An Anecdotal Survey on the Mommyprof Track

A couple of weeks ago, I invited readers to participate in a survey on maternity leave policies at various law schools.  This effort was aimed at provoking open dialogue on the topic rather than providing a scientifically defensible sample or survey of law school practices (a worthy endeavor but not one that this mommyprof can fit into her schedule!).  I received 22 responses to the survey, which could include some overlap from the same law school, so the results are not even close to representative of the 193 ABA-accredited law schools in the U.S.  Nonetheless, I think the findings are interesting.

It was striking that all but one of the respondents said that their law school did not expect women to wait until tenure to have children.  The other respondent was not sure how her school would view pre-tenure childbearing, but worried that a leave might attract stigma from male colleagues.  On the brighter side, one commenter noted that at her school, all of the junior women in relationships had children before tenure in recent years.  While I know from conversations with friends at other law schools that this norm is not universal, it’s nice to see that it may be more widespread than I had expected.

Responses about law school policies on paid maternity leave were much more varied, ranging from sick time only with an expectation that the mother will take the rest of the semester unpaid to a semester paid leave (or light load for a year).  In between were a school that offers six weeks paid leave, others that offer 2-4 months of paid leave, and one that offers a semester leave at half pay.  It was encouraging to see that at least two thirds of the respondents’ schools offer a semester paid leave but troubling to see the cases in which women are forced to choose between their paycheck and a reasonable amount of time at home with their newborn.

So where do these anecdotes lead us?  As mentioned above, it would be a most worthwhile endeavor to survey paid maternity leave practices at all ABA-accredited schools.  Short of that, it may be helpful to open up conversations with peers at other schools to compare practices, and particularly for women on the job market who intend to have children to think about negotiating maternity leave as part of their compensation package.  At the very least, this important issue should be on the radar screen of mommyprofs, deans, and others who seek to recruit and retain a gender-diverse faculty.

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