Do you choose love or science?

Do you choose love or science?

News | By Frans van Heest




February 14, 2024 | Research conducted by Radboud University shows that young single women in science face significant challenges. It is difficult for them to pursue their careers and move internationally while building a long-term relationship or a traditional family life. In addition, they are subject to social pressure to conform to traditional feminine roles.






He. She The research was recently published as a preprint It was carried out by scientists from Aarhus University, Radboud University, and Newcastle Business School. The research explores the nuances of singleness in science, with a particular focus on female academics. By “being celibate,” researchers broadly mean not engaging in a long-term monogamous romantic relationship.

Expectations imposed by friends and family

In the academic world, being single offers some freedoms, such as the opportunity to focus solely on one's career and freedom from the obligations that a partner or family might entail. On the other hand, single academics face social stigmas and challenges such as dealing with feelings of isolation and not meeting social expectations in relationships and family life, often imposed by family and friends.

International academic mobility plays a major role in all of this. This mobility is often considered an essential step in academics' career development and provides opportunities to gain new experiences, expand professional networks and collaborate with leading experts in their field, the authors said. However, living abroad for a period of time can also place a heavy burden on your personal life by making it more difficult to maintain long-term personal relationships.

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Difficulty balancing science and private life

For the research, I conducted interviews with nine female academics from different countries. The conversations reveal a deep contradiction in their experiences, in conjunction with the positives and negatives mentioned above. On the one hand, their single status provides them with the freedom to seize travel and work opportunities, but on the other hand, they face disadvantages such as loneliness, pressure to meet social and professional expectations and the challenge of achieving work-life balance. Private life.

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Feeling behind compared to peers who follow a more traditional life path is a prominent theme in the interviews. This can lead to feelings of isolation or feelings of not meeting “normative” societal expectations. In addition, their isolation is often discussed in informal conversations with friends and family, which can lead to feelings of pressure or judgement, the female academics said.

Singles in science are more available

This contradiction is further reinforced by the academic environment that often places significant demands on female scholars' time, dedication, and productivity. According to the study, their individual status allows them to meet these high demands, but at the same time they are under pressure from expectations of flexibility and availability. When problems need to be solved, these women are often called upon because of their individual situation; Because they are single, they have more time, which is often assumed among colleagues and managers.

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Dating as romantic limbo

Participants noted that dating and being in relationships is not easy. They say finding a partner who understands their lifestyle and ambitions is a challenge, especially in an international and often temporary environment.

Academies say one of the biggest themes surrounding dating is the “head space” you occupy, especially in the early stages of getting to know someone. One participant described it as “a state of romantic limbo,” a state of uncertainty and tension when someone does not respond to messages or the outcome of the relationship is uncertain. This emotional burden is exacerbated by the temporary nature of their stay in different countries, which makes it difficult to build long-term relationships.

Combining motherhood and science

The research shows that thinking about motherhood among single female academics is also influenced by their academic career background and international mobility. The potential desire to become a mother is balanced with the reality and challenges of their professional and personal situations.

Social pressure plays a role in this: female academics face not only the professional demands of their profession, but also social expectations about women's roles, including motherhood. This can lead to conflicting feelings and choices, especially for those who aspire to start a family, the researchers said.

International mobility and motherhood

For example, one interviewee expressed concerns that it would be difficult to integrate motherhood into her life, given the demands of her academic career and the mobility that often accompanies it. She wants children, but at the same time she is not sure if this is possible under her current living conditions.

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Researchers therefore call for a rethink of support structures within academia. Universities must provide a more inclusive and supportive environment for academics, regardless of their marital status. The diversity of life paths and choices should be recognized and valued, and institutions should develop policies and practices that take into account the diverse needs and challenges faced by academics at different life stages and circumstances.

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