Women Who Extend Maternity Leave Face a Tough Comeback At Work

“When I looked at my female mentors, none of them had children, and that was quite telling to me,” said a certain Dr. Tara Martin, a principal research scientist with Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO. As someone who was told that she could, in fact, do it all, reality told another story. At 40, she decided to quit her job to have children and found that taking an extended break to have her two kids was tough particularly when she decided to join the workforce after. A story familiar with many working mothers, most women find that taking a career break to have children is often a one-way ticket, oftentimes there’s no way back.

Women academics who are parents have lower odds of securing tenure-track jobs compared to male colleagues who are parents

One of the most unusual things is Martin’s return to her career and even though the professional world is slowly changing, women finding success even after a career break is more the exception rather than the rule. In 2013, Mary Ann Mason co-authored ‘Do Babies Matter: Gender and Family in the Ivory Tower’ with Nicholas Wolfinger and Marc Goulden which highlighted how women in fields like medicine and law had lower and later birth rates than women in other sectors. ‘What’s more, the authors found that women academics who are parents have lower odds of securing tenure-track jobs compared to male colleagues who are parents. The gender ratio bifurcates from parity and the numbers accelerate towards a pronounced male bias in tenured professors. Many of these leaks in the pipeline of female academics occur when the tenure clock conflicts with the biological clock. After leaving, very few returns,’ revealed University Affairs Canada. 

“A workaholic culture, and a paucity of financial and logistical family-friendly support structures, remain key hypotheses for why women leave academia”

Even though women do experience much success in the early stages of their careers, there are many barriers and glass ceilings for women as they get ahead. ‘Institutional inflexibility around the still female-biased workload of parenting, a workaholic culture, and a paucity of financial and logistical family-friendly support structures, remain key hypotheses for why women leave academia.’ Dr. Martin also said that if there are resources out there to help women have a smooth transition back into the workplace, she is not aware of them. According to her, her successful return to work has been due to sheer determination and working unpaid jobs while birthing and caring for her two children. 

Ishwar Puri, McMaster’s dean of engineering, “When someone goes on leave, whether it’s for health, pregnancy or family care, we have policies that will relieve them from their duties … but it’s still a hit to one’s professional career. Women should not be burdened by life events more than men are.”

Image credit: Headway – Ginger.io

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