Scientific Careers and Work/Life Interference

Saturday, June 25, 2016: 4:15 PM-5:45 PM
402 Barrows (Barrows Hall)
Bernard Fusulier, Université catholique de Louvain, Louvain-la-neuve, Belgium; University of Louvain
Barbier Pascal, U Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne, Paris, France
Dubois-Shaik Farah, Université Catholique de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium
Men and women remain in unequal positions in coping with their scientific and academic careers. Several of the mechanisms dissuading or preventing women from pursuing scientific careers have already been described in the literature: women getting stuck with paltry, undervalued tasks, thus manufacturing a “sticky floor”; structuring the scientific field around a male habitus; the “Matilda” effect for women versus the “St. Matthew” effect for men. An additional cause of these inequalities is observed in the relationship between the private and professional aspects of the individuals’ lives. The university transmits a “gendered order” in its organisational structures, principles, customs and habits, in short in the practice of scientific work. That is due in particular to the ancient structuring of the University around a male figure: the “university professor” or “scientist” entirely invested in his work, freed from domestic necessities by an invisible carer (he or she who ‘cares’ for him), so he can devote himself to science. Hence the university was constructed on a “greedy” model expecting a total, voluntary and impassioned engagement in work, coupled with a model of work/family dissociation. Based on a research programme dealing with post-doctoral researchers and recently tenured researchers, this paper analyses the role of private life and how it relates to the professional sphere in their experience of scientific work. In this respect, it provides some explanatory elements on both the greater vulnerability of women-mothers in the university game and on the configurational supports (configurations of professional life and private life) needed to offset that vulnerability.