March 13, 2009

Family demands push women from math

A U.S. study suggests women often choose to opt out of math-intensive careers because they need more flexibility to tend to family demands.

The Cornell University report said women with advanced math abilities choose non-math fields more often than men with similar abilities.

A major reason explaining why women are underrepresented not only in math-intensive fields but also in senior leadership positions in most fields is that many women choose to have children, and the timing of child rearing coincides with the most demanding periods of their career, such as trying to get tenure or working exorbitant hours to get promoted, lead author Stephen J. Ceci, professor of human development at Cornell, said Friday in a release.

The authors recommend that universities offer deferred start-up of tenure-track positions and part-time work that segues to full-time tenure-track work for women who are raising children.

The findings are published in the American Psychological Association's Psychological Bulletin.