CUWFA Takeaway: Higher Education’s Other Big Problem

Female professor helping a college student

The following post comes from Bright Horizons Marketing Manager, Sean McCarthy.

The end of another long admissions season (congratulations class of 2023!) has people talking yet again about student challenges in higher-ed. 

But what of the teacher side? Professors will be the epicenter of those students’ experiences. And much like the student body, faculty is experiencing an evolution. Inside Higher Ed reported that over a period of two decades, the growth rate of women on faculties was nearly twice the rate of men. Those changes bring with them new challenges related to families and careers. Data we presented recently at the CUWFA (College and University Work-Life-Family Association) conference shows the reverberations on campus. Among higher-education faculty without any back-up for families: 

  • 40% had to interrupt or suspend work on a grant/research project because of child care issues 
  • 72% missed a meeting or other university event
  • 35% stalled during the tenure process or rose to the next rank slower than their ability would indicate
  • 22% seriously considered leaving the university or taking a leave of absence

Day-to-day isn’t the only problem. Women’s numbers may be up, but the same Inside Higher Ed report showed tenured women failing to keep pace, meaning careers are challenged. And there are other shifts. CUWFA presenters also talked about demographics, and the fact that five generations are currently sharing the workplace, each with unique personal priorities, all putting the concept of work/life front and center in higher education. 

Add all that to the fact that even students are arriving on campus with families (undergrads are increasingly non-traditional learners over age 25), and you have the reason we titled our CUWFA presentation, “The Future of Work/Life Must Include Families.” Many conference attendees, like University of Virginia and California State University of California, Davis (two of our clients), already are. 

College campuses are no different from any modern workplace, where younger employees are bringing new attitudes about mixing work and families. What is different is the industry’s slow move to adapt. But that’s changing. And at a time of enormous challenge for higher education, institutions solving for these challenges are the ones most likely to stay ahead. 

Support is where colleges and universities can differentiate themselves; recognizing that teaching has new complications, and putting stakes in the ground that say, career-focused employees with families are welcome here. 

Mom holding child in kitchen

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Written by: Bright Horizons Blog Editor

June 5, 2019

About the Author

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The Bright Horizons Blog Editor frequently posts on the real solutions that meaningfully support employees, advance careers, and drive the world’s leading brands. The Editor curates the latest news, trends, and challenges facing HR pros because your time is scarce. Follow the Bright Horizons Blog to receive this insight in your inbox.