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Closure of CFC raises the mommy tax for CSULB faculty

For female professors, opportunities for promotion are often delayed during the early years of motherhood, when childcare takes them away from their research that would otherwise make them eligible for full time, tenured positions.

Long Beach State female faculty and staff expressed worry over how the sudden lack of childcare would affect their work for the university after the Child and Family Center announced they would close in the summer.

The CFC is the only childcare center on campus which prioritizes the children of CSULB faculty and staff parents. Earlier in January, the CFC announced it will close this summer, July 1, for renovation without a plan for relocation.

“If we don’t [have childcare], we’re not going to make it,” said Lori Baralt, department chair of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies. “That’s one of the ways we can sort of fall out of this profession.”

The loss of the CFC had left not only dozens of faculty members and staff hustling to find a new source of childcare, but has also worried incoming junior faculty, made up of mostly women, who had previously counted on this benefit, according to Baralt.

“I think it’s a big part of what we use to recruit faculty that have kids,” Baralt said. “We talk about the CFC to any potential faculty hires that ask about what’s it like having kids here.”

Baralt said she has had to answer several emails from concerned faculty who ask her for suggested childcare alternatives after the CFC, which they had been pegging on, suddenly fell through.

“I’ve gotten emails from tenure-track faculty of color who are new here and were counting on childcare at CFC,” Baralt said. “Other people that are just coming in, they’re taking a much worse hit right now.”

In order for an associate professor to qualify for promotion, they must not only show excellence in their teaching, but also provide extensive research, apply for grants and further involve themselves in their work for the university.

A majority of this research is typically done over the summer, Baralt said, when classes are not in session. With the CFC closing by July 1, however, professors with young children have to put any research plans on hold.

Kirstyn Chun, a licensed psychologist and faculty member for Counseling and Psychological Services, referred to the delayed process of promotion as the “mommy tax.” This term refers to young expecting mothers, or mothers of young children, who miss opportunities for jobs or promotion due to the early years of childcare.

“Even in modern society, childcare responsibilities disproportionately tend to fall on women or women-identified members of a couple,” Chun said. “There could be a same sex couple, but it’s often one partner doing more than the other.”

A study by U.S. Census Bureau researchers found that “women who have children later have higher long-run earnings than those who have children earlier.”

The difference in parental earnings may increase after the birth of a child, according to the same study, where the female partner may reduce work hours and slow her growth for future promotions.

Baralt is one of the co-chairs for the President’s Commission on the Status of Women, whose mission “is to ensure that the University responds to the needs of women by removing inequities and providing a supportive educational, working and social environment.”

Baralt presented before the commission the issue of closing the CFC on Feb. 10, where she spoke about how taking away the childcare benefit was both a basic needs and gender equity issue.

Most female faculty have their children earlier in their career, Baralt said, around the time when they want to apply for tenure or promotion.

“Those are some of the most intense times, in terms that you need to be researching, publishing, applying for grants,” Baralt said. “You’re teaching a lot and you’re trying to be really involved in campus.”

Baralt included a petition in her presentation, so far signed by over 300 people, which asks the university not to close the CFC until a relocation childcare service was provided.

However, the commission was told by the President’s Office they could not endorse the petition, because “it would be inappropriate,” according to CSULB President Jane Close Conoley.

“Endorsement of the petition would create a conflict with the Commission’s role to advise me on matters related to women on our campus,” Conoley said. “I am always open to their advice, but the decision regarding the Child and Family Center had already been finalized after much consideration.”

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