Baby pictures on homepages

This on CT.

If anyone has the time, I would love to see a systematic study of how many male versus female academics portray themselves on their Web sites with or without babies. I realize the complications, e.g. really hard to sample people’s homepages, really hard to control for whether said person portrayed on a Web site even has a baby, but I’d still be curious to see someone gather data on this.

Here’s my motivation for the question. I recently saw a job talk where the candidate had pictures of his kids on his computer’s desktop. I have never seen a woman give a talk with this kind of background illustration (granted, I had never before seen a man give such a talk either). It made me think that this person could pull it off because as a guy he does not have to be concerned about committee members wondering whether he has a spouse who will need a job as well or whether he will take his work seriously despite the fact that he has children. But I recall plenty of cases of women who are married without children or on the market as mothers worrying considerably about how to downplay such personal information.

My impression is that men tend to put up pictures of their children on their professional Web sites more often, but I do not base this observation on any systematic analysis of the situation. I suspect the reason for this (assuming it really is the case) is that for male professionals to show themselves with a baby counts as a positive quality, or, in the least, will likely not count as a negative. It suggests that he is a concerned and proud father who takes his parental duties seriously (okay, that may be a leap:), he is an enlightened man. In contrast, I suspect women still feel that they have to prove themselves as professional first, parent second (or in the least prove that the latter doesn’t trump the former) thus prompting them not to be quite as forward about personal information on their Web sites. I guess one could argue that if for someone a proud father means an enlightened man then a proud mother should not come with negative repercussions, but it is not clear that the mothers feel that way about it.

Just among the people I know, I can think of at least a few couples where the man’s Web site has relatively prominent family information whereas the woman’s site downplays any such content. Even if it is simply about the parents projecting onto their environment how they may be perceived, that is already something to consider about how mothers versus fathers are made to feel about their family situations in professional settings.

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