Even though I’m taking several days to get through Sallee’s article, I find her findings a bit surprising, though I suppose I should have expected it. Basically, she finds that while the four universities in her study have official policies allowing men to take paternity leave and to stop the tenure clock upon the birth of a child, many of the men feel discouraged from doing so. At times, their departmental colleagues think less of them for doing so, find them emasculated to do so, and even punish them for stopping the clock. What a strange paradox. Sallee sums up the societal trend quite well when she says
Simply by being an involved parent, fathers receive kudos that mothers would not receive. Society expects that mothers will be involved and punishes those who are not; in contrast, men are expected to be productive workers, but not involved parents. They are praised when they are involved, but yet eyed with suspicion when they are too involved. (15)
Indeed, men are not expected to be involved fathers as much as they are expected to provide for their families, but Sallee fails to recognize one key aspect of this issue. While I agree overall that men are excluded from benefits they should have access to because of lacking policy, lacking knowledge of policy, or peer discouragement, Sallee has failed to note as yet the medical reasons for women needing maternity leave. Women’s bodies must recover once they have given birth, oftentimes their bodies must be available to the infant in order to feed it, and in the cases of cesarean births these women are recovering from major surgery. Sallee’s failure to note the medical aspect of maternity/paternity leave weakens her argument. Still, I agree with her regarding the societal barriers against men which should be addressed.
As for those men who would take paternity leave (against the odds), it seems unjust that they should be punished for it. One subject
reported hesitation to extend his tenure clock as his senior colleagues told him that they would expect extra productivity from him during the additional year. While faculty were willing to make some accommodations for women, they were less willing to extend the same to men. As I explore in the final section, this might be linked to notions of appropriate gender roles. (14)
In such a situation, the tenure clock has not really stopped for the faculty member, but rather has added additional expectations upon him. Again, I agree with Sallee that much of the impetus behind such policies and practices result almost solely from societal expectations. The good news is that these societal expectations seem to be shifting. As more women become breadwinners, and more men feel comfortable taking on more domestic responsibility, the policies of universities likewise appear to shift to allow more variation in men’s and women’s roles in the workplace and at home. Sallee mentions one faculty member who expects that with the next round of retirements, much of this influence will disappear. Then, the younger, more open-minded faculty and administration will have the power to encourage these men to take time for their families. I look forward to this moment, and I applaud those places where this is already happening.
Sallee, M. (2012). The ideal worker or the ideal father: Organizational structures and culture in the gendered university. Research in Higher Education, Online First, 1-21. Retrieved from http://www.springerlink.com/content/j854275370618222/fulltext.pdf