Meta-Research: How parenthood contributes to gender gaps in academia

  1. Xiang Zheng
  2. Haimiao Yuan
  3. Chaoqun Ni  Is a corresponding author
  1. Information School, University of Wisconsin-Madison, United States
  2. College of Education, The University of Iowa, United States

Abstract

Being a parent has long been associated with gender disparities in academia. However, details of the mechanisms by which parenthood and gender influence academic career achievement and progression are not fully understood. Here, using data from a survey of 7,764 academics in North America and publication data from the Web of Science, we analyze gender differences in parenthood and academic achievements and explore the influence of work-family conflict and partner support on these gender gaps. Our results suggest that gender gaps in academic achievement are, in fact, “parenthood gender gaps.” Specifically, we found significant gender gaps in most of the measures of academic achievement (both objective and subjective) in the parent group but not in the non-parent group. Mothers are more likely than fathers to experience higher levels of work-family conflict and to receive lower levels of partner support, contributing significantly to the gender gaps in academic achievement for the parent group. We also discuss possible interventions and actions for reducing gender gaps in academia.

Introduction

Gender disparity is prominent in academia, notably in science and engineering (Ceci et al., 2014). In the United States in 2019, for example, only 16% of scientists and engineers were women (National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, 2021). Women are also underrepresented across all professorship ranks (Chesler et al., 2010; Mason et al., 2013), especially among full professors – in 2018 only 32.5% of full professors in the United States were women (Colby and Fowler, 2020). Studies show that, compared with men, women academics produce fewer papers (Larivière et al., 2013; Paul-Hus et al., 2015), receive fewer citations (Caplar et al., 2017; Maliniak et al., 2013), and have narrower collaboration networks (Ductor et al., 2021). Women are also less likely to receive project funding (Ley and Hamilton, 2008; Witteman et al., 2019) or prestigious awards (Lunnemann et al., 2019; Meho, 2021). These gendered differences are usually correlated and mutually reinforcing, contributing to lower career satisfaction and higher attrition rates for women in academia (Xu, 2008). Understanding variables and mechanisms underlying the gendered disadvantage for women is critical for achieving gender equality in academia.

Parenting is considered highly related to gender disparities in academia (Hunter and Leahey, 2010; Kelly and Grant, 2012; Morgan et al., 2021; Powell, 2021). It contributes to the gender gap in many key research performance metrics, such as scientific productivity (Mairesse et al., 2019; Morgan et al., 2021), citations (Lawson et al., 2021), and academic collaboration (Hunter and Leahey, 2010). Evidence also shows that career satisfaction in academia is lower for mothers than fathers (Beckett et al., 2015), likely due to the reasons such as limited opportunities for tenure and promotion (Finkel and Olswang, 1996; Mason et al., 2013), lower salary (Kelly and Grant, 2012), and higher levels of work-family conflict (Martins et al., 2002). The prominent motherhood penalty could impel women to self-select away from academic careers and to leave such careers at higher rates than men (an effect known as the “leaky pipeline”: Anders, 2004). Yet, our present knowledge about parenting and gender disparities in academia has been shaped primarily by studies that are university-wide (e.g., Misra et al., 2012), monodisciplinary (e.g., Beckett et al., 2015), and thus of limited sample scales. The size, type, and mechanism of the association between parenting and academic achievements need further examination on a larger scale.

One potential reason parenting contributes to the gender disparity in academic careers is the work-family conflict. Workplace and family are both demanding in terms of time, energy, and loyalty, thus likely interfering with each other (Fox et al., 2011). Work-family conflict can be categorized into three types: (i) time-based conflict is the competition of time between different roles, e.g., mother vs. researcher; (ii) strain-based conflict happens when the strain in one role interferes with one’s ability to perform in another role; (iii) behavior-based conflict happens when the behavior requirements as a role become incompatible with the behavioral expectation of another (Greenhaus and Beutell, 1985). Studies have indicated that women usually experience higher levels of work-family conflict than men due to parenting (Martins et al., 2002; van Daalen et al., 2006; Wang et al., 2020), and academia is no exception (Fox et al., 2011). Mothers who are academics spend more time on childcare responsibilities and household tasks (Misra et al., 2012) and experience more research pressure and job stress than men (van Daalen et al., 2006). It is indicated that high work-family conflict can significantly affect women’s career satisfaction, regardless of their age (Martins et al., 2002). However, few studies have focused on how varying levels of work-family conflict across parenthood status contribute to the gender gaps in academia regarding different forms of career achievements.

The role of family support should also be considered. Family has become “the newest battlefront in the struggle for gender equality” (Hauser, 2012), enduring and consequential for well-being across the life course (Thomas et al., 2017). Family support, especially partner support, represents a significant form of family-to-work enrichment and has positive effects (Greenhaus and Powell, 2006; Kinnunen et al., 2006). Partner support can be instrumental or emotional (Adams and Golsch, 2021; Greenhaus and Powell, 2006) and may decrease work turnover rate and boost women’s perceptions of gains in productivity and career satisfaction (Ferguson et al., 2016; Juraqulova et al., 2015; Watanabe and Falci, 2016). Partner support can also relieve the tension inside the family and reduce the pressure from the family, mitigating work-family conflict and increasing well-being and career performance (Dickson, 2020; Ferguson et al., 2016; Thorstad et al., 2006; Wang et al., 2020). Although partner support has been found to help reduce work-family conflict – with the reduction for mothers being greater than that for fathers – the demand for partner support from mothers is often less satisfied (Adams and Golsch, 2021; Dickson, 2020). Despite previous discussions on the role of partner support in family-to-work enrichment, limited attention has been paid to the relationship between partner support and the gender disparity in academia.

Using data from the Web of Science and responses from 7,764 academics in the United States and Canada to a survey distributed in 2019 (see Supplementary file 1), this study examines the gender gaps in various measures of academic achievement (both objective and subjective), and how parenting-related work-family conflict and partner support mediate these gaps. Objective career achievements are observable, socially recognized indicators signaling one’s human capital values (Valcour and Ladge, 2008). We use bibliometric indicators of scientific productivity, citation, and collaboration to measure objective career achievements (see Materials and materials). Subjective career achievements are one’s subjective feelings of career attainments (Ng et al., 2005), including self-reported research satisfaction, career satisfaction, and the perceived recognition by scholarly communities in this study.

Based on self-reported gender identification, the sample contains 4,425 (57.0%) women, 3,311 (42.7%) men, and 28 respondents (0.4%) who self-identified as non-binary. Due to the limited sample size for the non-binary group, our subsequent analyses only focus on women and men, which we admit is a limitation of our study. To better understand the role of parenting, we aggregated respondents based on their self-reported parenthood status: the parent group (n=5,670, 73.3%) and non-parent (n=1,534, 19.8%) group. Subsequent analyses refer to respondents in the parent group who self-identified as women and men as mothers and fathers, and those in the non-parent group as non-mothers and non-fathers. It should be noted that the two groups only include respondents who have ever married or cohabited (for two years or longer), given work-family conflict and partner support being variables of significant interest in this study.

Results

Parenthood and its overall compatibility with academic careers

Our results show significant gender differences in the parenthood status of academics. Across all disciplines, career stages, and races, a large majority (73.7%) of the respondents have at least one child. However, women (71.4%) are less likely than men (76.7%) to have children (OR = 0.82, 95% CI [0.73, 0.91], P=0.000; see Table S6 in Supplementary file 2) and are more likely to have fewer children (Tobit coefficient = −0.14, 95% CI [-0.22,–0.07], P=0.000). This trend is different from the general population in the United States, where the percentage of adult women who have children is higher than that of adult men, and the average number of children mothers have is higher than that of fathers (Monte, 2017; National Center for Health Statistics, 2021). Our results further show that the gender difference in parenthood status of academics is highly related to career considerations: For those with children, women are more likely than men to report that the number of children they have is related to career considerations (OR = 2.34, 95% CI [2.08, 2.63], P=0.000). Among those without children, women (59.9%) are more likely than men (43.2%) to report that career considerations played a role in their parenthood status (OR = 2.10, 95% CI [1.69, 2.62], P=0.000; see Table S7 in Supplementary file 2), while controlling for discipline, career stage, and race.

The gender difference in parenthood status in academia is likely due to the different perceptions of parenting compatibility with academic careers by women and men: Parenthood is perceived as less compatible with academic careers by women than by men (see Table 1). Women are more likely than men to report a negative impact on their career due to children (OR = 0.46, 95% CI [0.41,0.51], P=0.000). More specifically, 71.3% of mothers reported a negative child impact on their career, while only 48.6% of fathers indicated so. In contrast, 25.2% of fathers reported a positive impact on their career due to children, while only 14.1% of mothers indicated so. When aggregated by career stage (see Table S4 in Supplementary file 1 for the categorization), women are more likely to report more negative child impact during each career stage: trainee (OR = 0.34, 95% CI [0.20,0.61], P=0.000), early career (OR = 0.52, 95% CI [0.39,0.70], P=0.000), middle career (OR = 0.47, 95% CI [0.40,0.56], P=0.000), and late career (OR = 0.43, 95% CI [0.37,0.51], P=0.000).

Table 1
Child impact on career for parents.

Odds ratio (women/men) values were based on ordinal logistic regression. Standard errors were clustered at the institution level. Control variables include discipline, race, and type of partner job.

AllTraineeEarly careerMiddle careerLate career
WomenMenWomenMenWomenMenWomenMenWomenMen
Negative (%)71.348.679.360.279.166.475.559.160.937.3
Neutral (%)14.726.29.621.29.716.513.119.12033
Positive (%)14.125.211.118.611.217.111.421.919.229.7
N3,1052,5302081186183331,1727451,1071,334
OR, 95% CI, p-value0.46 [0.41,0.51], P=0.0000.34 [0.20,0.61], P=0.0000.52 [0.39,0.70], P=0.0000.47 [0.40,0.56], P=0.0000.43 [0.37,0.51], P=0.000

With limited generalizability due to insufficient sample size, we found that, of the 28 non-binary participants in our survey, 18 (64.3%) have been ever committed to a partnership. Seven of them have children, among which six (85.7%) indicated that having children has a negative impact on their career development, and all seven (100%) respondents reported career considerations played a role in the number of children they have.

Gender gaps in subjective career achievements

We operationalized the measurement of subject career achievements using respondents’ self-reported satisfaction over research, career, and recognition by scholarly communities. Our results show that women academics, in general, are attached with lower levels of subjective career achievement than their male counterparts (see Table S8 in Supplementary file 2). Specifically, women are less likely than men to be satisfied with their research (OR = 0.76, 95% CI [0.68,0.85], P=0.000) and feel recognized by their scholarly communities (OR = 0.77, 95% CI [0.68,0.87], P=0.000).

Yet, the gendered differences vary by parenthood status. For the non-parent group, women and men show no significant differences in research satisfaction (OR = 0.94, 95% CI [0.71,1.24], P=0.662), career satisfaction (OR = 1.05, 95% CI [0.81,1.37], P=0.694), or the recognition by scholarly communities (OR = 0.95, 95% CI [0.71,1.27], P=0.735). For the parent group, however, the gender gap is prominent: mothers are less likely than fathers to be satisfied with their research achievements (OR = 0.72, 95% CI [0.63, 0.82], P=0.000), and the recognition from their scholarly communities (OR = 0.73, 95% CI [0.64, 0.84], P=0.000). While research satisfaction is significantly different between mothers and fathers, our results show no significant gender difference in the career satisfaction of parents (OR = 0.89, 95% CI [0.77,1.03], P=0.129).

The seemingly unrelated estimation (SUEST) analysis further shows that there is no significant difference in the career satisfaction gender gaps between parents and non-parents (P=0.300). Furthermore, of those women who expressed satisfaction over their career achievements, 13.6% were not satisfied with their research achievements. The number is 8.9% for men (see Table S9 in Supplementary file 2). Research, teaching, and service being the three primary duties for many tenure-track faculty, it has been found that teaching and service are more heavily loaded on women than on men (Bellas, 1999; Guarino and Borden, 2017). If teaching and service are indeed loaded heavier on women, then mothers’ lower satisfaction rates on research could be related to the extra amount of time and effort they put on these aspects, on top of mothers’ already reduced working time due to parenting.

For the non-binary respondents, five (71.4%) out of seven parents are not satisfied with their research achievements, compared with four (36.4%) out of 11 non-parents. For career satisfaction, four (57.1%) out of seven parents expressed disagreement, compared with two (18.2%) out of 11 non-parents. For scholarly recognition, one (16.7%) out of six parents expressed disagreement, compared with two (18.2%) out of 11 non-parents. Yet, the results should be interpreted with limited generalizability due to the limited sample size.

Gender gaps in objective career achievements

We operationalized the measurement of objective career achievements for academics using publication-based indicators, given the “currency” role that scientific publications play in the academic reward system (Fogarty, 2009). The publication-based indicators used in this study include annual relative publication (ARP), average relative citation (ARC), and annual relative coauthor (ARCo). These indicators are used as measures for research productivity, citation, and the extent of collaboration, as normalized by discipline and time. The normalization was performed due to the varying scholarly practices across disciplines and the cumulative advantage in research achievements (such as citations) over time (see Materials and methods).

Our results further confirmed gender disparities in objective career achievements (See Figure 1 and Table S10 in Supplementary file 2). Regardless of parenthood status, women are outperformed by men in all three measures of objective career achievement. Specifically, women’s ARP is 0.28 (95% CI [–0.39,–0.17], P=0.000) units lower than men, women’s ARC is 0.21 (95% CI [–0.38,–0.05], P=0.013) units lower than men, and women’s ARCo is 0.08 (95% CI [–0.14,–0.01], P=0.023) unit lower than men. This echoes previous findings that women produce fewer publications (Astegiano et al., 2019; van den Besselaar et al., 2017), receive lower citations (Larivière et al., 2013; Maliniak et al., 2013), and have fewer coauthors (Ductor et al., 2021) than their male counterparts.

Subjective and objective career achievements by gender and parenthood status.

(A). Percentage of satisfaction over research, career, and recognition by scholarly communities; (B). Women/men odds ratio for subjective career achievements; Control variables include discipline, career stage, partner job type, and race. Standard errors were clustered at the institution level. p (SUEST) values compare the odds ratio values between the parent and non-parent group; (C). Women-men difference in annual relative publication (ARP), average relative citation (ARC), and annual relative coauthor (ARCo). Positive values indicate female dominance and negative male dominance; (D). Coefficients for gender (women) based on linear regression analysis on ARP, ARC, and ARCo.

Yet, our results suggest parenthood may have played a significant role in the observed gender gaps in productivity, citation, and the extent of collaboration. In the parent group, the ARP, ARC and ARCo for mothers are 0.35 (95% CI [–0.48,–0.22], P=0.000), 0.20 (95% CI [–0.38,–0.01], P=0.038), and 0.10 units (95% CI [-0.18,–0.03], P=0.008) lower than those for fathers. However, in the non-parent group, women and men do not differ significantly in any of the three measures. Furthermore, the mean productivity difference between women and men is larger in the parent group than in the non-parent group: our SUEST analysis shows there is a significant difference between the gender coefficients (for ARP) of the parent and non-parent group regression analyses, indicating significant differences between productivity gender gaps between the parent and non-parent group (P=0.001). However, we do not observe such differences in citation and collaboration. These findings suggest that many previous findings on gender disparities in research productivity are likely due to the gender differences among parent academics, given that they are the majority of academics (73.7% of all academics in our study). Moreover, recognizing that scholarly practices may vary as scholars advance through their careers, we further aggregated respondents by career stage (see Table S10 in Supplementary file 2). Results show that mothers produced fewer publications than fathers across early, middle, and late careers. In the meantime, women and men in the non-parent group do not vary significantly in productivity during any career stage.

Additionally, the mean values of ARP and ARC are generally higher for the parent group than for the non-parent group for both genders (see Table S10 in Supplementary file 2). Recognizing that the direct comparison of means ignores the potential skewness in data distribution and the effect of control variables, we further performed regression analysis to compare parents with non-parents (see Table S11 in Supplementary file 2). We found no significant difference between mothers and non-mothers in ARP, ARC, or ARCo. However, fathers have higher ARP and ARCo values than non-fathers, but not ARC. The finding of higher ARP for fathers than non-fathers is consistent with Morgan et al., 2021. Yet, we did not find such a pattern between mothers and non-mothers.

Overall, our results reveal the potential existence of both “motherhood penalty” and “fatherhood premium” (Kelly and Grant, 2012), and their relationships with gender gaps in objective career achievements. On the one hand, higher values of ARP and ARCo for fathers compared to non-fathers suggest the potential existence of the “fatherhood premium” for men. While reasons for such fatherhood premium require further investigation, we consider the relationship between the ARP values of fathers and non-fathers being related to their collaboration pattern, given the potential positive relationship between collaboration and productivity (Larivière et al., 2015). On the other hand, we found mothers and non-mothers show do not differ significantly in ARP. Morgan et al., 2021 showed that annual productivity of academics tends to grow over the years in computer science, business, and history, while the annual productivity of women grows slower or even stagnates after the first birth of their first child. Our findings suggest that such motherhood penalties may offset the productivity growth in the long run, resulting in the observed gender gaps in productivity. Therefore, we consider that fatherhood premium and motherhood penalty co-contribute to the gender gaps in the objective career achievements of parent academics, along with many other factors not discussed in this study.

For non-binary respondents, the ARP is 1.34 for parents and 1.36 for non-parents, the ARC is 1.58 for parents and 1.79 for non-parents, and the ARCo is 0.92 for the parents and 0.98 for the non-parents. The limited descriptive analysis shows that parenthood may also be related to the career achievements of the non-binary respondents. However, given the small sample size, the above comparisons may lack statistical power and therefore be interpreted with limited generalizability.

Gender gaps in work-family conflict and partner support

When asked about factors that impeded their career, both genders agreed that work-family conflict is the major obstacle: 71.8% of women and 68.0% of men indicated they experienced “a little” to “substantial” levels of work-family conflict that impeded their career development, regardless of their parenthood status. However, the gender gap in work-family conflict is more significant in the parent group than in the non-parent group: Our results show that mothers are more likely than fathers to experience higher levels of work-family conflict (OR = 1.31, 95% CI [1.19,1.45], P=0.000), but this does not hold for non-parent academics (OR = 1.05, 95%CI=[0.85,1.28], P=0.662) (see Table S12 in Supplementary file 2). Additionally, work-family conflict may occur in various forms related to childbearing and childrearing. When work-family conflict is categorized into the three types of conflicts, our results show that mothers are more likely than fathers to experience higher levels of time-based (OR = 1.77, 95% CI [1.59,1.97], P=0.000), strain-based (OR = 1.62, 95% CI [1.47,1.80], P=0.000), and behavior-based (OR = 1.28, 95% CI [1.14,1.43], P=0.000) work-family conflict. Meanwhile, the levels of conflict in all three forms are higher for parents than for non-parents, as expected. We also observed significant gender gaps in the non-parent group regarding time-based (OR = 1.53, 95% CI [1.28,1.82], P=0.000), strained-based (OR = 1.22, 95% CI [1.00,1.49], P=0.049), and behavior-based (OR = 1.46, 95% CI [1.14,1.87], P=0.003) conflict, indicating that women are more likely to experience these conflicts than men even without children.

On the other hand, we should not overlook the role of partner support, which is beneficial for career success in many areas. We asked about the levels of partner support for careers received by academics, including financial, emotional, time, decision, technical (support for one’s productive activities with personal skills, techniques, and expertise), and network support. Our results show that, women academics are overall more likely than men to receive higher levels of financial (OR = 1.55, 95% CI [1.41, 1.71], P=0.000) and technical support (OR = 2.28, 95% CI [2.06, 2.53], P=0.000), but less likely to receive higher levels of time (OR = 0.58, 95% CI [0.52, 0.64], P=0.000) and network support (OR = 0.87, 95% CI [0.78, 0.97], P=0.012) from their partners. Yet, the gender difference in partner support, similar to that in work-family conflict, also varies by parenthood status. Mothers are less likely than fathers to receive higher levels of time support (OR = 0.47, 95% CI [0.42, 0.53], P=0.000), a pattern that does not hold in the non-parent group. Additionally, mothers are more likely than fathers to receive more financial support (OR = 1.72, 95% CI [1.55, 1.92], P=0.000), while non-mothers are not (OR = 1.13, 95% CI [0.92,1.39], P=0.248).

Mothers are also less likely than fathers to receive higher levels of decision support (OR = 0.90, 95% CI [0.82, 1.00], P=0.040) and less likely to receive higher levels of emotional support (OR = 0.90, 95% CI [0.81,1.00], P=0.046). Women are more likely than men to receive higher levels of technical support in both the parent (OR = 2.33, 95% CI [2.09,2.59], P=0.000) and non-parent (OR = 2.03, 95% CI [1.63,2.53], P=0.000) group (see Figure 2 and Table S13 in Supplementary file 2). We further found that the gender difference in received support varies significantly by respondents’ parenthood status: The women to men odds ratios for the parent group vary significantly from that for the non-parent group regarding financial (P=0.000), emotional (P=0.039), time (P=0.000), and decision support (P=0.006).

Forms of work-family conflict experienced, and partner support received by gender and parenthood status.

(A) Percentage of women and men experiencing “substantial” conflict; (B) Odds ratio (women/men) for experiencing work-family conflict; (C) Percentage of women and men receiving “substantial” partner support; (D) Odds ratio (women/men) for receiving partner support. The (women/men) odds ratio values were based on logistic regression. Control variables include discipline, career stage, partner job type, and race. Standard errors were clustered at the institution level. SUEST was used to compare the odds ratio values between parent and non-parent group.

The mediation effect of work-family conflict and partner support

While the above findings suggest the gender gaps in academics’ objective and subjective career achievements, it is unclear what roles work-family conflict and partner support play in forming these gaps. We then used mediation effect analysis to unveil the possible mediating role of work-family conflict and partner support. To increase the interpretability of variables, we first extracted four factors from the three types of work-family conflict and six forms of partner support (nine variables in total) based on principal component analysis and varimax rotation, with each attached with at least one variable contributing significantly (factor loading ≥0.5) to the factor. The four factors explained 66.69% of the total variance. The labels for the four factors are work-family conflict (including time-, strain- and behavior-based conflict), financial support, professional support (including technical and network support), and general support (including emotional, decision, and time support, all of which do not require special skills or economic power) (see Table S6 in Supplementary file 2).

The mediation effect analysis based on the extracted factors shows that work-family conflict and partner support are significant mediator variables contributing to the association between gender and objective and subjective career achievement measures for parents, albeit with different underlying mechanisms (see Figure 3 and Table S15 in Supplementary file 2). General support is a mediating variable for the association between gender and parents’ objective career achievement. Mothers received less general support than fathers, which contributes significantly to mothers’ lower levels of ARP (Path effect [PE]=−0.017, 95% percentile CI [-0.031,–0.004]) and fewer ARCo (PE = −0.010, 95% percentile CI [-0.018,–0.002]). For the association between gender and subjective career achievement measures, mothers are subject to higher levels of work-family conflict than fathers, which leads to lower levels of research satisfaction (PE = −0.050, 95% percentile CI [-0.062,–0.038]) and scholarly community recognition (PE = −0.023, 95% percentile CI [-0.031,–0.016]).

The significantly less general support received by mothers are also shown to disadvantage mothers in research satisfaction, career satisfaction, and scholarly community recognition (PE = −0.028, 95% percentile CI [-0.037,–0.019]; PE = −0.034, 95% percentile CI [-0.045,–0.025]; PE = −0.019, 95% percentile CI [-0.026,–0.013]). On the contrary, mothers receive more professional support, which mitigates the negative association between gender and the three measures, albeit with comparatively small indirect effects (PE = 0.009, 95% percentile CI [0.003, 0.016]; PE = 0.006, 95% percentile CI [0.000, 0.011]; PE = 0.006, 95% percentile CI [0.001, 0.012]).

For non-parent academics, the mediating effect of work-family conflict is also observed between the association of gender and subjective career success: women are subject to higher levels of work-family conflict than men, inhibiting women’s satisfaction over research satisfaction (PE = −0.025, 95% percentile CI [-0.045,–0.008]), career satisfaction (PE = −0.014, 95% percentile CI [-0.028,–0.004]), and scholarly community recognition (PE = −0.013, 95% percentile CI [-0.026,–0.003]). Work-family conflict and partner support show no significant mediation effect on the associations between gender and the objective career achievement for the non-parent group.

Mediation effect analysis models of partner support and work-family conflict between gender and subjective and objective career achievement measures.

Only paths with statistically significant effects (p<0.05) are shown. Black and gray lines denote positive and negative mediating coefficients, respectively. (A) sets the objective career achievement as the outcomes and tests with the parent group (n=4,173). (B) sets the subjective career achievement measures as the outcomes and tests with the parent group (n=4,557). (C) sets the subjective career achievement measures as the outcomes and tests with the non-parent group (n=1,152).

Discussion

Our analysis of the parenthood status of academics provides new insights into the dilemma many women academics face: motherhood or academic career. On the one hand, mothers who are academics are significantly more likely than fathers to report higher levels of negative impact on careers due to children, reflecting the motherhood penalty on the academic career (Bonache et al., 2022; Misra et al., 2012). The perceived negative impact of parenting could intensify gender inequalities, as previous research found it was one of the major systemic barriers pushing women to self-select away from academia, contributing to the academic “leaky pipeline” (Anders, 2004). On the other hand, we found that women are less likely than men to have children and have fewer children.

The insignificant differences between non-fathers and non-mothers in their productivity, citation, and collaboration imply that parenthood contributes to the gendered differences in these three aspects for parents. Given the observed motherhood penalty, it is unsurprising that academic women have fewer children and are less likely to have children than men, which our results suggested as being related to career considerations: Our results show non-mothers are more likely than non-fathers to report their decision to be childfree was related to career considerations, and that mothers are more likely than fathers to report that the lower number of children they have was also related to career considerations.

Our study also unveils gender gaps in both objective and subjective career achievements of academics and suggests much of the gender gap only exists in the parent group. Specifically, we find gender differences in all measures of subjective career achievement and objective career achievement for the parent group. For the non-parent group, however, no significant gender difference was found in any career achievement measures. We thus argue that given many previous studies (Bendels et al., 2018; Caplar et al., 2017; Holliday et al., 2014; Larivière et al., 2013) reported overall gender disparities in academia without differentiating between parents and non-parents, these disparities may primarily derive from the differences between academic mothers and fathers. Follow-up studies on gender disparities could further examine this issue by comparing parents and non-parents.

Given the role of productivity in the academic reward system, current policies and regulations that aim to provide short-term support for childcaring and recovery right after birth or adoption are insufficient to bridge the gender gap in academia. Furthermore, the impact of parenting on the research output of mothers may last longer than asserted by previous studies (Morgan et al., 2021): We find significant gender differences in productivity across all career stages among the parents, but no such differences have been observed among the non-parents. This suggests that policies and interventions addressing gender inequalities in the scientific workforce should go beyond short-term assistance such as parental leaves and extend long-term support for mothers. Other forms of sustainable family-friendly support, such as subsidized childcare, onsite childcare, flexible working schedules, and supportive working environments, are available options (Feeney and Stritch, 2019). Additionally, given the observed gender gaps in research productivity, the current metric-based evaluation, especially those based on productivity, will undoubtedly hurt mothers more. Therefore, additional metrics and qualitative evaluations considering parenthood and individual conditions would be critical to reducing gender inequalities in academic settings.

Our findings on mothers’ higher chances of encountering more elevated levels of work-family conflict in all the forms of time-, strain-, and behavior-based conflict confirm that mothers indeed suffer more from multiple social roles: mother and researcher. Previous findings suggested that mothers are children’s primary caregivers, requiring extra time and engagement in parenting activities (Dickson, 2020). We also found that mothers are significantly more likely than fathers to experience time-based conflict and less likely to receive the time, emotional, and decision support from partners, a dangerous signal for the family to sustain marital satisfaction and gender equality (Mickelson et al., 2006; Thorstad et al., 2006). On the contrary, mothers are more likely to receive financial and technical support from their partners. Mothers’ higher likelihood of receiving financial support might be related to the entrenched gender division of household labor, where fathers are more likely to be the breadwinners and bear financial responsibilities (Hauser, 2012).

Our mediating effect analysis results provide new evidence for the claim that family is “the newest battlefront in the struggle for gender equality” (Hauser, 2012) for academia, confirming that family-related reasons are significantly associated with gender gaps in career achievements of parents. Specifically, mother who are academics receive less general support (including time, emotional and decisional support) from their partners than fathers, contributing to the gender gap in productivity and collaboration. It corroborates the finding that shortened working time and limited decision support for more work engagement restrict mothers’ opportunities for networking and academic collaboration (Finkel and Olswang, 1996; Mason et al., 2013). The limited general support from partners thus may hurt the research productivity of mothers directly or indirectly by constraining research collaborations, which usually leads to higher productivity (Abbasi et al., 2011; Sonnenwald, 2007). Moreover, the higher levels of work-family conflict experienced by mothers also worsen the gender gap in satisfaction over research and perceived recognition by parents, which are highly related to women’s turnover intention (Watanabe and Falci, 2016). Reducing mothers’ work-family conflict and increasing their general support could thus reduce the gender gap in academics’ perceived career achievement. These mediating variables indicate the directions for mitigating the negative impacts of motherhood: Partner support in the forms of time, emotional, and decision support, and other collective efforts to reduce the time-based, strain-based, and behavior-based conflict for mothers.

By combining large-scale survey and bibliometric data, we reveal the decisive role of parenthood in the current gender gap in academia and the underlying mechanisms of how parenting-related conflicts and support mediate the gap. Previous studies asserted the importance of various forms of support from governments and institutions (Morgan et al., 2021). Yet, our results show that family is another new battleground: assistance and support provided by partners in time, emotional and decisional support are also vital. Addressing gender inequality in academia is a task requiring collective intelligence. In addition to parenting-related support by governments and institutions, which could be sometime inadequate due to restrictions on resources and regulations in the U.S., the support from partners and families will also help narrow the gender gap in academia.

Limitations

Like many other survey-based studies, our research is not immune to potential bias caused by the self-selection of respondents. Given the topic of our survey, it is not surprising that a higher proportion of women than men in the population may have responded (see Table S6 in Supplementary file 2). Future efforts on this topic should consider strategies to encourage more responses from men academics to ensure the representativeness of both genders. We also restricted our survey to be sent to individuals associated with institutions in the U.S. or Canada only, considering the similarity between the “laddered” academic systems between the two countries and their distinctions from other countries and regions. But this omitted the rising research power in other countries and areas and restricted the generalizability of our findings to the scientific workforce in North America. Future research may examine this issue in other countries and regions of the world to understand the gender gap in the global scientific workforce.

The current study is also limited by the fact that the survey did not collect data to distinguish same-sex and opposite-sex partners, where gender roles and expectations may differ. Additionally, the current study lacks data on the types of childcare responsibilities by parents, such as whether they are custodial parents or non-custodial parents and whether children live with them. To further understand how childcare responsibilities contribute to gender gaps in academia, data and analyses based on the aforementioned factors will be critical for understanding the true mechanisms and possible policy implications for addressing gender inequalities in the scientific workforce.

Furthermore, we operationalized objective career achievement in productivity, citation, and the extent of collaboration as metrics of publication, citation, and coauthor. Yet, publication practices of academics only account for a part of their career achievements, and other measures such as grant funding and prestigious award have been overlooked. Moreover, it is known that disciplines relying on venues other than journals are underrepresented in the Web of Science (which largely indexes journal publications). Therefore, we may underestimate respondents’ productivity, citation, and collaboration within those disciplines. The strategy we used to normalize these measures by field helps mitigate this issue, given we calculated respondents’ measures of productivity, citation, and collaboration proportional to fellow researchers in the same disciplines. Finally, the cross-sectional questionnaire data from our study restricted the potential to explore time-series change. To analyze the causal relationship between parenting and academics’ career achievements, we plan to track the respondents and organize similar surveys in the future, comparing the parents as the treatment group with non-parents as the control group within gender.

Materials and methods

Data collection

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This study relies on two data sources: a large-scale survey distributed to 99,168 researchers and their publication profiles from the WoS database by Clarivate Analytics. For the survey, we extracted from WoS 396,674 researchers who published at least one paper from 2000–2019,, were affiliated with an institution located in the United States or Canada and had a valid email address associated with them. We then randomly sampled 99,168 researchers (25%) from the population and sent a survey with 53 questions about parenting and career development in 2019 through Qualtrics (see Supplementary file 3). A total of 10,333 respondents initiated the survey, of which 9,105 finished. An analysis of the attrition failed to identify a common point of departure, suggesting individual variability in dropout rather than failed survey construction. This study’s final number of respondents is 7,764 after removing respondents lacking information for critical variables of interest (see Table S1 in Supplementary file 1). We also collected data for non-binary academics, who were excluded from our analysis due to an insufficient sample (n=28). The University of Iowa’s Institutional Review Board approved the study (IRB No. 201901776). All respondents gave informed consent before participating in the survey.

To assess the objective career achievement of respondents, we extracted the bibliographic records for individuals, including productivity (for which our proxy was papers), citation (for which our proxy was citation), and extent of collaboration (for which our proxy was unique coauthors). Recognizing the difference in the publication practices across disciplines and the cumulative nature of these measures, we normalized the three indicators of objective career achievement by discipline and time (see Supplementary file 1). We then use the annual relative publication (ARP), average relative citation (ARC), and annual relative coauthor (ARCo) as indicators for productivity, citation, and extent of collaboration.

Statistical analysis

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This study used binary logistic regression, ordinal logistic regression, linear regression, and Tobit regression model to explore the gender difference in academic careers, depending on the measurement scale of outcome variables. In logistic regression analysis, the odds ratio (OR) of gender (women over men) is computed to explore the role of gender in outcome variables. An OR value lower than 1 indicates women are less likely to produce the outcome than men. Linear regression analysis yields a coefficient for gender (women = 1 and men = 0) rather than odds ratio, where a value below (above) 0 indicates that being a woman has a negative (positive) impact on the outcome measure. We used the Tobit regression model to estimate the relationship between parents’ gender and child number, which is censored as the survey took six as a threshold for child number.

A consistent list of variables was used as control variables across the study, including disciplinary area, career stage, partner job type, and race. We did not include the institution as one control variable because the respondents’ current affiliated institution may also be the outcome of their previous publications and career satisfaction in other workplaces. Instead, we clustered the standard errors in regressions at the institution level, considering an unobserved part of the residual may be correlated within an institution (e.g., an institution created a high-intensity work culture that influenced its employees’ publishing behaviors satisfaction). We also used seemingly unrelated estimation (SUEST) to compare if gender differences vary significantly across parents and non-parents (see Supplementary file 1). Observations with missing values were removed without imputation.

This study analyzed the mediating effect of work-family conflict and partner support in the association between gender and career achievements of academics using mediation effect analysis. Before performing the analysis, we first extracted four factors from partner support and work-family conflict variables using principal component analysis and varimax rotation. The Cronbach’s alpha of each factor’s principal variables is >0.6, showing their acceptable internal consistency within a factor (see Table S14 in Supplementary file 2). We constructed a mediation effect analysis model for all subjective and objective career achievement measures to test the indirect effects mediated by the four factors from gender to the outcome measures for the parent group (see Table S15 in Supplementary file 2). A bootstrap sampling procedure was used with 5,000 iterations to compute 95% confidence intervals and statistical significances for all indirect effect paths—the estimation controlled for career stage, disciplinary area, race, and partner job type. Standard errors are clustered by academics’ affiliations to account for the non-independence of observations in the same affiliation.

Data availability

All data needed to evaluate the conclusions in the paper are present here and in the supplementary material. Aggregated or de-identified data on variables used in this study is available on GitHub (https://github.com/UWMadisonMetaScience/parenting, copy archived at swh:1:rev:46416c03c83eb28b77f6f17650537b2b413da663).

References

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    The International Journal of Gender, Science and Technology 7:363–392.
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Decision letter

  1. Helga Groll
    Reviewing Editor; eLife, United Kingdom
  2. Peter Rodgers
    Senior Editor; eLife, United Kingdom

In the interests of transparency, eLife publishes the most substantive revision requests and the accompanying author responses.

Decision letter after peer review:

Thank you for submitting your article "How parenthood contributes to gender gaps in academia" to eLife for consideration as a Feature Article. Your article has been reviewed by two peer reviewers, and the evaluation has been overseen by two members of the eLife Features Team (Helga Groll/Peter Rodgers). The following individual involved in review of your submission has agreed to reveal their identity: Diego Kozlowski.

The reviewers and editors have discussed the reviews and we have drafted this decision letter to help you prepare a revised submission.

Summary:

Zheng and colleagues present an interesting study based on analyses of a large-scale survey examining the relationship between parenthood and gender gaps in academia. This subject is of considerable relevance to the academic community and would be an appropriate thematic fit for eLife. However, the article needs significant improvement in clarity of language and the authors engage in quite a bit of conjecture that is not supported by their primary findings. Discussions of gender, parenting and career achievement all involve sensitive topics. Precision of language and staying within bounds of what is supported by the data are critical to clearly communicate the author's findings and avoid offense. This is a theme that will come up in many of the specific comments below.

The article overall shows a very thorough analysis, it is very well written, and has a careful design. It is an important contribution to the field, and clarifies very specific mechanisms of gender inequality. Below there are a number of recommendations and concerns. We think that clarifying those would help them to make the article even stronger.

Essential revisions:

1. Why do "All" parent categories have higher ARPs and ARCs (for both men and women) compared to nonparents (Table S10)? Do female parents produce more publications and receive more citations than female non-parents? Do male parents produce more publications and receive more citations than male non-parents? This seems like an important point to discuss and one which is at odds with the author's overall thesis. Also, as mentioned below, Morgan et al. 2021 report that faculty of both genders who have children are slightly more productive than those who do not. This point should be discussed and put into context with the author's data/conclusions.

2. I did not extensively math check, but in areas where I did, the numbers were confusing. Unless I am misunderstanding where the numbers in the text are coming from.

For example, on page 10,

– "women's ARP is 0.28 units lower than men": On the graph the numbers are 2.17-1.79 = 0.38?

– "women's ARC is 0.21 units lower than men": On the graph the numbers are 2.27-2.08 = 0.19?

Or on page 11,

– "ARP, ARC and ARCo are 0.35, 0.2 and 0.10 units…" On the graph the numbers are 2.27-1.82 = 0.45, 2.28-2.13 = 0.15 and 1.09-0.98 = 0.11?

3. The author's discuss the "motherhood penalty". There is also a well-documented "fatherhood premium." How does this fit in with the author's results? Do the author's see evidence of a "fatherhood premium" in their data?

4. Morgan et al. (https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.abd1996) surveyed 3064 tenure-track faculty in 450 departments in the US and Canada. What advances are made in the current datasets/analyses? How do the results compare? In addition to the point mentioned above about faculty of both genders who have children being reported as more productive than those without, Morgan et al. also reports that results are inconclusive as to whether long-term publication rates are affected by parenthood. Can the authors place their study and results into context here?

5. Were there any differences for men/women parents/non-parents observed between different fields within academia? Are the conclusions the same regardless of discipline? Are the disparities the same regardless of discipline?

6. The authors do not distinguish between respondents who currently have childcare responsibilities (i.e., children < 18 currently residing with them) versus those who have ever had children (i.e., children > 18, non-custodial parents, etc.). The authors also do not distinguish between same-sex and opposite sex parents, where gender roles and expectations may differ. These should be raised in the Limitations section of the manuscript, as the current analyses focus on a model of a traditional, opposite-sex, nuclear family.

7. Data needs to be fully referenced within the text and shown if referenced. For example, on page 7 of the Results section, the authors refer to women in academia being more likely to have fewer children (presumably as compared with men?). There is not a reference for a data table here and the data does not appear to be in the supplemental tables? The authors then state "This trend is different from the US general population, where more adult women have children and have more children than men." (REF). Do the authors mean primary caretaking responsibilities of children or children that reside with them?

8. On page 11, last paragraph, the authors discuss results around career stage. This needs a reference to the data table.

9. On page 7, the authors state: "Among those without children, women (59.9%) are more likely than men (43.2%) to report that they chose to be childfree due to career considerations…". If I understand correctly, the survey question was: "Is the number of children (include 0) you currently have related to your career considerations (more or less)?" The interpretation is cause and effect (women chose to be childfree due to career) whereas the survey question asks if these were related considerations (which could include additional factors?).

10. In the Introduction, the authors use the term "non-binaries" to refer to individuals whose self-reported gender identity on the survey was "Other". Please consult the APA guidelines for bias free language: https://apastyle.apa.org/style-grammar-guidelines/bias-free-language/gender

11. In the Introduction, the authors state, "The multigenerational gender role beliefs, which characterize men and women with a simplistic set of features, may direct women academics toward women's normative roles in the family (REFs). Some women academics may become 'maternal gatekeepers" who are reluctant to relinquish family responsibility" (REFs). This seems to stray from the facts and into speculative territory not supported by the author's data.

12. In the Introduction, the authors state, "Although partner support is believed to be more critical to women's career success than to men, especially for those in parenthood, women's demand for partner support is less satisfied" (REFs). What does this mean? Women are more dependent on partner support for career success regardless of parenthood? Is this supported by data? Men need less partner support even in parenthood? Doesn't the author's data show male academic parents receive more time support, etc.?

13. This sentence between page 8-9 is confusing: "While the satisfaction over research is significantly different between mothers and fathers, our results show no significant gender differences in the career satisfaction of parents…therefore, it is likely that women consider more on other gains (e.g., emotional gains) from teaching and service while assessing their overall career satisfaction, while men emphasize research." What do the authors mean by "women consider more on other gains (e.g., emotional gains)" and is this data-driven or speculation? And what is meant by "men emphasize research"? It seems a stretch to attribute motivation / feelings to the author's data.

14. What does this sentence on page 13 mean, "women are usually disproportionately associated with technical work in research" (REF)?

15. In the Discussion section, the authors state, "the perceived negative impact of parenting is one of the major systematic barriers for women's self-selecting attrition from academia…" Can the authors support the claims of self-attrition and self-attrition due to a perceived negative impact of parenting? This seems to imply that women are deciding it's too hard to have children and an academic career, and then deciding to leave academia. Is there data to support this? This also entirely ignores bias/discrimination against women and mothers, which is well documented in academia.

16. In the Discussion section, while I don't believe the authors intended this statement to be offensive, some portions may come across that way: "Women in academia…tend to slough off the burden of children… Given the motherhood penalty, it is unsurprising that many women stay in academia by paying the price of being childfree…" In particular, this places value judgements around having children or not having children. It also seems unsupported by the data.

17. In the Discussion section, the authors discuss the finding that "mothers are more likely to receive financial and technical support from their partners." By stating "It reflects the entrenched gender division of household labor that expands with the new childcare task: Mothers are recognized, and even morally self-recognized, as the babysitters and fathers are the breadwinners" (REF). "As a social norm…fathers bear the financial responsibility. In contrast, fathers compensate mothers' loss due to extra childcare responsibility by offering financial and technical support." Again, can the authors draw this conclusion from their data?

18. In the Discussion section, the authors again make reference to "high attrition rates of mothers in the scientific workforce due to lower satisfaction rates." Can the authors backup the idea of higher attrition rates of mothers compared with non-mothers in the scientific workforce, and also that the reasons for attrition are due to lower satisfaction rates (i.e., self-selection)?

19. P.6. I am happy to see that the authors included non-binary people in their survey. I also understand that the small sample makes it impossible to consider NB into the regression models. Nevertheless, it would be very important to include their responses somehow. A qualitative analysis of the 28 responses from NB people after the quantitative analysis of men and women, to see where they locate within the more general results would be a very interesting complementary analysis.

20. It is not clear to me why the authors decided to send the survey to 25% of the population. If there was a technical limitation, it would be good to state it. Besides this, there is a 9% response rate. It would be helpful to see some robustness checks o whether that 9% is representative of the population or not. Some comparative statistics between respondents and non-respondents would help to disclose some potential self-selection biases.

21. The sample size of parents and non-parents is different, with a larger number of parents to non-parents (roughly 80% to 20%). Statistical measures are usually dependent on sample size, with larger sample sizes having more rejection power. Is it possible that the differences seen between groups, no significant bias on non-parents and significant bias on parents is just and statistical artifact of the sample sizes? The authors could try to check if this is the case using bootstrapped samples of equal size, or also consider directly the absolute values of the metrics to see if there is an important difference between the two groups -besides the statistical difference-.

Further on the previous point. On Figure 1A the authors show the different subjective satisfaction measures by gender and group. What I can infer from that figure is that the biggest difference in gaps between groups -i.e where parent's gap is larger than non-parent gaps- is on career satisfaction and community recognition. On research, although parents do present a larger gap, the non-parents' group also has a bias that is larger than on the other metrics. So this reinforces my doubt about the sample sizes of the two groups and how it affects the statistical results.

To be clear, I do not think this invalidates the results at all. The analysis has been thoroughly done. I would like to see some more robustness checks and details on this issue, and also on the interpretation of SUEST values.

22. P. 12 and table S11. The authors explain that work-family conflict can take the form of time, strain, and behavior-based conflict. They show the difference between groups for the work-family conflict, but they do not mention that for the three specific forms the non-parent group also showed significant differences between men and women. How can we interpret these apparently contradictory results?

23. P. 19 Regarding the policy recommendations, I would add that the metric-based evaluation, and especially the productivity-based career evaluations would harm mothers, as the paper has shown. So, qualitative evaluations that take into consideration parenthood and the individual conditions would also be very important to reduce gender biases.

https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.78909.sa1

Author response

Essential revisions:

1. Why do "All" parent categories have higher ARPs and ARCs (for both men and women) compared to nonparents (Table S10)? Do female parents produce more publications and receive more citations than female non-parents? Do male parents produce more publications and receive more citations than male non-parents? This seems like an important point to discuss and one which is at odds with the author's overall thesis. Also, as mentioned below, Morgan et al. 2021 report that faculty of both genders who have children are slightly more productive than those who do not. This point should be discussed and put into context with the author's data/conclusions.

Thank you for the close attention to the results. We agree that the mean values of ARP and ARC look higher for parents than for non-parents. However, we did not compare the mean values between parents and non-parents directly due to the considerations of (1) the skewness in distributions and (2) the absence of control variables. Mean values are sensitive to extreme values and depend on the distributions of data. We plotted the distributions of ARPs and ARCs by gender, parenthood status, and career stage (see Author response image 1). We found that the values of ARPs and ARCs overall fall into normal distributions with close means and “long tails” across different genders and parent groups, but the tails are longer for the parent groups overall. Additionally, the effect of control variables is not considered in the direct comparison of means, which could be problematic.

Therefore, we used regression analysis to compare between parents and non-parents, controlling for a set of covariates (similar to other analysis in the project). As shown in SI Appendix Table S11, there is no significant difference between mothers and non-mothers in ARP, ARC, or ARCo. However, fathers do have higher ARP and ARCo values than non-fathers, but not ARC. The finding of higher ARP for fathers than non-fathers is consistent with that of Morgan et al. (2021). Yet, we did not find such a pattern between mothers and non-mothers, which is different from Morgan et al. 2021. Additionally, given the potential positive relationship between collaboration and productivity (Larivière et al., 2015), the relationship between the ARP values of fathers and non-fathers could also be related to their collaboration, in addition to fatherhood. We added the following text into the manuscript:

“Additionally, the mean values of the of ARP and ARC are generally higher for the parent group than the non-parent group for both genders (see Table Supplement Table S10). Yet, it should be noted that the direct comparison of means ignores the potential skewness in data distribution and the effect of control variables. Therefore, we further performed regression analysis to compare the parent and non-parent group (see Table Supplement Table S11). We found no significant difference between mothers and non-mothers in ARP, ARC, or ARCo. However, fathers do have higher ARP and ARCo values than non-fathers, but not ARP. The finding of higher ARP for fathers than non-fathers is consistent with that in Morgan et al. (2021). Yet, we did not find such a pattern between mothers and non-mothers, which is different from Morgan et al. (2021). Given the potential positive relationship between collaboration and productivity (Larivière et al., 2015), the relationship between the ARP values of fathers and non-fathers could also be related to their collaboration, in addition to fatherhood.”

Author response image 1
Kernel density distributions of annual relative publications (ARP) and average relative citations (ARC) across parenting groups and genders, by career stages.

2. I did not extensively math check, but in areas where I did, the numbers were confusing. Unless I am misunderstanding where the numbers in the text are coming from.

For example, on page 10,

– "women's ARP is 0.28 units lower than men": On the graph the numbers are 2.17-1.79 = 0.38?

– "women's ARC is 0.21 units lower than men": On the graph the numbers are 2.27-2.08 = 0.19?

Or on page 11,

– "ARP, ARC and ARCo are 0.35, 0.2 and 0.10 units…" On the graph the numbers are 2.27-1.82 = 0.45, 2.28-2.13 = 0.15 and 1.09-0.98 = 0.11?

We appreciate the comment. The number in statements like "women's ARP is 0.28 units lower than men" refers to the linear regression coefficient for the independent variable gender. We did not try to compare the mean values in these statements, knowing that would likely be skewed due to situations like extreme values, distributions, and control variables. To clarify the confusion, we have moved the 95% confidence intervals and the p-values closer to the coefficients. The revised text reads as follows:

“Our results further confirmed gender disparities in objective career achievements (See Figure 1 and Table Supplement Table S10). Regardless of parenthood status, women are outperformed by men in all three measures of objective career achievement. Specifically, women’s ARP is 0.28 (95% CI [-0.39, -0.17], p=0.000) units lower than men, women’s ARC is 0.21 (95% CI [-0.38, -0.05], p=0.013) units lower than men, and women’s ARCo is 0.08 (95% CI [-0.14, -0.01], p=0.023) unit lower than men. This echoes previous findings that women produce fewer publications (Astegiano et al., 2019; Besselaar and Sandström, 2017), receive lower citations (Larivière et al., 2013; Maliniak et al., 2013), and have fewer coauthors (Ductor et al., 2021) than their male counterparts.”

3. The author's discuss the "motherhood penalty". There is also a well-documented "fatherhood premium." How does this fit in with the author's results? Do the author's see evidence of a "fatherhood premium" in their data?

We are grateful for these questions. To answer these questions, we further compared the parent and non-parent group in terms of their objective and subjective career achievements (see SI Appendix Table S11). We did not find “fatherhood premium” in any of the three measures of subjective career achievements. However, we did find that fathers are more productive than non-fathers, showing some levels of fatherhood premium in research productivity. In the meantime, we also observed that fathers are more collaborative than non-fathers, which could be related to the higher productivity of fathers besides fatherhood, given possible causal effects between collaboration and productivity (Larivière et al., 2015).

4. Morgan et al. (https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.abd1996) surveyed 3064 tenure-track faculty in 450 departments in the US and Canada. What advances are made in the current datasets/analyses? How do the results compare? In addition to the point mentioned above about faculty of both genders who have children being reported as more productive than those without, Morgan et al. also reports that results are inconclusive as to whether long-term publication rates are affected by parenthood. Can the authors place their study and results into context here?

We appreciate that the reviewers brought up the important contribution by Morgan et al. (2021). Compared with their study, our study is different in many ways, including (but not limited to):

(1) Morgan et al.’s study focused on the gender gap in productivity due to parenting, while our study examines gender gaps in a broader spectrum by covering both objective (productivity, citation, and collaboration) and subjective (research satisfaction, career satisfaction and community recognition) career achievements.

(2) Morgan et al.’s study focused on three disciplines (computer science, business, and history), while our study examines all disciplines (as covered in Web of Science).

(3) Morgan et al.’s study analyzed productivity, position satisfaction and their relationships with parental leave policy, while our study focused on the role of family (especially partners) in shaping the gender disparities we observe.

The difference between the Morgan et al.’s study and this project goes beyond that. But we think our research aligns with Morgan et al.’s study in some way and complements it with additional findings by focusing on a wider spectrum of disciplines, assessing both subjective and objective career achievements, and concentrating on the role of partners and families.

Regarding productivity, the Morgan et al.’s study found that mothers’ productivity drops at a higher rate than fathers’ right after the birth of their children. They also found that parents are overall slightly more productive than non-parents regardless of gender. We did also find fathers are more productivity than non-fathers overall, but we did not find mothers are more productive than non-mothers. As mentioned in our responses to comments #1 and #3, the higher number of collaborators fathers have than non-fathers might also be related to fathers’ higher productivity. Future research might consider looking into the causality between these two factors.

As for the long-term impact of parenthood on productivity, because we did not collect the time of each childbirth for parents, our analysis on the long-term impact of parenthood on productivity was limited. As an approximation, we analyzed the productivity gender gap in both parent and non-parent group based on career stage (see Table Supplement Table S10), based on the assumption the career stage and length is reflective of the time of childbirth. We are aware that this might not be the case for many academics. Overall, our result shows that mothers are less productive than fathers across early, middle, and late career. But women and men in the non-parent group do not show this pattern. Therefore, the relationship between parenthood and gender gaps in productivity seems to go beyond early or mid-career and exists across all career stages.

5. Were there any differences for men/women parents/non-parents observed between different fields within academia? Are the conclusions the same regardless of discipline? Are the disparities the same regardless of discipline?

We thank the reviewers for bringing up these important questions. We compared the subjective and objective career achievements between genders by disciplinary area. Regarding objective career achievements, we found that fathers are more productive than mothers in medical sciences, and natural sciences and engineering, but not in arts and humanities, and social sciences. Because we rely on data from Web of Science, it is likely that academics productivity is not fully captured for arts and humanities, and social sciences due to the known coverage gap in these two areas by Web of Science. Regarding subjective career achievements, women are more likely to be less satisfied with their research than men in arts and humanities, medical sciences, and natural sciences and engineering. Mothers are more likely to have lower research or career satisfaction in all four disciplinary areas, and less likely to feel recognized by their scholarly communities in natural science and engineering, and medical sciences.

While the conclusions for some disciplinary areas are slightly different from others, this does not necessarily indicate that our previous conclusions are invalid. These differences are expected due to variances in scholarship practices among those disciplinary areas.

Author response image 2
Arts and humanities.
Author response image 3
Medical sciences.
Author response image 4
Natural sciences and engineering.
Author response image 5
Social sciences.

6. The authors do not distinguish between respondents who currently have childcare responsibilities (i.e., children < 18 currently residing with them) versus those who have ever had children (i.e., children > 18, non-custodial parents, etc.). The authors also do not distinguish between same-sex and opposite sex parents, where gender roles and expectations may differ. These should be raised in the Limitations section of the manuscript, as the current analyses focus on a model of a traditional, opposite-sex, nuclear family.

We completely agree with the issues brought up by the reviewers. We have added the following text to our Limitation section per reviewers’ suggestions.

“The current study is also limited by the fact that the survey did not collect data to distinguishing same-sex and opposite-sex partners, where gender roles and expectations may differ. Additionally, the current study lacks data on the types of childcare responsibilities by parents, such as whether they are custodial parents or non-custodial parents, and whether children live with them. To further understand how childcare responsibilities contributes to gender gaps in academia, data and analyses based on the factors mentioned above will be critical for understanding the true mechanisms and possible policy implications for address gender inequalities in the scientific workforce.”

7. Data needs to be fully referenced within the text and shown if referenced. For example, on page 7 of the Results section, the authors refer to women in academia being more likely to have fewer children (presumably as compared with men?). There is not a reference for a data table here and the data does not appear to be in the supplemental tables? The authors then state "This trend is different from the US general population, where more adult women have children and have more children than men." (REF). Do the authors mean primary caretaking responsibilities of children or children that reside with them?

We thank the reviewers for bringing this up. In the statement mentioned by the reviewer, we did not reference a table because it only involved one single regression analysis. We have appended the details of this regression to Table S6 and added the reference to the text.

As for the statement "This trend is different from the US general population, where more adult women have children and have more children than men", it was based on the 2017 Survey of Income and Program Participation by the U.S. Census Bureau. Based on the survey description, we don’t believe they differ in terms of childcare responsibilities. Our survey did not distinguish parents in this manner either, which we acknowledge as a limitation of our study. Thus, this statement simply commented on the number of children they have. We have revised the sentence as follows.

This trend is different from the general population in the United States, where the percentage of adult women who have children is higher than that of adult men, and the average number of children mothers have is higher than that of fathers (Monte, 2017; National Center for Health Statistics, 2021).

8. On page 11, last paragraph, the authors discuss results around career stage. This needs a reference to the data table.

We have added Table S10 to this paragraph as the reference table.

9. On page 7, the authors state: "Among those without children, women (59.9%) are more likely than men (43.2%) to report that they chose to be childfree due to career considerations…". If I understand correctly, the survey question was: "Is the number of children (include 0) you currently have related to your career considerations (more or less)?" The interpretation is cause and effect (women chose to be childfree due to career) whereas the survey question asks if these were related considerations (which could include additional factors?).

We highly appreciate the comment, which we completely agree with. We have changed the mentioned texts to the following to avoid causal implications:

“Among those without children, women (59.9%) are more likely than men (43.2%) to report that their choices to be childfree were related to career considerations (OR=2.10, 95%CI [1.69, 2.62], p=0.000; see Table Supplement Table S7), while controlling for discipline, career stage, and race.”

10. In the Introduction, the authors use the term "non-binaries" to refer to individuals whose self-reported gender identity on the survey was "Other". Please consult the APA guidelines for bias free language: https://apastyle.apa.org/style-grammar-guidelines/bias-free-language/gender

We highly appreciate the reviewers for the comment and suggestions. We’d like to clarify that we classified those who chose the “Other” category and added text comments that imply them to be in the non-binary category as non-binaries. Such comments may include (but are not limited to) keywords such as genderqueer, agender, bigender, gender-fluid, non-binary, gender-nonconforming, gender-neutral, and gender-creative.

11. In the Introduction, the authors state, "The multigenerational gender role beliefs, which characterize men and women with a simplistic set of features, may direct women academics toward women's normative roles in the family (REFs). Some women academics may become 'maternal gatekeepers" who are reluctant to relinquish family responsibility" (REFs). This seems to stray from the facts and into speculative territory not supported by the author's data.

Thank you for your comments on the Introduction part. We agree that these statements are a bit stray from the facts and not supported by our data. We thus removed the statements from our manuscript.

12. In the Introduction, the authors state, "Although partner support is believed to be more critical to women's career success than to men, especially for those in parenthood, women's demand for partner support is less satisfied" (REFs). What does this mean? Women are more dependent on partner support for career success regardless of parenthood? Is this supported by data? Men need less partner support even in parenthood? Doesn't the author's data show male academic parents receive more time support, etc.?

We thank the reviewers for the comment. We have modified our text to the following to avoid confusions:

“Although partner support has been found to help reduce mothers’ work-family conflict to an extent greater than fathers’, women’s demand for partner support is often less satisfied (Adams and Golsch, 2021; Dickson, 2020).”

13. This sentence between page 8-9 is confusing: "While the satisfaction over research is significantly different between mothers and fathers, our results show no significant gender differences in the career satisfaction of parents…therefore, it is likely that women consider more on other gains (e.g., emotional gains) from teaching and service while assessing their overall career satisfaction, while men emphasize research." What do the authors mean by "women consider more on other gains (e.g., emotional gains)" and is this data-driven or speculation? And what is meant by "men emphasize research"? It seems a stretch to attribute motivation / feelings to the author's data.

We thank the reviewers for these comments. We agree that the original statement is a little stretchy from our data. We have changed the related text to the following to avoid possible ambiguities and conjecture.

While the satisfaction over research is significantly different between mothers and fathers, our results show no significant gender difference in the career satisfaction of parents (OR=0.89, 95%CI [0.77,1.03], p=0.129). Furthermore, of those women who expressed satisfaction over their career achievements, 13.6% were not satisfied with their research achievements. The number is 8.9% for men (see Table Supplement Table S9). Research, teaching, and service being the three primary duties for many tenure-track faculty, it has been found that teaching and service are more heavily loaded on women than on men (Bellas, 1999; Guarino and Borden, 2017). If teaching and service are indeed loaded heavier on women, then mothers’ lower satisfaction rates on research could be related to the extra amount of time and effort they put on these aspects, on top of mothers’ already

14. What does this sentence on page 13 mean, "women are usually disproportionately associated with technical work in research" (REF)?

We thank the reviewers for the question. We meant to cite the Macaluso et al. (2016) study’s finding that women were significantly more likely to be associated with tasks such as performing experiments, especially in laboratories. Given that experiments might not necessary be the technical support in our study, we removed the statement to avoid any possible stretch of our results.

15. In the Discussion section, the authors state, "the perceived negative impact of parenting is one of the major systematic barriers for women's self-selecting attrition from academia…" Can the authors support the claims of self-attrition and self-attrition due to a perceived negative impact of parenting? This seems to imply that women are deciding it's too hard to have children and an academic career, and then deciding to leave academia. Is there data to support this? This also entirely ignores bias/discrimination against women and mothers, which is well documented in academia.

We thank the reviewers for the questions and comments. By the statement, "the perceived negative impact of parenting is one of the major systematic barriers for women's self-selecting attrition from academia, contributing to the "leaky pipeline" in academia (Anders, 2004)”, we meant to express our agreement with the findings in the Anders’s (2004) study, where they found systemic barriers associated with parenting discourage women from pursuing academic careers. We agree with the reviewers that parenting related issue is only one reason for the “leaky pipeline”, and many issues such as bias and discriminations against women and mothers also contribute significantly to gender inequalities in science. This was also why we emphasized that “the perceived negative impact of parenting is one of major systemic barriers…”. To avoid possible confusions, we rephrased the statement as follows:

“The perceived negative impact of parenting could intensify gender inequalities, as previous research (Anders, 2004) found it was one of the major systemic barriers for women's self-selecting away from academia, contributing to the academic "leaky pipeline".”

Reference:

Anders, S. M. van. (2004). Why the Academic Pipeline Leaks: Fewer Men than Women Perceive Barriers to Becoming Professors. Sex Roles, 51(9), 511–521. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-004-5461-9

16. In the Discussion section, while I don't believe the authors intended this statement to be offensive, some portions may come across that way: "Women in academia…tend to slough off the burden of children… Given the motherhood penalty, it is unsurprising that many women stay in academia by paying the price of being childfree…" In particular, this places value judgements around having children or not having children. It also seems unsupported by the data.

We highly appreciate the comment. We have corrected our language in the text to be:

“On the other hand, we found that women are less likely than men to have children and have fewer children. The insignificant differences between non-fathers and non-mothers in their productivity, citation, and collaboration imply that parenthood contributes to the gendered differences in these three aspects for parents. Given the motherhood penalty, it is unsurprising that academic women have fewer children and are less likely to have children than men, which our results suggested as being related to career considerations: Our results show non-mothers are more likely than non-fathers to report their decision to be childfree was related to career considerations and mother academics are more likely than father academics to report that the lower number of children they have was also related to career considerations.”

17. In the Discussion section, the authors discuss the finding that "mothers are more likely to receive financial and technical support from their partners." By stating "It reflects the entrenched gender division of household labor that expands with the new childcare task: Mothers are recognized, and even morally self-recognized, as the babysitters and fathers are the breadwinners" (REF). "As a social norm…fathers bear the financial responsibility. In contrast, fathers compensate mothers' loss due to extra childcare responsibility by offering financial and technical support." Again, can the authors draw this conclusion from their data?

We highly appreciate the comments. In the Discussion section, by stating "It reflects the entrenched gender division of household labor that expands with the new childcare task: Mothers are recognized, and even morally self-recognized, as the babysitters and fathers are the breadwinners (Hauser, 2012). As a social norm, it is more common that mothers sacrifice their working time, emotionally support fathers' work, and understand their decisions because fathers bear the financial responsibility.", we are trying to connect our findings to potential reasons behind that. We have changed our statements to the following:

“On the contrary, mothers are more likely to receive financial and technical support from their partners. Mothers’ higher likelihood of receiving financial support might be related to the entrenched gender division of household labor, where fathers are more likely to be the breadwinners and bear financial responsibilities (Hauser, 2012).”

18. In the Discussion section, the authors again make reference to "high attrition rates of mothers in the scientific workforce due to lower satisfaction rates." Can the authors backup the idea of higher attrition rates of mothers compared with non-mothers in the scientific workforce, and also that the reasons for attrition are due to lower satisfaction rates (i.e., self-selection)?

We highly appreciate the comments. Our data do not support the claims directly. We intended to cite previous research and connect with our findings. We have changed the corresponding text as follows:

“Moreover, the higher levels of work-family conflict experienced by mothers also worsen the gender gap in satisfaction over research and perceived recognition by parents, which are highly related to women's turnover intention (Watanabe and Falci, 2016). Reducing mothers' work-family conflict and increasing their general support could thus reduce the gender gap in academics' perceived career achievement. These mediating variables indicate the directions for mitigating the negative impacts of motherhood: Partner support in the forms of time, emotional, and decision support, and other collective efforts to reduce the time-based, strain-based, and behavior-based conflict for mothers.”

19. P.6. I am happy to see that the authors included non-binary people in their survey. I also understand that the small sample makes it impossible to consider NB into the regression models. Nevertheless, it would be very important to include their responses somehow. A qualitative analysis of the 28 responses from NB people after the quantitative analysis of men and women, to see where they locate within the more general results would be a very interesting complementary analysis.

We agree with the reviewers that the inclusion of non-binary respondents is critical, but any regression analysis will not be feasible due to the limited sample size. Here is the descriptive analysis regarding the 28 no-binary respondents.

In total, 28 non-binary participants responded to our survey, of which 18 ever committed partnership. Seven of them have children, among which six (85.7%) indicated that having children has a negative impact on their career, and all seven (100%) respondents reported that the number of children they have is related to career considerations.

Regarding the three measures of subjective career achievement, 5 out of 7 (71.4%) parents are not satisfied with their research achievements, as compared to 4 out of 11 (36.4%) non-parents. For career satisfaction, 4 out of 7 (57.1%) parents expressed disagreement, as compared to 2 out of 11 (18.2%) non-parents. For scholarly recognition, 1 out of 6 (16.7%) parents expressed disagreement, as compared to 2 out of 11 (18.2%) for non-parents.

Regarding the three measures of objective career achievement, the ARP is 1.34 for parents and 1.36 for non-parents. The ARC is 1.58 for parents and 1.79 for the non-parents. The ARCo is 0.92 for the parents and 0.98 for the non-parents.

The limited descriptive analysis shows that parenthood is also related to non-binary respondents’ career achievements. However, given the small sample size, the above comparisons may lack statistical power and therefor be interpreted with limited generalizability.

20. It is not clear to me why the authors decided to send the survey to 25% of the population. If there was a technical limitation, it would be good to state it. Besides this, there is a 9% response rate. It would be helpful to see some robustness checks o whether that 9% is representative of the population or not. Some comparative statistics between respondents and non-respondents would help to disclose some potential self-selection biases.

We thank the reviewers for the suggestions. We took a random sample consisting of 25% (99,168) of the population mainly because the version of Qualtrics (the tool we used to distribute the survey) had a weekly limit (10,000) for the number of email addresses that we could send the survey to. We thus decided to take a sample so that we could distribute the survey in a reasonably short period of time. Our response rate is lower than the Morgan et al.’s study, but a bit higher than some other studies (Ni et al., 2021).

To evaluate the representatives of our analytical sample, we compared the gender and discipline area compositions in the population, surveyed group, respondents, and final analytical sample. The distributions are shown in the updated Table S1. Please note that the gender categorization in the following table was decided using the method by Larivière et al. (2013), which is different from the gender classification in our analyses (based on self-reported data from the survey).

References:

Larivière, V., Ni, C., Gingras, Y., Cronin, B., and Sugimoto, C. R. (2013). Bibliometrics: Global gender disparities in science. Nature, 504(7479), 211–213. https://doi.org/10.1038/504211a

Ni, C., Smith, E., Yuan, H., Larivière, V., and Sugimoto, C. R. (2021). The gendered nature of authorship. Science Advances, 7(36), eabe4639. https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.abe4639

21. The sample size of parents and non-parents is different, with a larger number of parents to non-parents (roughly 80% to 20%). Statistical measures are usually dependent on sample size, with larger sample sizes having more rejection power. Is it possible that the differences seen between groups, no significant bias on non-parents and significant bias on parents is just and statistical artifact of the sample sizes? The authors could try to check if this is the case using bootstrapped samples of equal size, or also consider directly the absolute values of the metrics to see if there is an important difference between the two groups -besides the statistical difference.

Further on the previous point. On Figure 1A the authors show the different subjective satisfaction measures by gender and group. What I can infer from that figure is that the biggest difference in gaps between groups -i.e where parent's gap is larger than non-parent gaps- is on career satisfaction and community recognition. On research, although parents do present a larger gap, the non-parents' group also has a bias that is larger than on the other metrics. So this reinforces my doubt about the sample sizes of the two groups and how it affects the statistical results.

To be clear, I do not think this invalidates the results at all. The analysis has been thoroughly done. I would like to see some more robustness checks and details on this issue, and also on the interpretation of SUEST values.

We appreciate the comments. We agree that the relatively small sample size of the non-parent group and the difference of sample sizes could potentially raise concerns. Therefore, as a robustness test of our results, we used non-parametric bootstrapping to estimate the 95% bias-corrected confidence intervals of our models across the non-parent and parent groups. The test is performed 5,000 times by resampling with replacement from each group respectively to obtain a series of new samples of the same sample sizes. If the 95% bias-corrected confidence interval does not contain zero, we will consider the result as significant. Our bootstrap results (see Author response table 1) show that overall, the results are consistent with the results in our original manuscript.

Author response table 1
The bootstrap results for subjective and objective career achievements – coefficients and 95% bias-corrected confidence interval (CI).
Subjective career achievementCoef.95% bias-corrected CIObjective career achievementCoef.95% bias-corrected CI
LowerUpperLowerUpper
Non-parent
Research satisfaction-0.062-0.3170.185ARP0.016-0.1480.174
Career satisfaction0.052-0.2270.334ARC-0.321-0.7650.032
Community recognition-0.05-0.3330.226ARCo0.025-0.1090.141
Parent
Research satisfaction-0.332-0.457-0.208ARP-0.349-0.486-0.216
Career satisfaction-0.116-0.250.035ARC-0.196-0.386-0.01
Community recognition-0.308-0.454-0.162ARCo-0.102-0.174-0.031
Coefficient difference (non-parent – parent)
Research satisfaction0.271-0.0160.549ARP0.3650.1520.572
Career satisfaction0.168-0.1490.476ARC-0.126-0.5990.273
Community recognition0.259-0.0630.558ARCo0.126-0.020.263

The p values of SUEST are used to show whether the women/men odds ratio value in the parent group is significantly different from that in the non-parent group. If the p-value is below the predetermined significance level, we will accept the null hypothesis that the effect of gender (women/men) on the dependent variable is significantly different in the regression models for the parent and non-parent groups. We also performed bootstrapping to check the robustness of the results, in which we obtained 5,000 cross-group coefficient differences for gender (women/men) between the non-parent and parent groups to draw empirical p values. We found that the bootstrapping results are consistent with the results using the SUEST methods.

22. P. 12 and table S11. The authors explain that work-family conflict can take the form of time, strain, and behavior-based conflict. They show the difference between groups for the work-family conflict, but they do not mention that for the three specific forms the non-parent group also showed significant differences between men and women. How can we interpret these apparently contradictory results?

We thank the reviewers for their comments. We agree that there are noticeable differences between women and men in the non-parent group concerning time, strain, and behavior-based conflict. However, the levels of conflicts at all three forms are different between the non-parent and parent group (see Table S12):

  • The percentage of non-parents experiencing work-family conflict: time-based conflict (women=39.1% vs. men=27.1%), strain-based conflict (women=16.1% vs. men=14.1%), and behavior-based conflict (women=8.8% vs Men=5.1%).

  • The percentage of parents experiencing work-family conflict: time-based conflict (women=54.7 % vs. men=39.0 %), strain-based conflict (women=30.8% vs. men=20.6%), and behavior-based conflict (women=11.5% vs men=7.9%).

Overall, the level of conflicts is much lower in the non-parent group than in the parent group, although it still shows difference between non-parent women and men. This may further imply that women are more likely than men to experience the three types of conflict, but having children may exacerbate the gap. Therefore, we do not think these results are contradictory. Instead, this further implies that children matter a lot in the difference in work-family conflict experienced by women and men.

23. P. 19 Regarding the policy recommendations, I would add that the metric-based evaluation, and especially the productivity-based career evaluations would harm mothers, as the paper has shown. So, qualitative evaluations that take into consideration parenthood and the individual conditions would also be very important to reduce gender biases.

We highly appreciate the suggestions. We have added the following text to the Discussion section on Page 19.

“Additionally, given the observed gender gaps in research productivity, the current metric-based evaluation, especially those based on productivity, will undoubtedly hurt mothers more. Therefore, additional metrics and qualitative evaluations that take into account parenthood and individual conditions would be critical to reduce gender biases in academic settings.”

https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.78909.sa2

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Xiang Zheng

    Xiang Zheng is in the Information School, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, United States

    Contribution
    Conceptualization, Data curation, Software, Formal analysis, Visualization, Methodology, Writing – original draft, Writing – review and editing
    Competing interests
    No competing interests declared
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-6619-5504
  2. Haimiao Yuan

    Haimiao Yuan is in the College of Education, The University of Iowa, Iowa City, United States

    Contribution
    Conceptualization, Data curation, Software, Formal analysis, Investigation, Visualization, Methodology, Writing – original draft, Writing – review and editing
    Competing interests
    No competing interests declared
  3. Chaoqun Ni

    Chaoqun Ni is in the Information School, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, United States

    Contribution
    Conceptualization, Resources, Data curation, Software, Formal analysis, Supervision, Funding acquisition, Validation, Investigation, Visualization, Methodology, Writing – original draft, Project administration, Writing – review and editing
    For correspondence
    chaoqun.ni@wisc.edu
    Competing interests
    No competing interests declared
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-4130-7602

Funding

Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (135-AAI3865)

  • Chaoqun Ni

University of Wisconsin-Madison (Sarah M. Pritchard Faculty Support Fund)

  • Chaoqun Ni

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.

Acknowledgements

We thank Observatoire des sciences et des technologies at the University of Quebec in Montreal for access to the Web of Science data. We also thank Dr. Erjia Yan (Drexel University) for insights and comments on earlier drafts of the manuscript. This paper is available open access thanks to the University of Wisconsin Information School’s Sarah M Pritchard Faculty Support Fund.

Ethics

Human subjects: The survey of this study was approved by the IRB board at the University of Iowa (IRB ID#201901776) IRB-02 DHHS Registration # IRB00000100, Univ of Iowa, DHHS Federalwide Assurance # FWA00003007. Below is the consent information from the approved IRB: You are invited to participate in a research project being conducted at the University of Iowa regarding the career development of researchers. The primary purpose of this study is to investigate the relationship between marriage, parenthood, gender, and the career trajectories of researchers. We aim to understand whether, and to what degree, these factors are related to the professional development of researchers. This project will provide implications for future scientists about their work-life management and career development, as well as related stakeholders, for the purpose of creating a better environment that will facilitate the development of researchers' careers. If you agree to participate, we would like you to complete an online survey (found below). You are free to stop taking this survey if you prefer not to answer any question. It will take approximately 15 to 20 minutes. Confidentiality research data will be kept anonymous and secure (encrypted and stored in a locked file) for up to 10 years and will then be deleted. Taking part in this research study is entirely voluntary. If you do not wish to participate in this study, you are free to decline. You may also withdraw from this project at any time, without consequences or recrimination. You will NOT be asked for an explanation for your withdrawal. Should you choose to withdraw after finishing the survey, please advise the project manager or any member of the research team. In the case of early withdrawal from the study, data will be destroyed immediately. If you have any questions about this project, please contact Haimiao Yuan (haimiao-yuan@uiowa.edu) at the University of Iowa. If you have questions about the rights of research subjects, please contact the Human Subjects Office, 105 Hardin Library for the Health Sciences, 600 Newton Rd, The University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242-1098, (319) 335-6564, or e-mail irb@uiowa.edu. Thank you very much for your consideration.

Senior Editor

  1. Peter Rodgers, eLife, United Kingdom

Reviewing Editor

  1. Helga Groll, eLife, United Kingdom

Publication history

  1. Received: March 24, 2022
  2. Accepted: July 12, 2022
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: July 13, 2022 (version 1)
  4. Accepted Manuscript updated: July 13, 2022 (version 2)
  5. Version of Record published: July 20, 2022 (version 3)

Copyright

© 2022, Zheng et al.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.

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  1. Xiang Zheng
  2. Haimiao Yuan
  3. Chaoqun Ni
(2022)
Meta-Research: How parenthood contributes to gender gaps in academia
eLife 11:e78909.
https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.78909

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