Photo: Erwyn van der Meer on flickr
In order to ease the competition for women faculty members trying to earn tenure while raising children, many universities offer paid paternity leave to both male and female professors.But now researchers are saying that post-birth paternity leave options for both sexes may only be favourable for men, not women.
According to a recently published study conducted by the University of Virginia and the University of Connecticut, male professors were using the majority of the time to advance their professional work, whereas female professors were actually using it to care for their child.
Top universities are most likely to have paid paternity leave for both men and women, but these institutions also place more emphasis on research, so there’s more pressure to publish academic papers.
And male professors are using this to their advantage. The study says:
During the course of our research on institutional policies, we heard stories of
male academics who took paid post-birth leave in order to advance their publishing
agendas. One top university had to change its rules in an effort to minimize this behaviour.
Some assistant professors were taking leave even though their wives didn’t have jobs.
Another had taken leave while his child was in full-time day care.
The researchers — who are both men — concluded that paid post-birth leave options for male professors should be re-examined because if men “should begin to take leave in much larger numbers, far from levelling the playing field, gender-neutral, post-birth leaves are likely to tilt the field further in favour of men.”
The study surveyed 181 married, heterosexual, tenure track professors at 40 different schools with children under the age of two. There are some risks for bias: The surveys were conducted in 2001 — gender issues and parenting culture may have changed since then — and the results relied on self-reporting rather than observation, which could be an important determining factor.
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