Policies permitting untenured women faculty to "stop the tenure clock," especially when they bear children, appear to be gaining ground at United States universities. Such clock- stopping allows women to step off the tenure track for an extended time, theoretically without penalty. However, the practical effects on career advancement of this relatively recent practice remain to be examined.

"There has been debate, to be frank, about whether these policies can earmark you," acknowledges Catherine J. Didion, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Association for Women in Science (AWIS). "Most people would agree that there are additional demands to being a birth mother, but I think there is a concern that this [policy trend] not be seen as . . . an explanation of why women haven't been advancing.

"The vast majority of women in academia want to have a rewarding professional life, but the problem is that so many of...

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