Poll: Parental leave and CVs

Back in 2016, I wrote a post about formatting a CV for a faculty job application (aimed especially at folks applying for positions in the US). In that post, I wrote:

One question that came via twitter was how to indicate slow research output due to having babies. I have seen people do this, and I try to take it into account. For example, when going through CVs, I keep track of things in a spreadsheet where I note the year of the PhD; I would add a note there to take into account family leave for birth of a child, eldercare, etc. However, there is no question that there are still a lot of biases against women who have children, and that it could easily trigger implicit (or even explicit) bias. So, I would recommend against it (even though it pains me to type that).

More recently, a few things prompted me to reflect on that advice. One of those things was a blog post by Athene Donald, who argues that people should include leaves on their CVs. Another was an email from Tess Grainger who asked:

Is there is any evidence of bias related to parental leave, or it a thing of the past? How many people have been on a search committee (recently) in which someone indicated any kind of negative bias associated with a parental leave (or leave for illness, eldercare etc.)? Is this something that still happens, or should I and others not hesitate put these leaves in our records?

Those are all really interesting and important questions! So, today’s post is a poll (written with Tess) to try to get a sense for what is going on. Most of the questions in this poll are geared towards people who have sat on at least one search or award committee. There are also two questions asking people who did list parental leave or other family leave on their CV about where they listed it, as well as a free response question at the end — those can be answered by anyone, even those without experience on search or award committees. And, finally, if you know of publicly available examples of CVs that list leave, please share them in the comments!

Important Note: when answering this poll, please base your responses to the questions on your own personal, direct experience (not on stories you’ve heard). If you want to tell us about things you’ve heard, you can use the free response question at the end.

10 thoughts on “Poll: Parental leave and CVs

  1. Like @ndiscenza1 on twitter I have almost never seen a parental leave explicitly listed on a CV or application in the US (exception a few that I have reviewed from Europe and Canada where the culture and the guidelines are much more explicit). Any discussion of this has been down to a few referees that slipped it in or the committee speculating about gaps. From all of the times I have heard it speculated about I think candidates would be well served to actually mention it so the committee can in fact incorporate it it into their evaluations.

    Just as an example of how non-North American cultures level the playing field by making the directions to address this explicit – from a grant application I reviewed a while ago from a South American country: “The terms and conditions of the competition, establish that applicants may report a maximum of 10 publications among scientific articles, books and/or book chapters since 2013. Female researchers who have given birth to one child or have obtained the tuition or personal care of a child between 2013 and 2018 may report publications since 2011. Female researchers can add one year of productivity for each child, starting with the second child. Male researchers who certify tuition or personal care of one child can report publications since 2011 and, if for this same reason, they have more than one child, they can add one year of productivity for each child.”

    So I don’t think it is just on applicants to start reporting this. HR and search/awards committees can be much more open about saying consideration will be given if an applicant chooses to report it.

    • I totally agree with this! I have filled the form to add this and said so on Twitter too, but parental leave is a specific section of online applications for grants and fellowships in Sweden. I have seen in specified elsewhere in Europe as well, where parental leave is explicitly deducted from time frames for eligibility for early career awards. I completely agree that if this is something that is specified in the award´s rules to both applicants and reviewers, and if that was the case in online forms from universities and funding agencies as well, this would leave less space for bias, and more for actually explicitly taking it into account when evaluating someone´s productivity.

      I have both my maternity leaves in my CV, chronologically under appointments, with start and end date. I have been told after arriving in the US to take it away from my CV, by colleagues that had never seen it there and were worried it might disadvantage me. I refuse to do so because I think it is important to make more people aware of what it means to be on leave during early career years. Also, if I end up being discriminated against because of the leaves I have taken to attend to my children, then this is definitely not a place I would feel comfortable working at.

      • Ditto for Australia where it is normal to have much longer maternity leave than in North America. Women typically take a minimum of three months off work entirely, sometimes extending this to 1 year, and commonly return to work part-time after the birth of their child. Increasingly fathers are taking paternity leave and shifting to part-time work as well. As far as I know it would be pretty standard to list career interruptions for parenting in job and grant applications, and this would be given the consideration it deserves.

        The Australian Research Council actively encourages this practice, and assessors are directed to take career interruptions into account. There is a section for Research Opportunity and Performance Evidence (ROPE) – “we promote and encourage … those approaches that best recognise research excellence in the context of the diversity of career and life experiences”; “Periods of unemployment, or any career interruptions for child birth, carers’ responsibilities, misadventure, or debilitating illness will be taken into account.”; ” ROPE was introduced to help provide a more realistic consideration of a researcher’s capabilities and assist those who have had career interruptions for family and other reasons.”; ” It considers working arrangements, career histories and personal circumstances and provides an acknowledgement of research performance given the opportunities available.”

      • I confirm that this is the norm in Australia. Search committees takes opportunity very seriously and you are expected to explain any gaps due to personal circumstances. In addition to parental and care leave, this can also include interruptions in academic work due to going into industry, NGO or government work that limits publication productivity. However, I’m not sure if the later is viewed in the same light as maternity/paternity leave.

      • @Matthew Holden,

        Just speaking personally, I for one would view “I have a gap in my publication record because I was working in a job that didn’t involve publishing papers” totally differently than “I have a gap in my publication record because I was on parental leave”. Depending on the nature of the award or position for which I was evaluating the applicant, that time working at a job that didn’t involve publishing papers might be a good thing, a bad thing, or a mixed bag from my perspective as an evaluator. But it would be totally different than a parental leave (or a leave due to long-term illness, or etc.).

    • This is such an important point that never occurred to me (and I’ve been on a decent number of search & award committees)! It does seem like putting something explicit in the call for applications/nominations makes a lot of sense. It’s good to know that those of us in the US can look to other countries for examples of how to do this. (It is, of course, completely unsurprising that the US would be behind on this.)

  2. I filled out the poll, but here’s my own highly anecdotal experience:

    Here in Canada, applications for NSERC Discovery Grants include a section for “interruptions to work” (or something like that). I’ve never had occasion to use it myself. I’ve never seen it used as a reviewer either, but that doesn’t mean much since I’ve only ever reviewed a handful of NSERC Discovery Grant applications. I’m glad the section’s there, for the reasons Brian gives.

    As a member of the ASN Jasper Loftus-Hills Young Investigator Awards panel for 3 years, I saw ~125 applications, slightly more than half from women. I only recall one cv that listed a parental leave, in its own little mini-section IIRC (I may of course be forgetting one or two, but I’m sure I’m not forgetting a bunch). I don’t recall that it affected my (very positive) evaluation one way or the other. Had it not been listed I’d have had no reason to suspect that there was an unlisted leave (e.g., there were no big gaps in the cv that seemed to cry out for explanation). I don’t recall that the leave came up at all in the committee’s discussion of this applicant.

    Like Brian, as an evaluator I’d rather know about a leave than not know about it, since otherwise if there’s a big gap on the cv I’m left wondering why.

  3. Some Twitter commentary:

  4. This topic is great to see in discussion. As a Canadian Dr. Mom of two who moved from a faculty position in Canada down to one in the United States a few years ago, I’ve gotten a bee in my bonnet to push for change in how my U.S. institution and colleagues think about maternity/parental/family care. This includes CV but also in paid leave supported by the university, but the latter is another story. I’m up for tenure this year and I’m very tempted to include my leave (supported by the Canadian government and SFU, thank you Canada) in my tenure and promotion materials. To begin a process of normalization in including these important elements of life as part of the conversation on diversity, equity, and inclusion. We’ll see how it goes, and whether my Department lets it out of the gates.

  5. Pingback: Poll results: Good news! Listing parental or family leave on your CV seems more likely to help than to hurt. More committees should give applicants opportunities to list major life events. | Dynamic Ecology

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