Parenting News

Should girls skip grades so they can 'have it all?'

If girls were allowed to fast track through school, would it mean the overlap between best career years and childbearing ones didn't overlap?

It's the question that comes up time and again for modern women: how can we balance a successful career with having a family, without one of them taking a back seat.
Many do both, juggling the peak of their career with new motherhood.
But several highly successful women have spoken to The Atlantic about the potential for fast tracking girls through school, so that they can build a career earlier, and get established in their industry before they might want to start a family.
Jane Charlton, a renowned astrophysicist who skipped grades in high school due to her extraordinary ability, thinks fast tracking could work for some young girls.
Jane went to Uni at 15, had a masters by 19, and by the end of her twenties was a tenured professor at Pennsylvania State, and was expecting her first child.
“By skipping grades and getting to grad school early, I could devote time and energy to building my career and earn tenure before I started raising a family,” says Charlton. “It was extremely beneficial to my career not to be devoting my 20s to anything else.”
Of course Charlton is a special case. But it's estimated that worldwide there are millions of gifted girls who could be accelerated in this manner, but have no option to.
As a result, some experts believe these girls are forced to be educated at a pace that means their prime career-building years will overlap with their childbearing ones, too.
This means at some point, they have to make a choice.
Neurosurgeon Deborah Benzil says the system is currently rigged against girls, something she calls out as "Bull----."
“You can call it a choice, [between kids and career] but it’s a choice that men don’t usually have to make. Who else is going have the babies?”
Benzil didn't have the option to skip grades at school, and ended up having her first child when she was a medical resident.
"I wouldn't wish that experience on anyone," she says. "I was physically wrecked during those early years."
And research sadly tends to agree with her.
In a study of 25,000 Harvard Business School alumini, both men and women wanted their career to be as important as their spouse's. But when children came along, it was increasingly the men's careers that took precedence, as the women's suffered.
Many teachers however oppose the idea of acceleration, as some feel it pushes children out of childhood and hurts their social development.
Charlton disagrees. She says jumping to college in her teenage years was far better for her.
"People my own age viewed me as peculiar. At 15, college was a better place for me."