by Andrew Shurtleff
Yoest and Steven Rhoads are conducting a second stage of the
study exploring the experience of balancing work and family
life, which they will report on later this year.
Research yields insight into working
Paid parental leave in academia is rare, U.Va.
U.Va. researchers released
preliminary results of a nationwide study of parental leave policies
Jan. 29 that found fewer than one-fifth of all institutions of
higher education provide parental leave beyond maternity leave
for new parents.
The study, funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the Bankard
Fund, showed that only 18 percent of institutions nationwide offer
paid leave for both men and women assistant professors in tenure-track
positions. Another 8 percent offer paid leave for women only,
for a combined total of 26 percent of institutions that offer
some kind of parenting leave above a six-week maternity leave.
“The passage of paid, family-leave legislation in California
in 2002 generated new interest in paid-leave policies,”
said Steven Rhoads, professor of politics and the study’s
principal investigator. “In academia, paid parental-leave
policies have been in existence for more than a decade to help
in recruiting and retaining female faculty. But our research shows
that paid leave in academia is still a fairly elite benefit.”
The study found that formal, paid-leave policies are associated
most commonly with elite private institutions: more than half
(51 percent) of top-tier schools offer paid leave. Moreover, private
schools are almost twice as likely as public schools to offer
a paid leave — 34 percent compared with 18 percent.
However, the study found frequent use of informal leave arrangements
— nearly a quarter (23 percent) of those schools with no
formal, paid-leave policy reported informal arrangements.
The majority of schools (67 percent) that do have paid-leave policies
offer a leave of a full quarter or semester. Another 25 percent
offered between eight and 12 weeks. But a full quarter of the
schools that offered paid leave did not provide a full relief
of academic duties during the leave period.
The survey also explored the extent to which existing policies
were utilized and whether faculty who took advantage of them saw
a negative impact on their careers.
“Administrators were unanimous in asserting that their institutions
do not stigmatize faculty members who use the policies,”
said Charmaine Yoest, project director and a doctoral candidate
in the Department
of Politics. “But some academics told us they feared
that using parental leave would mean increased scrutiny of their
work and diminished career prospects.”
The project as a whole explored faculty experiences with work
and family policies at institutions of higher education around
the United States. Data were gathered from administrators at 168
academic institutions by telephone interviews conducted in the
summer and fall of 2001. The sample was stratified according to
the competitiveness of the school and then selected with “probabilities
proportionate to size” (based on the number of full-time
faculty). The institutional data then were weighted, making the
sample representative of universities nationwide.
A second stage of the study explores the experience of balancing
work and family life by assistant professors on the tenure track
at institutions with paid-leave policies. Those results will be
reported later this year.