BOX 6-6

Stanford University’s Childbirth Policy for Female Graduate Students

In acknowledgment of the conflict between the academic timeline and the prime childbearing years, and in an effort to increase the number of women pursuing advanced degrees, Stanford University put into place in January 2006 a substantial new childbirth policy for female graduate students.

Stanford’s university-wide policy has four main features:a

  • All female graduate students are eligible for an academic accommodation period of up to two academic quarters before and after the birth of a child. During this time, the student may postpone academic requirements.

  • During the accommodation period, the student remains eligible for full-time enrollment status and retains access to university facilities, housing, and benefits.

  • Students are automatically given a one-quarter extension of department and university academic milestones (for example, PhD qualifying examinations).

  • Students who receive support from university fellowships or research or teaching assistantships will be excused from the duties associated with those positions for a period of 6 weeks, during which time the student will continue to receive support.

Stanford’s childbirth policy is not a leave-of-absence policy (although students are free to pursue maternity and medical leave under existing policies), and under this policy students are expected to continue to participate in coursework and required research activities, albeit at a reduced rate. Stanford’s university-

lifestyle of an ever smaller group of people. It is urgent that academic norms and expectations be transformed so that the academy can continue to attract the very best people.

University faculty and leaders must develop and implement hiring, tenure, and promotion policies that take into account the flexibility that scientists need across the life course and that integrate family, work, and community responsibilities. They should provide central policies and funding for faculty and staff on leave and should visibly and vigorously support campus programs that help graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, and faculty with children or other caregiving responsibilities to maintain productive careers. Programs should include provisions for paid parental leave for faculty, staff, postdoctoral scholars, and graduate students (Box 6-6); facilities (Box 5-10) and subsidies (Box 6-7) for on-site and community-based child care;20 dissertation defense and tenure clock extensions; modi-


This was discussed as early as 1988 by Carl Djerassi. See FM Hechinger (1988). About education. New York Times B11(November 9).

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