Ph.D. and childbearing? Education and work-life balance of Ph.D. students

Veronika Paksi, Institute of Sociology, CSS, HAS and Corvinus University Budapest

Although the proportion of women slightly increased among PhD recipient during the last decade in Hungary, their proportion is still lower than those of men, especially in the field of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Moreover, women are underrepresented in top positions, in every occupational field in academia. In case of early academic career marriage and childbirths are mainly responsible for the leak in the ‘pipeline’. The main reason is ‘simple’: academic career advancement model does not fit with women’s “biological clocks”. On the one hand career requires lock-step advancement, on the other hand, the ideal timing for career usually overlaps with the ideal timing for family formation. Young research generation have to face a life stage when decisions should be taken on the timing of these events, but making long-term decisions in recent social circumstances is becoming difficult. Though normal life course has become flexible, individuals should take the risk for it. Moreover, women’ childbearing, unlike men’, is strongly limited by their biological age. This paper will focus on the education and work-life balance of PhD students. Special attention will be given to the timing of the first child and PhD attendance in the field of STEM. At the conference I shall introduce the preliminary findings of my research. I will use semi-structured interviews, the population is PhD students under the age of 40 from the field of STEM. The results are expected to give us a better understanding a) how PhD attendance affects women’ first childbirth, b) what facilitating and constraining factors students can identify in relation to balancing PhD attendance and the first childbirth, c) what dilemmas and strategies they have connected to balancing these spheres, d) whether the special characteristics of education in STEM have effects on their balance, and if yes, how.

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Presented in Poster Session 3