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The Impact of Work/Life Balance Policies on Faculty Careers

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Women in Engineering Division: Retaining and Developing Women Faculty in STEM

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1550.1 - 26.1550.10



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Paper Authors


Elsa Camargo Virginia Tech

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Elsa Camargo is a doctoral candidate in the Higher Education Program at Virginia Tech. She holds a M.A. in Hispanic Studies and a B.A. in English and Spanish from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her research interests include career advancement of underrepresented faculty, diversity and inclusion, and faculty work-life.

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Ashley Wood Virginia Tech


Margaret E. Layne Virginia Tech

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Peggy Layne, P.E., joined Virginia Tech in 2003 as director of AdvanceVT, a National Science Foundation sponsored program to increase the number and success of women faculty in science and engineering. She is currently Assistant Provost reporting to the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs, where her responsibilities include faculty recruitment, development, and reporting. Prior to accepting her current position, Ms. Layne worked as a diversity consultant for the American Association of Engineering Societies and as director of the program on diversity in the engineering workforce at the National Academy of Engineering. She also spent a year as an AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow in the office of Senator Bob Graham.

Ms. Layne has degrees in environmental and water resources engineering and science and technology studies. She spent 17 years as a consulting engineer in the fields of water and wastewater treatment and hazardous waste site investigation. Ms. Layne is a registered professional engineer, an active member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, and served as president of the Society of Women Engineers in 1996-97.

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The Impact of Work/Life Balance Policies on Faculty Careers Even though the number of doctorate degrees awarded to women in recent years hasincreased, the gender gap among tenured and tenure-track faculty has persisted (Wolfinger,Mason, & Goulden, 2008). This gender gap is even wider in some disciplines (e.g.,engineering). In 2012, women earned 22.6% of the 8,110 doctorate degrees awarded inengineering (NSF, 2014). During this same year, women compromised 14% of tenured andtenure-track engineering faculty in the United States (Yoder, 2013). Previous research indicatesthat gender gaps are in part due to institutional climates, including gender inequality anddiscrimination (Monroe, Ozyurt, Wrigley, & Alexander, 2008), gender bias (Williams, Alon &Bornstein, 2006), and unconscious bias (Beddoes, Pawley & Banerjee, 2012; Valian, 1998) thatimpact the professional success of women faculty (O’Meara & Campbell, 2011). Other factorssuch as marital status and parenting young children provide possible explanations for the gendergap in tenure-track promotion (Wolfinger, Mason, & Goulden, 2008; Mason, Wolfinger, &Goulden, 2013). Research institutions in particular have competitive environments that demandlong work hours to meet publishing, entrepreneurial, and instructional requirements. Thesework intensive environments lead to a less family-friendly atmosphere (O’Meara & Campbell,2011) that often supersedes institutional gender-neutral work-life balance policies and mayresult in penalties when such policies are used by faculty (Manchester, Leslie, & Kramier,2013). In addition, department chairs and colleagues may not perceive family care giving asvaluable experiences and believe that these responsibilities only affect women faculty (O’Meara& Campbell, 2011). The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of work-life balance policyperceptions on faculty members’ careers across disciplines. The study took place at aSoutheastern research university, classified as a very high research activity institution. Theuniversity received a grant from the National Science Foundation to address gender equity inacademic science and engineering careers and has since implemented a number of work-lifebalance policies. This study focuses on the modified duties and extending the tenure clockpolicies. The modified duties policy changes a faculty member's workload and allows for aflexible schedule during a limited time period. The tenure clock extension extends the tenureclock by one year. Both policies are granted in response to life-changing events (e.g. childbirth,illness, etc). The study employs a mixed methods sequential explanatory design (Creswell & PlanoClark, 2011) and draws from survey data and faculty interviews. Researchers used universityrecords to identify faculty members who used the tenure clock extension and modified dutiespolicies between 2006 and 2013. A total of 168 faculty members were invited to participate inan online survey. A subset of faculty members who completed the survey (n=6) were selectedfor interviews. Also interviewed were department heads (n=4) who had experience workingwith the policies and promotion & tenure committee members (n=3). Of the six facultymembers interviewed, three were men and three were women. Overall, faculty members in thestudy were all tenured and married. Participants represented the colleges of Engineering,Business, Science, Agriculture and Life Sciences, Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, andVeterinary Medicine. Findings reveal that the work-life policies have challenged some of the gender biasesand gender inequality that existed in the institutional culture, and have resulted in facultymembers valuing the work-life policies and recommending that other faculty members takeadvantage of them. Nonetheless, there continue to be gender differences in family formation andcareer progression within the institution. Initial findings from this study have implications in thedevelopment of institutional policies and the study of faculty career progression and jobsatisfaction. ReferencesBeddoes, K., Pawley, A.L., & Banerjee, D. (2012). Gendered facets of faculty careers and challenges to engineering education as an inclusive profession. Paper presented at the Australasian Association for Engineering Education, Swineburne University of Technology, Melbourne, 3-5 December (pp.461-469). Australia: Australasian Association for Engineering Education.Creswell, J. W., & Plano Clark, V. L. (2011). Designing and conducting mixed methods research (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SageManchester, Leslie, & Kramier. (2013). Is the clock still clicking? An evaluation of the consequences of stopping the tenure clock. Industrial and Labor Relations Review, 66(1), 3-31.Mason, A.M., Wolfinger, N.H., Goulden, M. (2013). Do babies matter?: Gender and family in the ivory tower. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.Monroe, K., Ozyurt, S., Wrigley, T., & Alexander, A. (2008). Gender equality in academia: bad news from the trenches, and some possible solutions. Perspectives on Politics, 6(2), 215-233. doi: 10.1017/S1537592708080572National Science Foundation. (2014). Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering. Retrieved from the National Science Foundation website:’Meara, K.A., & Campbell, C.M. (2011). Faculty sense of agency in decisions about work and family. Review of Higher Education, 34(3), 447-476.Yoder, B.L. (2013). Engineering by Numbers. Retrieved from American Society on Engineering Education website:, J.C., Allon T., & Bornstein, S. (2006). Beyond the ‘chilly climate’: eliminating bias against women and fathers academe. NEA Higher Educational Journal: Thought & Action, 79-96. Retrieved from,V. (1998). Why So Slow? The advancement of women. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.Wolfinger, N.H., Mason, M.A., & Goulden, M. (2008). Problems in the pipeline: Gender, marriage, and fertility in the ivory tower. Journal of Higher Education, 79(4), 388-405.

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