Family Friendly Policies

Leaks in the Academic Pipeline for Women

Statistical information shows that at nearly every stage of an academic career – from securing a tenure track position to achieving associate and full professor status – married women (both with and without young children) leak out of the academic pipeline at a disproportionately high rate.

* Preliminary results based on Survival Analysis of the Survey of Doctorate Recipients (a national biennial longitudinal data set funded by the National Science Foundation and others, 1979 to 1995). Percentages take into account disciplinary, age, ethnicity, PhD calendar year, time-to-PhD degree, and National Research Council academic reputation rankings of PhD program effects. For each event (PhD to TT job procurement, or Associate to Full Professor), data is limited to a maximum of 16 years. The waterline is an artistic rendering of the statistical effects of family and gender.

What makes academe so difficult for mothers?

In large part it is because it is a rigid, lockstep career track that does not allow for timeouts and that puts the greatest pressure on its aspirants in the critical early years. Most academics earn their Ph.D.’s and tenure in the critical decade between the age of 30 and 40, the “make-or-break decade,” as we call it. It is also the decade in which many women have children, if they have them at all.

We all know what structural changes would help to level the playing field: paid family leave for both mothers and fathers, especially for childbirth, a flexible workplace, a flexible career track, a re-entry policy, pay equity reviews, child-care assistance, dual-career assistance.

It is time for women to”lean in” as Sheryl Sandberg argued in her much-debated book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, and demand family friendly policies that will at least give them a fighting chance to have both a successful career and babies.

Level-the-Playing-Field Workshops

thumb-online-trainingIt is clearly recognized that marriage, childbearing and caregiving are major factors that push women out of the scientific pipeline. Studies also show that gender bias plays a role as well. Our team has engaged in extensive research to determine when and why women drop out of the pipeline. The Level-the-Playing-Field Workshops are a series of short visual presentations aimed at a variety of audiences. These online workshops review all we have learned about what works and what doesn’t in creating a workplace that doesn’t push out women out of the pipeline.

Instant Online Access

 Do Babies Matter? Gender and Family in the Ivory Tower

DBM-book-coverDo Babies Matter? is the first comprehensive examination of the relationship between family formation and the academic careers of men and women. The book begins with graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, moves on to early and mid-career years, and ends with retirement. Individual chapters examine graduate school, how recent Ph.D. recipients get into the academic game, the tenure process, and life after tenure. The authors explore the family sacrifices women often have to make to get ahead in academia and consider how gender and family interact to affect promotion to full professor, salaries, and retirement. Concrete strategies are suggested for transforming the university into a family-friendly environment at every career stage.

The book draws on over a decade of research using unprecedented data resources, including the Survey of Doctorate Recipients, a nationally representative panel survey of Ph.D.s in America, and multiple surveys of faculty and graduate students at the ten-campus University of California system.  Purchase book here.

Creating a Family Friendly Department: Chairs and Deans Toolkit

thumb-toolkitDepartment chairs and deans have a central responsibility in understanding the importance of a family friendly policies, and in implementing policies, sharing resources, and reinforcing cultural practices to assist all faculty. This toolkit provides essential information for department chairs and deans. Available on

If you would like to receive hardcopies of this toolkit or to request a Microsoft WORD version, please send an email to Karie Frasch. With appropriate attribution you may adapt the Toolkit to your own institution.

Download Toolkit (PDF)

Effective Policies and Programs for Retention and advancement of Women in Academia

thumb-BPCompetitive universities have recognized that eliminating the chilly climate for women, and effective implementation of family-responsive policies gives them an edge in attracting and retaining talented women faculty. Particularly in this period of sharply declining resources, effective programs to control gender bias and address work-life balance needs can improve faculty satisfaction and reduce costly attrition rates.

Worklife Law has compiled best practices used by colleges and universities across the nation to successfully retain talented faculty—particularly women–with family responsibilities.

Download Best Practices Guide (PDF)

Staying Competitive: Patching America’s Leaky Pipeline in the Sciences

thumb-stay-competitiveWomen represent a large part of the talent pool for research science, but many data sources indicate that they are more likely than men to “leak” out of the pipeline in the sciences before obtaining a tenured position at a college or university.

Download Report (PDF) Download PowerPoint

UC Faculty Family Friendly Edge Report

thumb-uc-family-edgeThe UC Faculty Family Friendly Edge is series of projects designed to support the development and implementation of innovative family friendly policies and programs for academics in the UC system, as well as to examine the role of institutions of higher education and federal granting agencies in leaks from the academic pipeline at all stages. Visit website.

Download Report (PDF) Download PowerPoint Download Postdocs PowerPoint

Links to Survey Examples