Faculty members who take an extra year on the tenure track to tend to family pay the price, research by two University of Minnesota professors shows.
The study takes a long-range look at a family-friendly policy known as "stop the clock," which allows faculty members an extra year before tenure review to catch up on research a baby might have interrupted.
Stopping the clock helps faculty members gain tenure, the study shows. But it also results in a salary penalty.
Lisa Leslie, an assistant professor in the U's Carlson School of Management, called the results "a good news, bad news situation."
Given that most research universities have "stop-the-clock" policies, "there is a surprising lack of empirical evidence on how they affect the career success of tenure-track faculty members," the study says.
This study, set to be published in Industrial and Labor Relations Review, analyzed 334 faculty members at an unnamed research university, 51 of whom stopped the clock once and 13 who did so more than once.
It controlled for the possibility that people who use these policies are less productive than those who don't -- that perhaps they deserve that lower salary.
So if the faculty members are just as productive, why would they be paid less?
The study's authors believe that stopping the clock sends colleagues "a negative signal regarding a faculty member's underlying commitment to academic work" that affects salary decisions. Men suffer a longer-lasting penalty, the study found.
Tenure decisions are not affected, the authors suspect, because of the high-profile nature of that process.
Leslie recommended that organizations require more objective data in setting salary. "That could reduce the potential that these biases creep in."
"It's not enough just to offer the benefit," she said. "Organizations must be vigilant about the possibility of the penalties and stigma that may accompany the benefit."
Jenna Ross • 612-673-7168