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THE BOTTOM LINE

Why does having children affect women's careers and not men's?

For a long time now women have been able to freely choose what to study and they have done well at it. In Andalucía, 55.5 per cent of students are female, although their numbers are still low (around 22 per cent) in some subjects such as IT, Engineering and Physics. The low numbers of women on these degree courses is generally attributed to a 'lack of role models'. And that is usually said in a paternalist tone, too. As far as I'm aware, women have lacked role models in every profession, but that hasn't stopped them. On the other hand, in health-related studies, where they tend to do very well in terms of results, the opposite is the case. In Medicine, 63 per cent are women and in Health Sciences, 71 per cent. Do men consider that a problem? Apparently not, because they are still the ones who hold the top posts in those fields.

Last week was International Day of Women and Girls in Science, and to mark the occasion Malaga university issued a press release about how the presence of women is improving at different stages of research. At the base level, they were practically equal in number to men, but further up the scale that parity changed. Only 20 per cent of women lead European research projects which receive R+D+i funding.

Several women researchers at the university tried to explain this. One reason given was family commitments. Another was the consequences on work of having children. One said motherhood is a handicap because it restricts mobility, and one explained that research is such a competitive profession that if you stop for a while for family reasons, it looks bad on your CV.

Well, of course, because everyone knows that men who work in science do not have children or family obligations of any type.

Although paternity leave is granted because fathers are supposed to be equal to mothers, children are considered a professional obstacle only for women. And that is the problem for all women, not just those who work in science.