Developing and Implementing Work-Family Policies for Faculty

Article excerpt

Policies supporting integration of work and family are already in p ace at many larger universities, Other colleges and universities can learn from those examples.

Today, American families juggle many competing priorities: home, work, school, medical care, after-school activities, and other responsibilities required to raise a family and maintain a household. At the same time, more employers are developing policies that acknowledge the need for a healthy balance between work and home. These policies allow employees greater flexibility in the way they schedule their work hours, fulfill their duties, and use their leave time to deal with pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting. Studies in the corporate sector have demonstrated that when employees can balance work and family responsibilities, their morale improves. Moreover, managers increasingly view these policies as cost-effective.

To what degree do institutions of higher education have such policies in place for their faculty? How are these policies administered where they exist, and how can colleges and universities without them most easily develop them? In its 2001 Statement of Principles on Family Responsibilities and Academic Work, the AAUP declared that the "development and implementation of institutional policies that enable the healthy integration of work responsibilities with family life in academe requires renewed attention." Many studies have examined the methods institutions use to help faculty balance work and family. The policies most often cited allow faculty to stop the tenure clock temporarily, work part time, or negotiate with department chairs to modify job duties during or after pregnancy. Leave to care for dependent children or elders and dual-career hiring are also frequently discussed.

Theoretical and descriptive studies link the limited availability of work-family policies to the slow pace at which women's status within the professoriate has improved. Researchers concur that the model academic career path under the tenure system often conflicts with a faculty member's family responsibilities.

Women continue to perform most caregiving tasks in most U.S. families and are thus disproportionately afiected by conflicts between the ideal academic career trajectory and family needs. It is not surprising, then, that tenured and tenure-track women are less likely to have children than are tenured and tenure-track men.

Although the number of women in academia continues to rise, much of the increase has occurred in non-tenure-track positions and at nondoctoral institutions, partly because of "mommy tracking." The limited availability of work-family policies not only contributes to the slow progress of women in the academy; it also restricts the ability of male faculty members to participate in family caregiving responsibilities.

Our Center's Study

The Faculty Work-Family Policy Study, undertaken by the Center for the Education of Women at the University of Michigan, analyzed policies and programs from a representative sample of U.S. institutions. The study, funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, used a Web-based survey to which 255 institutions, predominantly four-year universities and colleges, responded.' The Web survey was followed by a telephone interview of fifty-one of the respondents, most of which were, again, four-year institutions.

The study delved into the development, administration, and use of work-family policies for faculty to address the following questions: Do work-family policies vary by type of institution, or are certain policies becoming the norm? Are policies based on written, formal guidelines or on informal practice? What are the eligibility and entitlement criteria for these policies? What barriers exist to the creation of family-friendly policies and what types of environments facilitate their implementation?

The study defined "faculty member" as an individual with a regular instructional appointment or anyone with a regular faculty research appointment. …