This is just one of Historiann‘s interesting posts on women and academia.
When I was in elementary school the Emeritus Professor’s long and intense work day included preparing manuscripts in longhand to be typed by the departmental secretary. My mother’s day included preparing social events for the Emeritus Professor’s department, and making diplomatic telephone calls after difficult meetings.
I have always been accustomed to doing my own secretarial work, but on most days I literally feel as though I were switching hats all the time: I am doing the part of a professor’s job that corresponded to that of the Emeritus Professor, but also the part of it that corresponded to his wife. Stepping into and out of each role is one of the larger drains on my energy, and there is no way around it — both jobs must still be done.
“If I had a wife, she would make coffee,” said one of my professors in graduate school. Her point was that holding our seminar in her house because budget cuts precluded the availability of rooms at the university, did not mean she would also make us coffee (and thus turn the seminar into what one of my own students later referred to as a “literary snack hour”).
The world has changed significantly since all these things took place, but many of my male colleagues still have wives. This may be part of the answer to the question of why women do not move ahead more quickly than they do.