As I understand academic career progression, the move to the "next level" (be it postdoc, senior lecturer, assistant professor, full professor, etc) is most dependent on two factors: research output and funding earned. However to get that research output and funding proposals, one obviously can't be on maternity leave. Does that mean that deciding to have children jeopardizes one's academic career progression?
Concrete example: European PhDs take shorter to complete (~3 years) than American ones (~5 years). Accordingly, American PhDs have an advantage applying for fellowships after graduation since they will have done more research and published more papers. However if a female American PhD student decides to have five pregnancies in those five years, she will have effectively only "worked" for 3 years and 9 months (since five pregnancies = 15 months of maternity leave). This means she's still at an advantage compared to her European counterparts, but is disadvantaged compared to her American peers. In other words, her decision to have children jeopardized her academic career.
Is this picture correct? If not, why not? The obvious guess is that this student will not be disadvantaged in the job market because she won't be able to graduate in 5 years, but if that's the case, then it still sounds like she's disadvantaged compared to her peers who didn't have children.
I'm tagging this question with "gender" because although in principle these issues can also affect men whose partners have children, the stress of having children is clearly different for fathers and mothers.
EDIT: Since the question is apparently unclear.
- The question is whether having children jeopardizes one's academic career progression.
- The argument for this being the case is that, if one has children, one's work comes to a complete halt. Research stops, papers don't get written, funding doesn't get acquired - and these are the things which is used to judge whether or not to promote an academic.
- Comparatively, in industry, someone will continue the work while the worker is away on leave. This minimizes the damage. For example suppose Alice is an expert at underwater basket weaving. Even if she has five pregnancies in five years, the 3 years 9 months in which she is working is plenty of time to demonstrate that yes, she is an expert at underwater basket weaving, she is good & passionate at her job, she turns out more baskets than others in unit time, etc, and therefore when promotion time rolls around she is a natural candidate for promotion.
- If the answer is "yes", then between two otherwise-equal women, the person who has fewer children climbs the academic ladder the fastest. She will graduate first, find a tenured position first, become a full professor first. This is clearly advantageous because with each promotion, the new position is better than the previous one. In this case, an answer drawing on sources that show that it is indeed advantageous not to have children will answer the question.
- If the answer is "no", then it is not true that between two otherwise-equal women, the person who has fewer children climbs the academic ladder fastest. This implies there is some compensating factor that allows the person with more children to compete with her colleague with fewer children. For example, the fact that while one is on maternity leave the "clock stops" is such a factor. If Alice decides to have five pregnancies in five years, she will still be able to climb the academic ladder - she won't get fired because she's not turning out papers, for example.
- However if the answer is "no", this "clock stopping" is not a complete explanation because it doesn't apply to real age, only to academic age. Alice is 3.75 years old academically, but in real life 5 years has passed. Compared to her colleague who didn't have children, she is still behind by 1.25 years. Therefore a "no" answer indicates there are some other factors still at play, in which case the question asks what those factors are.
If this doesn't clarify what the question is asking please leave a comment because I don't see how it is unclear.