Best Practices for Normalizing Parents in the Academy: Higher- and Lower-Order Processes and Women and Parents’ Success
By Leah C. Windsor, University of Memphis and Kerry F. Crawford, James Madison University
Our research on bias in family formation is rooted in the extant literature of gender and academia but moves beyond discussion of the “leaky-pipeline” metaphor to explore less frequently addressed issues including pregnancy loss, illness, lactation, and challenges faced by academic parents who are the partners of those who have given birth. We explore the lower-order processes that inform the gap in professional achievement between men and women in political science specifically and in academia more broadly. In turn, these lower-order processes manifest as more observable higher-order outcomes such as the disparate rates of tenure and promotion. We conducted a 100-question survey from November 2017 through July 2019 involving more than 300 respondents. Through analysis of open-ended survey responses, we identified a common theme uniting faculty experiences at a range of universities: family formation and parenting can be isolating processes for academics, and there often is a gross lack of both formal and informal support within universities, which creates the potential for setbacks in both personal and professional life. We highlight the challenges confronting academic parents—especially women—and suggest potential avenues to a more inclusive and balanced approach to academia.