Well, now that we’ve got that squared away”¦oh, what’s that? I should provide some facts to back this assertion up? All right then. So, to be upfront about my sources (or lack thereof), I only have data on women in academia collected by the National Science Foundation: women who work for an academic institution and have a doctorate in computer sciences, engineering, life sciences, mathematics, physical sciences, psychology, or social sciences were polled. This means that I have no data for women in the humanities. Also, the women are anywhere from 25-70+ in age, and the NSF study was conducted in 2006. That’s six(!) years ago now.
According to them, 14.4% of women surveyed have never been married or in a marriage-like relationship. Using data from 2009 from the U.S. Census Bureau, I found that for the same age group, around 15% of all U.S. women had never been married. Women in academia were just as likely to have been married as women outside of academia.
Relationships are important. We all know it from personal experience and studies have confirmed that yes, real evidence exists to support our personal observations. The pursuit of an academic career throws many impediments in the path of people attempting to create a stable plan for the future, let alone build a relationship and a family. Heck, we’ve even talked about the two-body problem on here before. This structural lack of support for people struggling to build healthy personal lives is a huge problem.
There are hints of that huge problem even in the NSF study: the percentage of women in academia who have been divorced is twice the percentage of men in academia. I would argue that that’s not great, and that it is a sign of the stressors women in particular face when pursuing a high-achieving, demanding, and sometimes stressful career. I would also argue that the only way things will change is with a deconstruction of traditional gender roles and greater support for underrepresented groups in academia.