A different reason: How israeli scientists think about careers and family life

Gad Yair*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


American and German women in academia must often choose between pursuing a career and caring for their families while Israeli women combine family life with scientific careers. This study explores reasons for the perceived difference through interviews with 125 Israeli scientists who collaborate with German colleagues. It exposes perceptions of contrasting norms with respect to scientific careers, marriage, cohabitation, and motherhood. The results suggest that in weighing alternatives, respondents employ unique modalities of reasoning. They suggest that German academics engage in rational, calculative and practical calculations viewed as masculine in contrast to Israeli academics who mix rational and practical criteria with irrational elements—namely, sentiments and passions. This is why, in contrast with their German colleagues, they see little problem in juggling academic careers while being married and raising children.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)159-178
Number of pages20
JournalIsrael Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Women are now at the helm of the National Academy of Sciences and The National Foundation for Science and include a Nobel Prize laureate, a university president, rectors and deans, and a Chief Scientist at the Ministry of Science. True, at present men hold 70% of academic positions, but in regard to recent appointments, women outnumber men by 55% to 45%.36 Likewise, there are proportionally twice the number of women in Israel’s Academy of Sciences and Humanities than German women in the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina (and also more than the number of women who hold membership in the Royal Society of the UK and the American National Academy of Sciences). Notwithstanding glaring gaps in the sciences and engineering (e.g., physics, mathematics), the testimonies below suggest that Israel erects few cultural barriers against combining scientific careers with family life.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Indiana University. All rights reserved.


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