A recent article by a former Obama administration official has stirred up debate over the obstacles women face in balancing work/life. This reminded me of this report written by a committee here at Hopkins to help resolve the current gender-based career obstacles for women faculty. The report is great, but in practice we have a long way to go. For example, my department has not hired a woman at the tenure track level in 15 years. This drought has not been for lack of trying as we have made several offers, but none have been accepted. One issue that has come up multiple times is “spousal hires”. Anecdotal evidence strongly suggests that in academia the “two body” problem is more common with women than men. As hard as my department has tried to find jobs for spouses, efforts are ad-hoc and we get close to no institutional support. As far as I know, as an institution, Hopkins allocates no resources to spousal hires. So, a tangible improvement we could make is changing this. Another specific improvement that many agree will help women is subsidized day care. The waiting list here is very long (as a result few of my colleagues use it) and one still has to pay more than $1,600 a month for infants.
These two suggestions are of course easier said than done as they both require $. Quite of bit actually, and Hopkins is not rich compared to other well-known universities. My suggestion is to get rid of the college tuition remission benefit for faculty. Hopkins covers half the college tuition for the children of all their employees. This perk helps male faculty in their 50s much more than it helps potential female recruits. So I say get rid of this benefit and use the $ for spousal hires and to further subsidize childcare.
It might be argued the tuition remission perk helps retain faculty, but the institution can invest in that retention on a case-by-case basis as opposed to giving the subsidy to everybody independent of merit. I suspect spousal hires and subsidized day care will be more attractive at the time of recruitment.
Although this post is Hopkins-specific I am sure similar reallocation of funds is possible in other universities.