The process of becoming an academic expert can take years. For many women, these are the same years during which you will be starting and/or nurturing a young family. Fortunately, many universities now have “stop the clock” policies. These policies are built into the junior faculty timeline to allow women of reproductive age to stop their tenure/promotion clock. In 2005, eighty-two (69%) medical schools had tenure-clock-stopping policies available to both male and female faculty that could be used for child care, care for sick family members, or medical disability (Bunton, 2007). Yet, these policies are notoriously underutilized. At fifty-seven institutions, an average of only 1.0 men and 1.5 women at each institution used these policies each year. Whether you plan to use it or not, find out in advance if your own institution has a “stop the clock” policy.
Medical schools and research universities continue to wrestle with how to translate flexible policies into practice. Innovative ideas are now being taken from the higher education sector. For example, in 2005 Princeton University began to automatically grant an extra probationary year to all faculty with a new child rather than requiring faculty members to request the extension. The purpose of this automatic extension is to remove the stigma associated with the request.