Childcare Access an Issue

Junior faculty as a whole are affected by a scarcity of childcare, but the problem is particularly acute for mothers.

The 1991 report on women in the sciences concluded that many young scientists found family and academic careers mutually exclusive goals, especially in an intense environment like Harvard.

"Prevailing opinion might be caricatured in the observation 'having children is viewed as a personal decision, just like buying a Mercedes,"' the report reads.

According to Assistant Dean of the Faculty Elizabeth Doherty, many still view the decision to have children as a lifestyle choice, one that the Faculty should not have any special obligations to support.

"There are equity concerns about dealing with childcare expenses," she says. For example, the University has no plans to help faculty members who have aging parents or other special-needs relatives and face similar financial burdens.

Many faculty feel that they shouldn't have to make a choice between having careers and having children.

"If I could actually stop my career temporarily for five or six years while my daughter goes off to school, I would do it, but I know I can't," says Alyssa A. Goodman, who recently became the second woman ever to gain tenure in the astronomy department. Parents are left with few options as childcare is expensive in Cambridge.

A professor with two young children enrolled in full-time Harvard-affiliated care can easily be paying almost $3,000 a month, Doherty says. The 1991 report noted that the cost of childcare consumes almost a third of a junior faculty member's salary.

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