Barriers to Effective Work-Family Policies for Government Grant Recipients
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Policy: The National Science Foundation (NSF) launched its Career-Life Balance (CLB) Initiative in 2011 with support from the White House to combat this disparity. The CLB Initiative is a 10-year endeavor that aims to increase the number of women in tenured academic positions in the sciences by promoting and developing family-friendly hiring and leave policies. The CLB Initiative offered several types of support in its initial phase, including supplemental funding to hire a research technician during a family leave to continue laboratory research.
Findings: Based on interviews with 48 CLB Initiative funding recipients and secondary data analysis of family-related policies at recipients’ institutions, results highlight barriers to policy implementation. Grantees and fellows outlined three pressing barriers in relation to work-family balance and career advancement. First, participants cite feelings of isolation and stigma attached to family leave taking. Second, more than half of the participants noted the high workload and extensive pressures to teach, publish, and provide service to the university. Finally, all of the recipients interviewed confirmed that academic careers in science and engineering require an extensive amount of traveling so faculty can share the research with a broad audience and network with colleagues to collaborate on additional projects. Maintaining a typical travel schedule in the year following the birth of a child posed a significant challenge.
Discussion: The discussion highlights policy challenges to addressing the concerns put forth by NSF grant recipients. First, regulatory limitations, particularly related to travel and university policies already in existence, prevent NSF from targeting a number of these barriers. This paper notes the way in which government regulations towards fairness may result in continued inequalities. Second, given the importance of promoting diversity in STEM academic positions, several policy recommendations are offered for additional work-family efforts in STEM disciplines. Last, findings highlight several areas of success, in addition to the structural and regulatory limitations discussed above.