For the fifth year in a row, Yale was named one of the 100 best companies to work for by Working Mother magazine.
Yale was the only university in America to make this year’s top 100 list. According to the magazine’s website, the percentage of women in managing positions at the University, the percentage of women hired, the amount of paid parental leave and the ability to make one’s schedule more flexible were all factors that impacted Working Mother’s selection of Yale. Though professors and staff members interviewed agreed that Yale has relatively progressive policies regarding parental leave and childcare, they added that it is still challenging to balance career and family on the Yale campus.
Divinity school professor John Pittard said Yale’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in particular has a “very generous leave program for new parents.”
Pittard, whose two children were born while he was a graduate student at Yale, said he took a semester of “parental support and relief” funding after the birth of each child.
“[The policy] allowed me to stay at home as a primary care provider without losing my graduate school funding and with the understanding that childcare would for a time have priority over progress towards my degree,” he said. “It is an incredibly generous policy.”
According to the magazine, the average length of paid maternity leave at Yale in 2013 is 10 weeks, while the average length of paid paternity leave is 8 weeks.
Still, Yale’s policies toward new parents vary at each level of the University.
A tenure or tenure-track professor, for example, can be relieved of teaching duties without loss of salary or benefits for an entire academic semester occurring within the first year after the birth or adoption of a child.
Faculty members more generally are eligible for a semester of unpaid child-rearing leave upon request, while research faculty and postdoctoral appointees are eligible for paid parental leave of up to eight weeks.
Managerial and professional workers — which include nonacademic administrators — can get paid parental leave for two weeks, beyond which they can use their accrued paid time off. Pregnant managerial and professional workers may also use paid short-term disability leave for up to eight weeks after delivery, after which they will be paid only 60 percent of their salary.
On the other hand, there are no official paid child-rearing policies for clerical and technical workers, which include administrative assistants.
Tanya Wiedeking, manager of administrative operations for Pierson College and mother of two young children, said in her experience, Yale does not allow staff members with young children to work part-time.
“I think it’s pretty backwards,” she said. “It’s really hard to leave a young baby in the care of others for 40 hours a week, and I think Yale could easily afford to be more flexible in this regard.”
In general, Wiedeking said non-academic staff positions have less generous leave policies than faculty positions.
For employees with children, Yale also provides childcare programs through its WorkLife initiative, which aims to help employees balance career and family through offering services and workshops.
Manager of Yale WorkLife and Child Care Programs Susan Abramson said Yale WorkLife provides referrals and tries hard to match parents with non-Yale affiliated daycares if Yale childcare is not an option. To meet overwhelming demand for daycare services, Yale has recently opened its sixth affiliated daycare facility.
Many faculty members stressed that being able to use Yale’s babysitting services and the Parent Registry is extremely helpful. For graduate students, the McDougal Center offers resources for new parents including workshops and advisors.
Still, the issue of daycare is prominent in the minds of many faculty and staff members who still find the high costs and limited availability of local daycare daunting.
Molly Michaels ’15 — a former teacher’s aide for Calvin Hill Daycare, one of the facilities affiliated with the University — said she thinks Yale does a good job of supporting faculty with children. Still, she added that she thinks the University could do more to work with students who are pregnant or have children.
“For them, these daycares and pregnancy support resources are not made readily available,” she said.
Still, faculty members said Yale’s policies have improved dramatically in recent years, adding that they found previous policies for child rearing difficult to navigate.
Psychology professor Woo-kyoung Ahn, who had her first child in 1999 as an assistant professor at Yale, said she ultimately decided it was easier to leave Yale for another university than it was to work around the University’s child-rearing policies. Because of Yale’s policies at that time, she was not able to take adequate maternity leave if she wanted to stay on the tenure track, she said.
“It was almost like the college was making us choose between having a family and having a career,” Ahn said.
She came back to Yale when her second child was a year old.
Three years later, Yale’s policies had improved. Trumbull College Dean Jasmina Besirevic said she had her first child as a graduate student in 2002, and that she was able to take an extra term for her dissertation without an issue. She pointed out, though, that like many other female graduate students, she felt like she had to plan ahead to have the child during her writing year in graduate school so that it would not interfere with her teaching.
When asked about whether or not the length of her maternity leave was sufficient, Besirevic said “not necessarily.”
“I come from Europe where you get a year leave,” she said. “But I’ve been in the U.S. long enough to know what to expect.”
Besirevic said that with her second child she was ready to return to work after two months, but that she was lucky enough to have her parents there to help with taking care of her younger daughter.
Fifty-four percent of Yale’s hires in 2013 were women.