Tuesday, February 26, 2002 Volume 67, Issue 101


 
 









 

Mothers find it harder to get tenure

By Kim Kelly
Daily Cougar Staff

Both male and female professors who have children early in their academic careers have the exhausting task of juggling the responsibilities of academic life
and parenthood. But according to a recent report published by the Chronicle of Higher Education, it is women, not men, with families who hurt their chances
to achieve tenure.

The report, titled "Do Babies Matter: The Effect of Family Formation on the Lifelong Careers of Women," found that "women who had at least one child before
completing five years of post-Ph.D. work were 24 percent less likely in the sciences and 20 percent less likely in the humanities to achieve tenure than men
who became fathers during that time." The report also stated that men who started families early in their academic careers were more likely to get tenure than
men who did not.

One reason women don't achieve tenure is because some of them quit the tenure track, said Ann Christensen, an associate professor of English who is
tenured at the University.

"This is the great unseen number: women who leave before coming up for tenure because the system is too brutal for them," Christensen said.

The Presidential Commission on the Status of Women addressed some of these concerns. In its final report to UH President Arthur K. Smith, the commission
suggested implementing a "stop-the-clock" program to assist men and women with children who are on the tenure track. 

The program would give professors an additional year to fulfill the requirements for tenure, which typically include six published articles and a book.
However, the University has not adopted a "stop-the-clock" program or implemented any kind of family leave policy, Christensen said.

The University has not awarded tenure to female professors in the past simply because they were not published or not published enough, said Martha Haun,
associate professor of communication and director of undergraduate studies. With three daughters of her own, Haun knows the challenges many staff and
faculty face when balancing family and academic life.

"We had no relatives closer than 300 miles, so juggling family and work required strong organizational skills and sometimes the ability to survive on a
minimal amount of sleep," Haun said.

So much time is spent taking care of family obligations that many professors struggle to find the time to write and get published.

"I just do not have the time or the energy to write a book ... the work I do lots of service (committee work, mentoring students) is not rewarded or even
recognized by the college as merit-worthy," Christensen said.

The final report prepared by the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women also noted that many female faculty members were hesitant to take on
numerous committee assignments for fear that it would detract from teaching and research duties two factors that determine promotions and raises.

In addition, many females are underrepresented in higher-level staff and faculty positions only four out of 41 department heads are women. But the
University does seem to be making efforts to hire more females. In 2001, women accounted for more than 40 percent of new faculty hires, according to the
commission report.

Despite the progress, many faculty members think the University still has a long way to go, but Christensen says she is grateful for the change, slow though it
may be. "I feel very privileged I am faculty. I think there are staff women that have it way worse," she said.
 
 
 

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