Campus Work/Life Policies: Moving from Policy to Practice

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Women in Higher Education






Women in Higher Education

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Balancing work and family life is one of today's leading gender issues, according to Dr. Melanie Hulbert. It's a major factor that keeps many women from holding top leadership positions, earning tenure and changing the academy into a gender-neutral environment. Despite having earned top administrative jobs, advanced degrees and prestigious reputations, most women remain the chief caretakers for their families. She spoke of asking a little boy who'd just turned six years old if the tooth fairy had visited. "No," he replied, "Daddy said she was unavailable, but apparently she'll be around tonight." Hulbert also recalled once when she was breastfeeding in her office and hadn't closed the door entirely. A student knocked on the door, opening it. "He was mortified, and never came to my class again." Given the nation's current political climate, it's not surprising that the United States lags behind less developed countries in creating family friendly work/life policies. Just how far do we have to go? Well, 65 countries currently offer paid paternity leave. The United States offers none. In 170 countries, mothers have a right to breastfeed, while in the United States, the prevailing attitude is that it should be done in the privacy of one's home, never in public. Paid sick leave is a right in 145 countries, with 127 of them offering a week or more. In the United States, it was a fight to get the Family Medical Leave Act passed and it still does not provide for paid sick time. Hulbert is an assistant professor of sociology at George Fox University in Portland OR. Her research interests focus on the sociology of work, gender issues and family, especially how HR managers impact gendered roles. She's also interested in the ways culture plays a role in designing work-life policies and putting them into action. Hulbert discussed how and why work-life policies become organizational practices at the College and University Work Family Association (CUWFA) annual conference held in Santa Barbara in February.


Originally published by Women in Higher Education. HTML fulltext available through remote link.