating vacations, etc., etc.

It's a large job in itself. Yes, men will do some housework if told what to do and reminded to do it. You know what that lands you with? Management work. And then you have to be careful not to come off as the shrew or the heavy. You have to backpedal and apologize.

I'm divorced now, and I can tell you that taking care of self and one child is much less work than taking care of self, child, husband, and husband's family, even though my ex used to do laundry, wash dishes, change diapers, etc. Much. Taking care of just myself? I can't even remember. It's going to seem like a spa vacation when the day comes again.

51. tolerantly - January 22, 2010 at 01:32 pm

Incidentally, I'm all in favor of refusing to do the husband's share of the work. Just dumping it in his lap and walking away, if he doesn't pick it up voluntarily. But divorce is a real risk. Lot of men have extraordinary capacity for self-pity, and if they're reasonably good-looking and employed they'll eventually find a sympathetic ear elsewhere. If it's just you and the guy, that's one thing, but if there are children, they have a way of acting as hostages in the situation. Divorce, generally bad for children.

My real recommendation? If you're in a serious career, and you're a woman looking to have children, first put away some big bucks in your name only, expressly for the purpose of hiring help. Do not have children until you have the money for the help. Do not leave the money vulnerable by putting it in a joint account, either, because you have no idea what might happen down the line. Protect your career, then have the kids.

52. geologian - January 22, 2010 at 06:45 pm

O, la la, this last comment [#51] hurts ... how many established academic men [scientists and otherwise] have I seen cast off their spouses for sympathetic younger ones, commonly [former] grad students ...

It didn't happen to me, formally--I never made it as far as tying the knot. But then who ever said that life was simple, or without choices that require thought and diligence, and yes, even love and compassion?

53. aetolius - January 25, 2010 at 07:01 am

Wow, it's difficult to see over all the soap boxes. I'm still wondering how this discussion went from female scientists, who do more housework than males and thereby struggle to compete with their male counterparts, to opinionated attacks against men (that they are incompetent, lazy and at-fault). Seriously, like #26 and some others have suggested, this seems to be an in-family communication issue, not a nation-wide university issue.

Many of these problems could have been avoided if academics were a) honest with their partners, and b) honest with themselves. When my wife and I were dating, I was extremely up front from the beginning about my goals, dreams, etc. Why does this seem like such a difficult concept? Figure out what you want to do in life, find someone (if you wish) who fits into that picture, and live your life. Nobody is holding a gun to your head and forcing you to marry or have children--it's as simple as that. Just remember that there is no perfect picture; the decisions you made are far-reaching and you need to live with your decisions. So married or single-parent female scientists or academics in general want a successful career, a family, a comfortable lifestyle and the list goes on. By now you should realize that you can't have everything: decide for yourself what is priority #1 and go after it. For some, it will be raising children, for others it is being at the top of their field. Reality is you shouldn't allow others to make the decision for you or cater to your indecisiveness.

54. tolerantly - January 25, 2010 at 05:27 pm

"When my wife and I were dating, I was extremely up front from the beginning about my goals, dreams, etc. Why does this seem like such a difficult concept? "


How stupid do you think women are? Of course we're up front about our goals. I told my ex in plain English what I was all about, what I wanted for myself and my work, what I was willing to do, and what I wasn't willing to do. I think he must've been staring at my chest the whole time, because damned if once the baby came, he figured I'd let go of my own work, at least enough to help him advance. Oh, the shock when I said that if he wasn't going to leave at five and take over his baby shift, he'd have to find a sitter and figure out where the money was going to come from to pay her, because I had work to do. Oh, the dismay. Oh, the divorce.

I hear this story over, and over, and over, except that most women won't hand the men their share of the responsibility as quickly as I did. Most will try to accommodate and negotiate for years before recognizing that they're the only ones negotiating, and that the man has no intention of making any significant change.

55. tolerantly - January 25, 2010 at 05:37 pm

Let me put it another way, Aetolius: The men will often renege when it turns out that the women meant what they said about their careers. I suspect that frequently the men had no intention of holding to their word if doing so turned out to conflict with their idea of manhood, and were not taking the pre-baby conversations about labor division seriously.

That is why I say: Women, if you want to have children, expect your husband to be relatively useless in helping you to maintain your career. It may turn out he's a prince, but don't count on it. Put away a realistic amount of money -- it will amount to tens of thousands of dollars -- to hire adequate help with the house and children *before* you have those children. And do it in your own name only. You'll need this anyway, because if you divorce, you'll be trying to maintain your career sans live-in night sitter, and more than likely you'll be the one with the lion's share of custody.

Dollars protect the career.

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