The Role of Family Responsibilities for College Faculty

December 02, 2011

Each month this year, AAUW is teaming up with Nature Publishing Group, one of the world’s leading science publishers, to put together an online forum on women in science. The AAUW posts highlight findings from our 2010 research report, Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, now in its third printing.

The ability to balance work and family responsibilities were found to contribute to overall satisfaction for college faculty — especially for women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields — in a survey by the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE) project at Harvard University. Overall, female faculty were less likely than male faculty to agree that their institutions supported having and raising a child while on the tenure track. Female STEM faculty were the least likely to agree with those sentiments and were significantly less satisfied than their male peers were with the balance between professional and personal time.

Although difficulty trying to balance work and family responsibilities is not specific to women in STEM, Cathy Trower, director of research at COACHE, suggests that the nature of scientific research may make work-family balance particularly challenging for STEM faculty. “The lab knows no official stop time — it’s an unrelenting 24/7,” she says.  “It’s difficult to just pack up and go home. Stopping for any period of time, to take advantage of stop-the-tenure-clock leave for instance, could be deadly to your research program.”

Although the effectiveness of work-life balance policies were significant predictors of women’s satisfaction in the survey, both women and men in science and engineering fields found child care on their campuses lacking. Trower explains, “Child care is a huge issue everywhere I go. Most campuses do not offer adequate, if any, child care.”

Several of you have said that your institution established a child-care facility on your campus this year. Does anyone have any other examples of successful family-friendly policies at your institution?

By:   |   December 02, 2011

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