One goal of every institution is to attract and retain the best researchers and faculty members. AWIS recently conducted the largest international survey of working researchers to study their approaches to work-life balance, career decisions, and career conflicts. AWIS surveyed more than 4000 researchers in both academic and corporate settings from 115 countries around the world.
We found that there is a distinct tug of war between the demands of the workplace and workers’ private lives. Of the people who are leaving jobs in the STEM fields, a shocking 64 percent of them are not leaving for a promotion or advancement. It isn’t a huge surprise when you consider that 83 percent of respondents said that on a weekly basis they work more than 40 hours and half of those said that work demands conflict with their personal lives multiple times each week. Employers, especially those in North America, who resist worker-friendly policies will struggle to retain the best workers, and therefore will be increasingly unable to compete effectively in a global economy.
The Association for Women in Science (AWIS) is working hard to reduce the loss of talented, bright women from the STEM pipeline. As a part of that effort, AWIS has partnered with two prominent scholars to create sustainable tools to help universities recruit and retain women in STEM. The resulting resources are cleverly called Tools for Change.
Last September, AWIS presented the first of a three-part webinar series on Best Practices for Family-Friendly Policies. Tools for Change partner, Dr. Mary Ann Mason, JD, has been in the forefront of the movement to encourage universities to develop family-friendly policies for close to 30 years. In fact, she headed up the effort that led the entire University of California system to adopt what was then (and may still be today), the most progressive set of family-friendly policies in the country.
If you didn’t get to participate in the webinar, Dr. Mason discussed five family-friendly practices all universities should focus on.
- Dual Career. Establish a dual career policy – and publicize it. If you are a large enough institution, dedicate a university official to handle dual career hiring. Another option is to provide centralized funds to help department fund positions for the second hire.
- Stop-the-Tenure Clock for Childbirth. Most universities have a policy for this. Best practices should also include options for fathers who provide care and should include a provision for those who need to care for elders or family members.
- Part-Time Tenure Track with Right of Return. The best practice allows pre-tenure faculty the right to return within a ten year time period and permits post-tenure faculty to directly negotiate a return time. Faculty at the University of California system may reduce percentage of their teaching and service obligations from full to part-time temporarily or permanently to accommodate family needs.
- Leaves. Standard practice for women is now 6-12 weeks of paid leave and up to a year of unpaid leave. Fathers should get up to 6 weeks paid leave and up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Another option is to permit parents who certify that they are doing half of the caregiving (some institutions use this for single parents or parents who are the sole caregivers for at least 20 hours during the work week) and extend to them a semester of teaching relief. Leave policies should also include provisions for elder care or care of other family members.
- Childcare. Having an onsite affordable childcare center for faculty, postdocs, and grad students, with space for infants, is a great recruitment incentive, especially if the institution offers guaranteed placement.
When institutions implement family-friendly policies everyone wins.
AWIS was able to bring this webinar to its members through its Tools for Change partnership and a grant from the National Science Foundation (#1106411). Click here to learn more about Tools for Change.