In September 2005, the New York Times published an article about female students at elite colleges who saw futures for themselves as 'stay-at-home moms'. The author, Louise Story, had conducted a study at Yale in which many of those interviewed said that when they had children, they planned to cut back on work or stop working altogether. While administrators seemed alarmed by the trend, the students shrugged it off. 'I'll have a career until I have two kids,' Angie Ku, at Yale, explained. 'It doesn't necessarily matter how far you get. It's kind of like the experience: I've tried what I wanted to do.' Harvard senior Sarah Currie told Story: 'A lot of the guys were like, "I think that's really great." One of the guys was like, "I think that's sexy." Staying at home . . . isn't as polarising of an issue as I envision it is for women who are in their thirties now.' In January that year, Lawrence Summers, who was then president of Harvard, caused an uproar by suggesting that innate biological differences might partly explain why women, though increasing numbers of them were doing postgraduate work in science and engineering, had not achieved as much as men in these fields. He also said that women with children are often unwilling or unable to work 80-hour weeks, and that those women who hold the 'highest ranking places are disproportionately either unmarried or without children', but that point went unremarked, although the students in Story's article seem to agree with it.
LRB 10 May 2007 | PDF Download