Sunnie Yi Ning ’18 Assistant News Editor
As of July 1, Smith now offers faculty and staff members who are a child’s primary caregiver longer paid parental leave as well as a lesser workload to non-primary caregivers.
According to the new policy, a faculty member who is the primary caregiver of a biological newborn, or an adoptive child under the age of 5, would be excused from teaching, research and administrative duties for one semester. Previously, they were only relieved from teaching and not administrative duties.
According to Smith’s new parental leave policy, “A faculty member who is a non-primary caregiver parent can be excused from teaching one course during the semester a child arrives. In addition, the non-primary caregiver will be excused from all teaching, research and administration for one week after the child arrives, but is expected to continue her or his research and administrative duties.”
A non-faculty employee, who is a primary caregiver, is eligible for fully paid parental leave, including benefits, during the twelve-weeks immediately following the child’s birth or arrival. The parental leave policy for staff members says, “Staff members who are non-primary caregivers may apply for up to four weeks of paid parental leave at the normal weekly rate of pay.” Previously, staff members who are primary caregivers only had eight weeks of paid leave.
Under the current policy, additional leave days can also be granted on a case-by-case basis.
This move towards more parental leave shows Smith’s commitment to providing an environment that is more respectful of the personal needs of employees and more friendly towards women. The preamble of the faculty’s parental leave policy reads, “Smith College is committed to supporting faculty members by providing them with clear and reasonable options for managing their professional and parental responsibilities. In formulating its parental leave policy, the college affirms for its faculty and indirectly for its students, a commitment to parents who seek to lead full professional, intellectual, and personal lives.”
Paid family leave is not a common benefit. Only 14 percent of all university, college and junior college employees have access to paid family leave, but this number is still higher than the percent within the U.S. workforce as a whole.
This is significantly impacting women’s ability to excel in careers. According to an interview by New England Public Radio with Mary Ann Mason, a law professor at UC Berkeley, women in academia face many challenges and are traditionally expected to keep up with male colleagues at any cost. “The baby issue is the main reason why academics drop out of the pipeline,” Mason said, “often at the graduate school level.”
In 2015, President McCartney wrote an op-ed for the Boston Globe arguing that the construct of motherhood is at conflict with the zero-guarantee for maternal leave, and that this is destroying women’s careers. She argued passionately for increasing parental leave. “Numerous analyses have demonstrated the benefits of parental leave policies to workers and employers. Parents have time to bond with their children, health care costs go down and fewer families are pushed to rely on public assistance,” she said, “On the employer side, turnover is reduced, while morale and productivity increase.”
The new parental leave policy is the first step towards dismantling the unfair burden on women regarding childcare and towards providing women the benefits they deserve.