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Nice perk if you can get it: A house cleaner

Should your employer pay someone to clean your bathroom?

If the employer is a university and the employee is a scientist, then the answer should be yes, according to a paper published in Academe, a magazine of the American Association of University Professors.

Yes, this is a serious policy recommendation.

Stanford University professor Londa Schiebinger and co-author Shannon K. Gilmartin analyzed how scientists at 13 top U.S. research universities spend their time and found that female scientists do nearly twice as much housework as their male counterparts.

The 10 hours-plus each week those women spend on cooking and cleaning could be better used toward important scientific work, the researchers argue.

Their solution: Universities should provide benefits that support housework, in the same way many employers provide health insurance, tuition reimbursement and childcare subsidies.

Schiebinger and Gilmartin concede that such a proposal may not be popular amid a deep economic downturn. But they argue that, in the long term, if universities subsidized housework it would benefit the country because these highly talented women would have more time to devote to science.

“The United States needs to capture the talents of its female scientific workforce for science,” the researchers write.

(The theory, of course, assumes that free time would go to lofty scientific endeavors, and not watching reality television.)

The paper, “Housework is an Academic Issue,” focuses solely on how female scientists share the burden of household work with their partners. But in general, even though women now make up about half the U.S. workforce, on a typical day women are still more likely to do household chores than men.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ American Time Use Survey, on an average day in 2009, 51 percent of women did household work such as cleaning or doing laundry, compared with 20 percent of men. In addition, 68 percent of women cooked or cleaned up food on an average day, compared with 40 percent of men.