New Academic Scientists Want Work-Family Balance:
Are Universities Keeping up?
Failing Families, Failing Science: Work-Family Conflict in Academic Science.
By Elaine Ecklund & Anne E. Lincoln, New York, New York University Press, 2016. 224 pp.
$89.00 (Paper). ISBN: 1479843121; $27.00 (Cloth), ISBN: 147984313X
Amy M. Brausch
Published online: 10 March 2017
Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017
Failing Families, Failing Science: Work-Family Conflict in
Academic Science, written by sociologists Elaine Howard
Ecklund and Anne Lincoln, is based on findings from the au-
thors’ study, Perceptions of Women in Academic Science
(PWAS), in which they surveyed over 2000 male and female
junior and senior scientists at elite universities and conducted
in-depth interviews with a subset of them. The researchers’ aim
was to gain understanding into the challenges that new academ-
ic scientists face in physics, a field where women are extremely
underrepresented, and in biology, a field in which the number
of women nearly equals the number of men. A key takeaway
message from this book is that most universities maintain a set
of expectations about the ideal scientist, but new scientists, both
men and women, are increasingly unwilling to make the per-
sonal and family sacrifices required to live up to this ideal. The
result is work-family conflict, which discourages many young
and talented scientists, mostly women, who ultimately leave
their academic posts for more accommodating occupations,
which ultimately hinders the progression of scientific knowl-
edge for us all.
Accordingtotheauthors’ research, the ideal scientist is a
home wife who can take care of everything else. However, the
authors also point out that modern fatherhood is changing.
More men desire more time with their families and more
family-work balance. Modern families are also changing.
More women work outside the house, whether full or part-time.
More women are entering academic science too. Althoough
these changes bring diversity to science faculty, the structure
of academia has not changed quickly enough (or at all) to keep
pace with what these new scientists, women and men alike,
want and need.
The authors summarize prior research on the conflict be-
tween academia and families, and they relate it to findings from
their own research. Previous books with a similar theme have
focused on how being an academic directly affects women,
especially mothers (Connelly and Ghodsee 2014; Evans and
Grant 2008; Monosson 2008). Ecklund and Lincoln expand
upon these previous authors’ work by including men in their
analysis, with interesting results. For example, throughout the
book the authors note their surprise that almost as many junior
men scientists experience the same kind of role conflict that
women scientists do. The authors argue that changing expecta-
tions about the ideal scientist will benefit all scientists, not just
women. Although the authors reframe many challenges in ac-
ademia as affecting men as well as women, they do highlight
differences in women’sandmen’s experiences. For example,
Chapter 5, BWhen the Ideal Scientist Meets the Ideal Mother,^
is very focused on the academic challenges that face women.
The authors discuss how the race of the biological clock against
the tenure clock, the two-body problem (trying to find two jobs
at the same institution or in the same city, whether academic or
otherwise, with one’s working spouse), and being seen as a less
Bserious^ scientist if one decides to have children all contribute
to the Bleaky pipeline.^
A key focus of the book is an examination of men’sand
women’s views of their contributions to both work and family.
For women, the Bideology of intensive mothering^ makes it
difficult to for them to be both the ideal scientist and the ideal
mother. Women are socialized to be primary caretakers, but if
they try to perform at 100% in both roles, they become
* Amy M. Brausch
Department of Psychological Sciences, Western Kentucky
University, Bowling Green, KY, USA
Sex Roles (2017) 77:290–291