How Dishwashing Works Against Tenure

An article in yesterday’s Chronicle notes that there’s still a lot of inequity when it comes to household chores, according to a study from the Michelle R. Clayman Institute for Gender and Research, at Stanford University. The study, “Housework Is an Academic Issue,” found that female scientists shoulder “54 percent” of “core household tasks, such as cooking, cleaning, and laundry—about twice as much as their male counterparts,” while still working “at their paying jobs about 56 hours a week, almost the same number of hours as men do.”

They are hardly alone. Many working women “do a disproportionate amount of housework,” says Jennifer Sheridan, of the University of Wisconsin at Madison’s Women in Science & Engineering Leadership Institute.

That’s hardly a revelation. For the scientists, though, “more housework doesn’t affect the quality of work but its quantity, which could make a difference in academe,” Ms. Sheridan told The Chronicle. “Some studies of faculty productivity have found that women faculty may produce fewer articles,” a crucial factor in tenure-and-promotion decisions.

The question is what to do about the problem. Londa Schiebinger, one of the authors of the study, suggests that college provide flexible-benefits packages to help with housework, like some Swedish companies do. But that’s unlikely to happen at a time when campus budgets are under increased pressure, Ms. Sheridan notes. What solutions do you propose?

As one commenter on the article noted, it’s not simply a matter of women with spouses and children “just individually turn[ing] the entire societal tide in which we swim and announc[ing] ‘It’s now 50/50!’ And therefore, it will happen.” Nor do we need “a law dictating which spouse takes out the garbage, who does the cooking, etc.,” as another noted sarcastically.

Read about how some academic couples divvy up their household duties and tell us what works for you.

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