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Better maternity leave could help universities retain women – study

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Better maternity leave could help universities retain women – study

Researchers say universities with generous policies employ twice the number of women professors

Mother with baby

Better maternity leave could boost British productivity by encouraging qualified women to stay in the workforce, according to researchers who found universities with the most generous maternity leave employed twice the number of women professors compared with those offering the least.

Vera Troeger, a professor of economics at Warwick University, said her research found that the universities with the best maternity leave policies were better able to retain qualified women who went on to become professors and receive higher pay.

But universities that offered much shorter periods of paid leave were more likely to see qualified women staff leave after having children, disrupting or even ending their careers, according to the figures going back to 2006 studied by Troeger and Mariaelisa Epifanio of Liverpool University.

Daughter and mother using their mobile phone and looking at their laptop

Troeger said the findings could not only help universities crack the glass ceiling for women academics but also had huge implications for the British economy as a whole by accessing “untapped female talent”.

“Extended maternity provision might actually boost female productivity and pay for itself in the long run,” Troeger said. “And it could help the UK to close its productivity gap with Germany and the US. The more maternity provision you can offer allows women to more easily stay connected to the labour market, and so be more productive.”

The research – soon to be published as a working paper – also found substantial variations in maternity leave policies among British universities.

While Oxford University offers its full-time staff 26 additional weeks of leave on full pay, some well-known institutions such as Exeter and Nottingham universities offered just eight weeks.

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The Guardian article published on 21st January 2018 by Richard Adams is the Guardian's education editor.

Project website: Maternity Benefits across UK HEIs