That was the case for Paul Cheney, an associate professor of history at the University of Chicago. He and his wife received concurrent doctorates in their respective fields, but he was offered a position first. "That meant the area she could look in shrank quite a bit," he said, "and by then we had kids." At the time, she was an adjunct professor without maternity leave, and so she stayed at home to raise their children. When she eventually returned to teaching, it was at the high school level.
Most departments offering maternity and/or paternity leave state that professors may only do so if they are the child's primary caretaker. Male professors who are not primary caretakers have taken paternity leave - sometimes to take advantage of the time off not to care for a child, but to research, several of the professors I spoke to suspect - without penalty, but only 3.4 percent. A much higher 33.6 percent of women, on the other hand, took time off after the birth of a child.
Kevin Kruse, a professor of history at Princeton, took paternity leave following the birth of his first child in 2007, a year after he received tenure, and then again in 2011. He says paternity leave was a recent addition thanks to progressive leadership from retiring President Shirley Tilghman and then-provost Amy Gutman, but it was not without consequence. "Those two paternity leaves surely delayed my promotion to full professorship a little bit," he wrote in an email. Kruse asserted, however, that his efforts paled in comparison to his wife's, who experienced very different demands as a mother.
Women were two times as likely to take leave to support their partner's career, the study said. "This explains why marriage accelerates a man's career," said Seth Rockman, an associate professor of history at Brown University. "If men can continue to find wives who will abandon their professional aspirations to assist their husbands, well, that's it in a nutshell." Rockman, who is married Nummedal, called the statistics depressing. "The degree of backsliding in the current generation is stunning."
Perhaps the vaguest statement in the survey is the most illuminating: "Female faculty members are treated fairly at this institution." 55.4 percent of female professors agreed, as compared to 84.7 percent of male professors.
What is considered "fair treatment?" It could very well refer to better class times, larger offices, time allotted for research, maternity leave, and higher salaries, but to the professors I spoke to, the meaning was clear: the burden of service.
In addition to teaching, research, and publishing responsibilities, service constitutes a major part of a professor's career. Academics may be asked to advise to undergraduate and graduate students, teacher assistants, academic senates, and to provide private tutorials or additional class sections for honors students. In addition, there are committees on diversity, hiring, professionalization, and admissions. Many of these professional obligations occur on a weekly basis, meaning that professors spend more time spent sitting in conference room than teaching in lecture halls.