This is going to be a bit of a rant, so apologies in advance...
I've made no secret of the fact that I'm not terribly enamored with the field of medicine or being a doctor, but I've managed to actually find a specialty that I love. And within that specialty, there's a subspecialty that I'm very interested in. I've been nerdishly dreaming about a one-year fellowship for a while now, but it's beginning to look like that dream isn't going to be able to come true for me.
I'm not going to get into the details of my own situation, because "it's complicated" (like my younger brother's Facebook relationship status). But I am going to make a really broad generalization and say that it's really rough for a woman with a child to do a fellowship. Granted, some women do it. I know because I see female fellows with pictures of babies on the back of their IDs so I'm guessing they're mothers (unless the photo came with the ID badge). But it's rough.
Fellowships tend to be competitive. So unless you're doing a fellowship nobody wants, like, in rectal exams, you have to be geographically flexible. (There's no such fellowship, by the way. Didn't mean to get anyone's hopes up.)
Being geographically flexible means possibly uprooting yourself to do the fellowship. It's not quite as big a deal to camp out in Whereverland for a year if you're a single person, but it feels a lot more selfish to force your spouse and child to move with you. To give up your home, your daycare/nanny, your spouse's job, etc.
For a man with a family, it can be just as hard, but I'm going to go out on a sexist limb and say that it's harder for a woman for a couple of reasons:
1) There are a lot of men who are totally cool with being stay at home dads and I salute them. But most men aren't. In this economy, it's not easy to find a job and there's a chance your spouse could be unemployed indefinitely if he gives up his job. For a lot of men, this would be a huge blow for their self esteem, possibly one that's unacceptable and would result in marital discord. For women, less so, in general.*
2) I think a lot of women tend to feel that their career takes a back seat to their husband's career and their family's needs. For me, the thought of uprooting my family for my own selfish career aspirations just feels really wrong. I can't do it.
So that's that. My nerdy dream, up in flames. Sigh.
*I am making a bunch of broad generalizations. Please don't throw something at me if you are an exception.