Perceptions of Barriers to Motherhood: Female STEM PhD Students’ Changing Family Plans

Paksi, Veronika, Nagy, Beáta and Tardos, Katalin (2022) Perceptions of Barriers to Motherhood: Female STEM PhD Students’ Changing Family Plans. Social Inclusion, 10 (3). pp. 149-159. DOI

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Despite recent pronatalist policies in Hungary, the country has not boosted birth rates at the expected rate. Higher edu‐ cated women still delay the transition to first birth, a smaller proportion of planned children are born than in Western European countries, and the level of childlessness has also been increasing. As a post‐socialist legacy, prevailing tradi‐ tional family and gender norms strongly constrain the reconciliation of work and family roles, which can prevent women from realizing their childbearing intentions or drive them to live a childfree life. Qualitative studies about how the fertility decisions of women are formed are scarce, particularly in relation to male‐dominated high‐skilled professions, where the realization of family plans can be especially challenging. The present article explores the barriers to motherhood among female engineers. Results of 27 semi‐structured interviews with mainly childless female PhD students in 2014–2015 show that the women were subject to strong social expectations that negatively influenced their fertility plans. On the family side, these involve becoming a mother and being responsible for child care and household chores; on the work side, chal‐ lenges include the knowledge‐intensiveness of jobs and a male career model that hardly tolerates the role of motherhood. As a result, the respondents had further delayed childbearing, forecast reconsidering family plans after first childbirth, and in one case, opted for voluntary childlessness. Women also reflected on how their fertility is at stake due to their post‐ poned motherhood and the cumulative effects of hazardous laboratory work. Several intervention points are suggested to stakeholders.

Item Type:Article
Uncontrolled Keywords:delayed motherhood, fertility, higher educated women, PhD education, pronatalism, STEM
Social welfare, insurance, health care
ID Code:7590
Deposited By: Veronika Vitéz
Deposited On:30 Aug 2022 12:32
Last Modified:30 Aug 2022 12:32

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