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When The Biological Clock Is Ticking Faster Than The Tenure Clock…

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Women & New Faculty Development

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.1447.1 - 11.1447.11

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Paper Authors


Julie Jessop University of Iowa

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Julie Jessop is an Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering at the University of Iowa. She is actively involved in polymer research and teaches a series of polymer courses. In addition, she is the proud mother of a precocious toddler. She received her Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Michigan State University.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

When the biological clock is ticking faster than the tenure clock…


The clocks are ticking, and you’re getting antsy. You’ve delayed starting a family because you wanted to get settled into your academic position; however, that doesn’t seem such a good idea now that you’re approaching your mid-30’s. What factors should you consider in making the decision to start your family? Once you’ve decided to take the plunge into family life, what are strategies you can use to strike a balance between your family and career? Here, personal experiences of several female engineering faculty members from the University of Iowa will be shared, along with tips from other resources. Topics include: (1) Negotiating with your supervisor [how will baby’s arrival affect your contributions to the department/college?]; (2) Preparing for the unexpected [what if you have to go on bed rest?]; (3) Making decisions about childcare [who will watch baby while you lecture?]. (4) Easing back into work [where is the lactation room?]; (5) Facilitating success in both areas [where do you go for support?];


I felt compelled to write this paper because I experienced a need to have a more open and expansive dialogue about the issues faced by women who desire to have a family and a faculty position in engineering. In the past, I have attended engineering conferences with sessions on work/life issues, only to be disappointed that they delved into the experiences of male professors with stay-at-home wives. Although the challenges of these male counterparts are real, they are vastly different from the ones I face as a female professor with a husband who works outside the home. I also thought that others could benefit from the networking we have developed at the University of Iowa, where four female engineering professors in two departments have had babies all within a couple years of each other. Thus, this paper is from the perspective of married, female engineering professors with child(ren), and I acknowledge that single, female professors with child(ren) have a whole different set of challenges. Secondly, this paper is not an exhaustive resource—I have chosen topics that the four of us have found most pressing. It is, however, meant to stimulate female faculty to share their experiences with one another in an effort to expand our network and its benefits. I truly do not wish other women to have to stumble through this process as some of us have. Thirdly, this paper addresses mainly practical issues in making the decision to start a family before tenure and presenting options that have been used by the four of us as we have sought to be true to ourselves, our families and our careers. This is not a “one size fits all” approach, and I encourage you to use this paper as a guide to develop a solution that works best for you and your situation. You will find that the keys to doing so successfully, which I have woven throughout this paper, are knowing your priorities (and goals) and acting upon them.

Answering the Alarm

The tenure clock is very intimidating. The research is showing that having children is more likely to “bump” women off the tenure track than their male counterparts.1-5 In her article on this

Jessop, J. (2006, June), When The Biological Clock Is Ticking Faster Than The Tenure Clock… Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois.

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