Approved by PCOSW, 5/14/04
The following documents represent collaboration among the President’s Commission on the Status of Women, the ADVANCE Program, and the Women’s Equity Committee. We appreciate that the current administration has taken steps to recognize the need to include family leave issues within the context of gender equity for the purpose of creating a more welcoming and productive work environment for all URI faculty and staff. Research has shown convincingly that women pay a high price for motherhood and marriage, that men pay a high price for lack of involvement in family life, that children pay a high price as a result of both, and that ultimately, society as a whole is adversely affected. As a result, we offer the attached recommendations and rationale for policy change and future family friendly efforts, as well as a suggested family leave policy that incorporates these recommendations. We stress the opportunity to use policy as a means to bring about social change, not as a reflection of present cultural expectations. This work is based on several guiding principles.
First, our policy will recognize that the economy depends on families to perform essential unpaid work: to bear and raise the next generation of workers, to support and nurture present and past workers, and to consume products made in the economy. Thus, work and family are inextricably interconnected institutions-one cannot function without the other.
Second, our policy will not reinforce the cultural idea that women are and/or should be the most important or natural caretakers. We will ensure that our policy will not reify the cultural ideology that keeps women in charge of family life. Thus, our policy will create parental leave strategies that are designed to prevent encumbering families with having to make gendered choices about child care. Research evidence is quite clear on three points: that children are well served when they are cared for in families with shared responsibility for their nurturance, that fathers would like to be more involved in family life, but feel unable to do so because of work policies, and that when gendered choices about child care occur in families, women are much less able to succeed in even the most family-friendly work environment. Thus our policy will recognize that for workplace policies to be most efficacious, such policies cannot assume that women will be the main or only caretaker in families.
Our proposed parental leave policy is an attempt to use language that avoids gender assumptions about responsibility for child care in recognition of the goal of gender equality in employment. Thus, in writing the policy, we have seized the opportunity to create a truly effective parental leave policy for women, men, and employers-one that recognizes the interrelatedness of work and family. This involves a simultaneous change of families and work, by making the same behavior/accommodations available and acceptable for both men and women. If we are serious about the overall goal of gender equality in employment, then we need to change gendered choices in families in order for work equity strategies to succeed.
Finally, we would like to stress that a family leave policy is only an initial step in the ultimate goal of creating a family friendly environment. Issues such as child care, elder care, dual career families, modified duties, policies that apply to all staff and students, tenure clock stoppage, and changing norms, while incorporated in our recommendations and policy, all require special attention beyond policy change.
The President’s Commission on the Status of Women, the ADVANCE Program, and the Women’s Equity Committee firmly believe in the words of Present Carothers when he stated:
“…one of the most important issues in the work place is child care.supervisors here can help these employees by making reasonable accommodations in such matters as start and quit times, flexible work hours to make up missed time taken for family emergencies, assignments which can be completed at home and other creative arrangements. Our goal should always be to get the work done with highly motivated, dedicated and skillful employees. We gain that when we treat our colleagues with respect and concerns for them and their families.” (memo to Vice Presidents, Deans and Directors dated October 5, 1998