When English professor Amy Hungerford gave birth for the first time last September, she knew raising a child would be an expensive ordeal. But a week before her daughter was even born, she had to begin paying $1,000 a month just to keep her spot on the waiting list at Edith B. Jackson Child Care, a day care center that gives top priority to children of Yale College faculty members.
Hungerford and other junior female professors said that inadequate child care, along with the University’s policies regarding paid teaching relief, have contributed to a lack of University support for junior female faculty who wish to eventually attain tenure status.
According to a study done by the University’s Committee on the Economic Status of the Faculty last May, both Harvard and Princeton Universities provide superior benefits to junior faculty in terms of childbirth leaves and child care. The University of Pennsylvania, the only other institution included in the study, also provides better child care benefits for its faculty.
English and American Studies professor Elizabeth Dillon said the Women’s Faculty Forum, an organization created last year as a tercentennial project, has taken steps to try and combat the issues surrounding women and tenure.
“I think there’s a cultural double standard that’s still very much in effect — the idea that when women who have children work, they’re abandoning their family, but if men who have children work,they’re helping their family,” Dillon said. “And I think some of Yale’s policies are also modeled along those lines.”
Pushed off the tenure track?
While the University may have an imperfect system of accommodating female faculty who have children, the problem is not restricted to Yale alone.
According to a report released last week by professor Mary Ann Mason, the dean of the University of California at Berkeley graduate school, women who had children before completing their humanities doctorates were 20 percent less likely to achieve tenure than men who had children during that period. For the sciences, the figure was 24 percent.
“It’s a real problem for women having families and being on the tenure track because the biological clock and the tenure clock coincide with one another,” Dillon said. “The time when women are trying to produce publications is often when women are also having children and are at the least productive point of their careers.”
At Yale, junior faculty members are expected to produce publications and research before being evaluated for tenure. The evaluation usually occurs nine or ten years after the junior professor’s arrival.
But under Provost Alison Richard, the University’s chief financial and academic officer, Yale has made recent attempts to accommodate these female junior faculty.
In December, the University revised its policy by extending the tenure clock a year for any junior female faculty member who has had a child. Previously, the tenure clock was extended by only one semester.
“I think we have a number of policies to advance the institutional commitment to increasing the number of tenured women,” Yale President Richard Levin said. “We have recently enhanced our leave policies for non-tenured women and all women — which in the case of non-tenured women would allow additional time to meet the criteria for promotion.”
Hungerford said even though the extra year has helped in terms of publishing and research, she still feels hindered in terms of involvement with the academic community.
“What’s hard about having a child while you’re trying to get tenure is that you can’t go to all the talks and be a participant in the community in the same way you’d want to be,” Hungerford said. “Tenure’s not all about books. Reputation and involvement with the community also matter.”
A lack of child care
In addition to issues dealing with tenure, junior faculty also criticized the lack of Yale-affiliated child care centers.
The five centers that are affiliated with the University only receive financial benefits through “rent and utility free leases of university space,” according to the report on the economic status of Yale faculty. In exchange, the centers usually give priority to Yale professors and staff.
But despite being given priority, many Yale faculty have a difficult time trying to secure spaces for their children, especially infants and toddlers.
According to the report, the Phyllis Bodel Childcare Center at the Yale School of Medicine had 105 children on their waiting list as of last January. The center’s capacity is 60 children and often gives first priority to Medical School faculty, making it all the more difficult for Yale College faculty to gain spots.
Three and a half months after giving birth to her first child, English and American Studies professor Diana Paulin said she still has no daycare for her daughter. Paulin was denied by the Edith B. Jackson center, which serves Yale College faculty, and is currently on several other waiting lists.
“As of now, we don’t have any child care and every week I’m trying to get a new babysitter,” Paulin said. “It’s been a lot of added stress and it’s been very frustrating for me. The worst part is that it makes it difficult to do your job in any sort of complete sense.”
Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead said the issue is being carefully studied, but that it is difficult for the University to invest in child care centers because demand fluctuates year to year. He said he would support more cooperation with New Haven centers.
Paulin said a lack of University support for junior faculty might result from the University’s extremely low in-house tenure rates.
“I think [daycare] is something worth investing money and resources in,” Paulin said. “It makes sense if you plan to have your faculty stay and you want to contribute to their quality of life. But if you expect them to leave, I can see how there’d be less of a commitment to these types of issues.”
But Brodhead said the University is very much interested in its junior faculty.
“It is not true that Yale is uninterested in the family aspirations of its junior faculty,” Brodhead said. “But it is true that there is some progress to be made.”