Many were the reactions to my last blog, not from a single man, but from women. All of them, women working at universities, and active in science, tell the same old story. They all have three jobs at the same time: (i) work at the university – teaching, supervising, laboratory work, fieldwork, writing manuscripts, administration; (ii) work at home – cleaning, cooking, gardening, furnishing, washing, paying bills; (iii) taking care of one to three children – fixing their food, their clothes, bringing/fetching them at the day care centre, bringing/fetching them from their various activities, organising kid parties. And some even have a fourth job: taking care of their male partner – buying his clothes, organizing his wardrobe, ironing his shirts, cleaning up his mess.
Running four parallel jobs and having weekly working hours of more than 80, plus sleepless nights, is quite an achievement. But it does unfortunately not count at all when it comes to competing for university positions or research funding. The only things that count are the number of published articles, the citation index, the number of supervised PhD students and the teaching. Clearly women and men compete for positions with completely different preconditions.
Of course some may say that I am exaggerating the situation, and that many men now equally share the household burden and childcare. Sure, some do, but these few are still a minority. It is thanks to these few men that the few women at universities manage a successful science career. And it is thanks to the majority of men, that the majority of women do not manage a successful science career.
Thirty-one years ago, my husband and I started to share equally, childcare and household duties; we worked 50% each at the university and with our science projects, and we were home half of the week taking care of our daughter and of the house. We did this not during one year, but for at least ten years, and although it was difficult during times, both of us managed well; we got a lot of work done, each completed his/her degree in time and we found science jobs. When I tell this to people, I get the following comments: one cannot survive in Sweden on two 50% positions, 50% positions are not available and discriminating, half-time positions are a disadvantage, many employers will not allow half-time positions, and so on. And during all my years in Sweden, I have not met a single person who actually works halftime and is home half of the time. Some (mainly women) may work 80%, while their partners work 100 or 120%. Women also more often stay at home, a full year or more after having given birth to a child, with the following reason: the partner earns more money! Just imagine the number of articles one could publish working 50% during two years as compared to 0% during the same time!
Gender science has emerged as a topic during the past 30 years, but I cannot see that gender science has actually had any large impact on this situation. If it had, we should now see as many women being employed at universities as men, and with equal salaries. We should also not see blue and green colored clothing for boys and pink colored clothes for girls, specific toys for boys and specific toys for girls, targeted advertisements for girls and for boys, journals entitled ‘Mama’ or ‘Pregnant’ (of course featuring a woman), and, and, and ….
I guess after all, the only persons who can really change the situation are women themselves, and those men who see it as a responsibility to share childcare and household duties equally, independent from what the salary is, or what the employer thinks.