Survey of policies on “stopping the tenure clock” for child-rearing in atmospheric science departments

Among the challenges for women in attaining university tenure (or long-term employment at institutions such as the National Center for Atmospheric Research) is that of combining child-rearing with the rapid professional advancement often demanded of junior personnel. University teaching faculty must be confirmed for tenure or terminated after a period of about seven years (commonly referred to as the “tenure clock”). The period when successful scientific careers are established therefore often corresponds to the typical period of childbearing and child-rearing, so that the biological and tenure clocks tick at the same time for many young, female faculty. This is believed to account for some of the differences between men and women in the attainment of tenured faculty positions, particularly at major research universities (see, e.g., National Academy Press 1992). Many academic institutions have enacted policies to allow for some form of “stopping or slowing the tenure clock” for tenure-track female and male faculty who are involved in child- rearing. While a number of institutions also allow “stopping the clock” for other personal matters such as family illness, those are not addressed here.

We carried out a survey of UCAR (University Corporation for Atmospheric Research) universities aimed at describing typical policies employed nationwide for faculty involved in child-rearing. The survey was sent to UCAR member institutions in January 1997, and 36 responses were received as of 1 April 1997, indicating significant interest in this topic. We appreciate the time spent by those responding to the survey, and we briefly summarize the results here in the hope that they may be of interest to AMS members.

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