6 Managing and EvaluatingTop4.5 Conclusions5 Faculty and Family

5 Faculty and Family


Pamela Cosman(Chair)

University of California
at San Diego
Ayanna Howard Professor
Georgia Tech
Leah Jamieson John A. Edwardson Dean of Engineering
Purdue University
2007 President and CEO, IEEE

5.1 Introduction

Academia is often thought of as a demanding career, one in which it is hard to balance the competing demands of work and family life. Indeed, the timeline of tenure places particularly heavy demands on assistant professors, tending frequently to be the same time of life when couples start families. But academia also offers certain advantages for balancing career and family, including tremendous flexibility in scheduling activities during the day ("You may have to work 60 hours per week, but it can be any 60 hours you want.")

In this panel session, we discussed ways to help balance the competing demands of work and family life. We looked at two levels: what you can do to help yourself, and what the institution you work for can do to help you. This chapter is organized as follows. We begin with the institutional policies that help faculty members balance work and family life. After briefly surveying the current mainstream policies, we discuss the culture of implementation of these policies, and look at the forefront policies of institutions that are in the vanguard of being family-friendly. Second, we look at personal strategies for work-life balance.

Survey of current family-friendly policies

There are many different family-friendly policies in place at colleges and universities around the United States, ranging from tenure clock stop to employment help for the spouse or partner of a faculty member. The data presented in this section is taken from [6], a 2005 study of 256 institutions of higher learning done by the Center for the Education of Women at the University of Michigan. Some of the observations and comments on this data are also from a summary of [22], and others are from the discussion at the BIRS workshop.

Tenure clock stop

Tenure clock stop policies are the most widely available policies, found in 43% of all institutions surveyed. They are widely available presumably because there is no direct cost to the institution for implementing them.

A pause in the tenure clock is made to accommodate special circumstances, such as the birth or adoption of a child, serious illness in the faculty member, or extensive care needs of a dependent. After the pause, the tenure clock is then restarted with the same number of years left as before the pause was initiated. While 43% of all institutions surveyed had formal policies, there was considerable variation across different institutions. Of research I and II universities, 86% had formal tenure clock stop policies and 4% had informal policies, while only 23% of baccalaureate institutions had formal policies (9% had informal ones).

Research, doctoral, and associate degree institutions were most likely to have a gender-blind approach to this policy, while master's and baccalaureate institutions were less likely to make the policy available to male faculty with newborns than to female faculty. For example, the University of Washington employs a gender-blind approach to this policy: "The University recognizes that under special circumstances, such as care for new infants, faculty women and men must devote extraordinary efforts to their family responsibilities, which may significantly detract from their research and academic capabilities..."

Modified duties

Modified duties generally allow for reduction of teaching, research, or service load for one or two quarters with full pay. This benefit allows faculty to spend more time caring for infants, elders, or ill spouses or partners. Modified duty policies are more likely to be given to women faculty who gave birth than for other dependent-care reasons. Eighteeen percent of surveyed institutions offered formal modified duties policies.

There was considerable discussion at the workshop (reflecting considerable national discussion on this issue) of whether this particular policy should be gender blind or not. Women who give birth tend to use a policy of this type to recover physically from giving birth and caring for a newborn (e.g., sleeping) and also to spend more time with their newborn (e.g., breastfeeding). Men whose wives give birth may tend to use this policy to do more research than they would be able to if they had to teach. Whether or not this policy should be gender-blind depends in large part on the goal that one is trying to accomplish. One possible goal is to level the playing field, that is, to try to remove some of the difficulties women face career-wise from giving birth and caring for a newborn. If this is the goal, the policy should not be gender-blind. It should theoretically contain a component (for example, 4 weeks' leave) that is directly related to physically recovering from childbirth. It should contain another component (say, 8 additional weeks' leave) that is for the primary caregiver (whether male or female) of the newborn. Of course, a complicating factor in all of this is the difficulty of aligning childbirth teaching leave with the classroom teaching that occurs on a quarter or semester schedule. It is hard enough aligning a typical leave with a quarter schedule, and aligning separate components of leave (say 4 weeks for childbirth and 8 weeks for newborn care) potentially for 2 different parents would be even harder. A second possible goal, of course, is to simply make life easier for everyone (both fathers and mothers) who has a newborn, recognizing that this is a stressful, exciting, and distracting time for everyone. If this is the goal, then the policy should be gender-blind. Again, there could be one component of teaching leave that is gender-blind, and one component that is not.

Paid dependent-care leave

Paid dependent-care comes in many forms, including maternity or paternity leave, eldercare leave, leave to care for ill spouses and partners, and paternal leave. Unfortunately, however, only 16% of surveyed institutions had a formal, paid, dependent-care leave policy. When it exists, the policy usually includes caring for newborns, spouses, parents, and other dependents and it is offered to both men and women faculty with newborn children.

Given the cost incurred by the institution, paid leave is much less likely to be offered than unpaid leave. However, it is more likely to be offered at institutions with large budgets and large student bodies, as is the case with most family-friendly policies.

Unpaid dependent-care leave

The U.S. Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) establishes that employers with 50 or more employees must allow up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in order to care for newly born, adopted, or fostered children, to receive care for a serious health condition, or to assist a family member receiving care. FMLA rules do not consider parents-in-law, significant others, or domestic partners as qualified family members; however, employers are free to have expanded definitions of this term.

Many institutions offer unpaid dependent-care leave benefits that go beyond what is required by FMLA. The institution does not bear any direct cost for providing unpaid leave. Of the 40% of institutions that offer more leave time than the required 12 weeks, 60% said that the amount of leave was negotiable. Seventeen percent said that the amount beyond 12 weeks was restricted to a specific number of days (ranging from 1 to 364 days). Again, there was significant variation across the different types of institutions.

Reduced, part-time, and job-share appointments

A reduced or part-time appointment is any time a faculty member is working less than a 100% appointment. Pay and benefits are proportional to the percentage of effort reflected by the appointment. Job-share appointments allow two faculty members to work part-time while fulfilling the requirements of one full-time faculty member between them.

Research institutions are the most likely to offer such benefits, with 29% of survey respondents offering reduced appointments and 23% offering job-sharing appointments. Formal policies for reduced appointments for extraordinary needs (sick child) were about as common as formal policies for reduced appointments for ordinary needs. However, informal policies for reduced appointments for ordinary needs were much more common (15%) than informal policies for reduced appointments for extraordinary needs (0%). These informal mechanisms varied from department to department, rather than being formal, institution-wide policies.

Employment assistance

One of the difficulties of having a dual-career family is finding suitable jobs for both partners in the same city. Some universities, especially research institutions, have started programs that help in job searches and placements for a faculty member's spouse or partner. These are usually called "dual-career hiring" or "trailing-spouse" programs.

The programs can be run either through a centrally run university office or they can be more informal, with two departments working together to come to an agreement about who pays what percentage of salaries.

Culture of implementation

When one is looking for a job at a university, and trying to evaluate family-friendly policies, most of the evaluation is at the level of "is there a policy or not?" or "what does the policy say?" rather than at the level of the culture of implementation. For example, a modified duties maternity policy may be evaluated at the simpler level by asking whether one gets one quarter off of teaching or two, whereas at the deeper level, one asks who pays for the time off, who approves the time off, and so forth. Beyond just finding out what policies are in place, it is important to learn how the available policies are implemented. How a policy is worded and funded can directly impact how it may be implemented in your case. In this section, we discuss some of these issues of the culture of implementation.

Education about the policies

Family-friendly policies are only helpful if you know about them. In a recent UC Berkeley survey of over 4000 University of California faculty members, only 25% of faculty knew about all four available UC family-friendly policies. Low awareness rates seem to be a problem at many institutions. Institutions with progressive family-friendly policies should make policy information widely available through training sessions for new deans and chairs, at faculty orientations, in mentoring programs, faculty handbooks, brochures and other printed materials, on websites, and through periodic programs.

Funding a policy

If teaching relief is offered for childbirth, who pays for the replacement teacher? If the department pays, there may be subtle pressure not to take the teaching relief, especially in small departments. However, when the burden of cost for replacement faculty is carried by the university instead of the department, the climate is more accepting of work-family policies. Half the surveyed institutions reported centralized funding of family-friendly policies.

Entitlement vs. discretionary language

Wording that gives the faculty member entitlement makes policy the norm instead of the exception. This both reduces fear that in requesting to use a policy, the faculty member will appear less successful, capable, or hardworking, and it also removes perceptions of inequitable treatment among faculty members. For example, the phrase "You may request a one-year tenure clock extension" puts the onus on the faculty member to ask for the policy to be put into effect. The words "may request" can make faculty members feel that they are requesting special treatment, and the word "request" also suggests that someone can then deny that request. A more progressive wording would be "Tenure clock is automatically extended for one year (you may request that the extension be removed)." In this case, the tenure clock automatically pauses for a year, no questions asked. If faculty members do not need and do not want the extension, they can take action to get it removed. In this case, there is no sense of requesting special treatment in availing oneself of the policy. MIT's tenure clock stop policy demonstrates entitlement language: "...a woman who bears one or more children during her tenure probationary period will have that period extended by one year."

Some schools use two-tiered language for their policies, implementing both entitled and discretionary clauses. It might seem counter-intuitive at first, but entitlement language does have its disadvantages. With broad qualifying criteria, policies may be extended to those who do not need it -- such as to a new parent who has a stay-at-home spouse.

Eligibility criteria

Most work-family policies were created to accommodate pregnancy,

childbirth, and newborn care. Some institutions are changing language to integrate other qualifying events, such as newly adopted children, care for ill family members, and time off for public service. There are sometimes qualifications that need to be met in order for the benefit to apply to your case.

For example, if both partners are employed at the institution and they have a child, it is important to find out whether the new parents will be able to take leaves of absence/modified duties concurrently, or whether one will have to wait until the other returns to work. In non-traditional families, it is important to investigate the language regarding domestic partners, step-children, etc. Time off for domestic partner care is still the exception, not the rule.

Sometimes certification or documentation will be required. Some universities require a father to provide documentation that he is providing care of at least 40 hours per week in order to receive tenure clock stop or a leave of absence. This requirement is designed to avoid the scenario where the faculty member has a stay-at-home partner taking on the role of primary caregiver, essentially giving the faculty member a sabbatical.

Eligibility criteria are related to the goals of family friendly policies at institutions. Some common goals include:

  1. lessening gender inequality
  2. improving the work-life balance for everyone
  3. recruiting and retaining top-notch faculty.

There can be a conflict between the first two goals. If the policies are extended to everyone indiscriminately, then work/life balance is improved for everyone. However, the gender inequality will not be lessened, because male faculty members are more likely to have a stay-at-home wife take care of the children, and use teaching relief to focus more on research.

In addition to eligibility requirements, most policies have language determining how many times a policy may be used over the course of a faculty member's career. For example, the University of Minnesota allows tenure clock stops twice for care of a family member with a serious medical condition, but does not restrict use of the policy for childbirth, adoption, or foster care.

Battling perceptions

Faculty members are often hesitant to use family-friendly policies because of fear that they will be viewed as "lagging behind" in research productivity. Others worry about stricter performance standards. For example, if the tenure clock is stopped for a year, faculty members might be concerned that they will be expected to have an extra year's worth of research. It is important for institutions to make clear to both faculty and tenure review committees that if a faculty members work half-time for 2 years, they should be held to a 1-year standard. It seems that some of these perceptions are imagined, however. Research shows that a majority of faculty, regardless of gender, rank, and family status, support a range of family-friendly policies, including paid leave for childbirth and newborn care, unpaid leave for ongoing infant care, and tenure clock stoppage. More enlightened schools try to combat these perceptions by informing both internal and external evaluators of their policies in tenure review. For example, the non-discrimination clause at the University of Maryland states that "No person shall be discriminated against in any promotion and tenure proceedings for seeking or obtaining an extension under this provision."

Some tips

Some things to ask when looking at a job offer:

Some tips for faculty mentors:

Improved family-friendly policies

In 2006, the American Council on Education and the Sloan Foundation held a competition for accelerating family-friendly policies at universities. Fifty-five research universities sent in proposals for this competition. Five winners were chosen and were awarded $250,000 to improve policies at their universities. The five winners, University of Washington, University of Florida, Lehigh University, Duke University, and University of California (Berkeley and Davis) chose to improve and enhance their existing policies in a variety of ways.

Three of the five Sloan grant awardees intend to create expanded childcare options. The universities intend to increase on-campus facilities and benefits, create emergency back-up childcare options, and help pay for childcare expenses related to university travel.

Three of the five schools also intend to add programs to aid faculty with career transitions. These programs include flexible part-time options, career transition advisors and grants, and pre- and post-retirement work programs.

Four out of five winners will create some form of dual career assistance program. Their proposals include establishing centrally funded relocation counselors and creating affiliations with regional resources, such as neighboring universities, industry, hospitals, and non-profits.

Every school recognized that one of the greatest hindrances for faculty was lack of awareness of available programs. As a result, all five schools will work to expand awareness across campus. They will implement written guidelines, centralized funding of teaching replacements, awareness campaigns, training of deans, chairs, directors, etc.

Some other new policies from the schools include:

  1. increased paid leave
  2. Presidential Council on Diversity and the Status of Women
  3. peer support group for "new mom" faculty
  4. adoption benefits and tuition reimbursement for faculty and family members
  5. elder/adult dependent-care counselor.

5.2 Personal strategies

In a survey published in Sue Rosser's 2004 book, The Science Glass Ceiling [24], 32.4% of women scientists stated that the most significant issue facing women scientists is the pressure of balancing career and family. In most cases, it is still the woman's responsibility to maintain the household and care for children, even if both spouses are working full time. Trying to balance family, work, home, and community responsibilities can result in stress, exhaustion, and a sense of guilt. There are many coping strategies, however, that can help make the balance easier.

Time management

Time management does not happen by accident; it requires a lot of thought and analysis to figure out what works for you. Here are some ideas for time management:

  1. Establish your absence as well as your presence both at home and at work. This means setting a schedule for being physically elsewhere and unavailable, and sticking to it. But also guarantee set times when your children know you will be home. They will know what to expect and that their needs are your highest priority.
  2. Develop and nurture family traditions and rituals in your schedule. For example, have dinner and watch a favorite TV show when your family eats at home. If you and your spouse do not see enough of each other at home, schedule lunches together and do not break them. Let your assistant know that you are unavailable at certain times.
  3. When you are at work, one approach is to work until your task is done. Another approach is to work on every task with the goal of making progress during a specific amount of time and work until that time is up. Then move on to the next task to maintain forward momentum. While it can be tempting to do so, do not get so obsessed with perfecting one project that others (or your family) slide off the table.
  4. A big part of time management is organization and planning not only for the short-term, but looking ahead to the future. Plan ahead for major stress periods at work. You know when the big conference is coming each year. You know your proposals are due the same time every year. Schedule in advance, get the other things out of the way beforehand so you are not so pressed for time that you live at work and do not see your family for a few weeks because of stress. On top of that, be open and honest with your family when you are temporarily stretched beyond your means, and let your family know in advance when work is going to get hectic.
  5. Make time do double-duty. For example, Prof. Jamieson plans a lot of her work out in her head. Instead of just driving during her commute, she thinks through the organization of a new paper, or plans out a talk she's scheduled to give before sitting down to write anything on her computer. Then, when she is at her desk, it is merely a case of transcribing ideas. You can do this when you are taking a walk or when watching videos with your family too - how much of your brain power really needs to be devoted to Spongebob?

    There are other opportunities throughout the day when you can accomplish two things at once. If you live close enough to work to bike or walk, you are both commuting and getting in your daily exercise. Prof. Cosman has biked to work for the past 12 years. Spending time with the kids doesn't have to be sitting on the couch watching TV. It can be bike riding, playing sports, or even playing active video games like Dance Dance Revolution. All of these activities allow you to do double-duty of family time and exercise.


Spend time on the most important things and cut out the mundane tasks. If you do not enjoy cleaning, laundry, yard work, cooking, or commuting, then stop doing them. Hire someone to take care of household chores. Move closer to your university. If you are spending an hour and a half each day commuting, that's an hour and a half you are not spending with your family or at work -- an hour and a half of non-productive time. Learn to give up control. Delegate everything you can possibly delegate, leaving the most important tasks for yourself. Use your administrative assistant efficiently.

Relax your standards on things. Your car doesn't need to be washed as often as you think. In fact, quite possibly your car doesn't ever need to be washed. Your children do not need to be washed as often as you think either. Prof. Cosman thinks bathing kids once a week is fine. If they go in the swimming pool, the chlorine kills most of the bugs, so in that case they do not even need the weekly bath. Following this reasoning, one of her kids didn't take a bath or shower for 5 weeks, and nobody seemed to notice.

A major part of prioritizing involves learning when to use "yes" and when to say "no." Seek out extracurricular activities that are of interest to you and say yes to them. It is easier to say no to unwanted tasks if you've already committed to something you do want to do.

Childcare and eldercare

Coordinating childcare is one of the most important ways to balance family and work. Above all else, it is important to arrange reliable, convenient childcare. Sometimes the most convenient option will be on-campus childcare centers, but you may also have more luck with a nanny or daycare center off-campus. Prof. Howard suggests spending whatever it costs on childcare with flexible hours that is close to your school. Prof. Cosman favored in-home care by a nanny. In comparing daycare versus a nanny, the advantages of daycare include that it is less expensive (if you have only one child), that you may have long hours available to you if needed on any particular day, and that you can rely on the availability (e.g., you do not have to worry about a nanny being sick or showing up late). Advantages of a nanny are that you do not have to drive the child anywhere, you do not have to stay home when the child is sick, and the nanny can help out with other household chores.

When you have a school-aged child, be creative with summer care. Daycare centers and nannies aren't the only options available. Prof. Jamieson co-hired a Child Development major for several summers with another professor to watch their children. Many university campuses also have summer camps on campus that focus on a variety of topics that might interest your child - science camps, sports camps, etc.

It is also important to be realistic about eldercare. If you have a parent or parents who will need your help regularly, but also live fairly far away, think about moving them closer to your home. You can't fly out every weekend to help out, or drive for several hours multiple times a week. Moving your parent(s) closer might help them retain more independence than they could have living a great distance from you.


Arranging travel can be difficult with children, especially with young children. Prof. Cosman said she only went to one conference per year for ten years once she had children. This was not a professional problem. She still published plenty of conference papers, and her students were always enthusiastic about going to present papers for her. Once your children are older, you can take advantage of business travel as family travel and expose your children to a variety of cultures around the world when you go to conferences and meetings.

When it is impossible to avoid travel or integrate family travel into business travel, make use of technology that will allow you to connect with your spouse and children while you are away. Aside from the old standbys of phone and email, use instant messages and teleconferencing, or even send homework corrections by fax.

Connect with your children

Talk about work at home. Make it accessible -- talk about exactly what you do so your children understand, not in terms of stressors or problems. Bring your child to your office or lab to really show them what you do. When your child has a good understanding of your job and work isn't just some fuzzy concept, there is less separation of work and family. Also, take an interest in your child's interests. Let the child pick something they are passionate about and support their interest in it. One parent told her eight-year-old, "any book you would like us to read, we will read," and her older child "any video game you want me to play, I will play."

November 15, 2007

6 Managing and EvaluatingTop4.5 Conclusions5 Faculty and Family