Gender, Work and Family in French Academia: A Case Study

Friday, 3 July 2015: 2:15 PM-3:45 PM
TW1.2.03 (Tower One)
Viviane Albenga, Sciences Po, Paris, France
Anne Boring, Sciences Po, Paris, France; PSL, Université Paris Dauphine, Leda, Paris, France
Marta Dominguez-Folgueras, Sciences Po, Paris, France
Gender is a vector of inequalities in the labour market, and although the specific characteristics and effects of gender inequality differ by type of work, the literature has shown that academia is not immune to this problem. Researchers and academics constitute an interesting field of study for gendered labour inequalities because their working conditions involve at the same time a high commitment –specially at the beginning of their careers- and high degrees of autonomy and flexibility –to decide when, where and how they work. Previous research has documented a glass ceiling as well as important gender differences in the management of careers, pointing at several factors that contribute to perpetuate gender inequalities in this sector, such as the evaluation system based on a linear, traditionally male model. Most studies have focused on researchers following a tenure-track system, but academic career paths vary by country; for instance the French public system grants tenure to postdoc researchers at the highly competitive- entry level, although these researchers are later evaluated for career advancement using criteria based on productivity. These institutional differences can play an important role in explaining gendered outcomes in career development, as they establish milestones at different points of the researchers’ lives.

In this paper we analyse gender inequalities in the careers of academics working at a French institution of higher education specialised in the Social Sciences. The characteristics of this institution allow for a dual recruitment system. Some researchers are affiliated to the public higher education/research sector, but others are recruited directly on a tenure-track scheme. This dual system enables us to compare researchers who have followed different career paths but otherwise share the same working environment. We first provide a description of gender differences in scientific careers in France, compared to  the institution of focus) using quantitative data and then carry out a qualitative analysis of  semi-directive interviews. Our sample is formed by men and women at different stages of their careers, working in five departments of the same institution. Our interviews gathered information on the educational and employment careers of researchers; the balance of different tasks (service, teaching, research and mentoring); perceptions of gender inequalities or discrimination; and the difficulties encountered to balance work and family life.