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Peter Allen and Julia Boettcher are mathematicians at LSE. They applied for a job share, but instead LSE split a single role into two part-time roles so that they can both work in the same place and have time for their family.
Peter Allen and his partner Julia Boettcher are both mathematicians at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Three years ago, they were working in Brazil and looking to move back to a job in the UK at the same institution as they were about to have a baby.
“In higher education, it’s very difficult to find two full-time positions in the same city and we wanted to be together,” says Peter.
They saw a maths lecturer position advertised at the LSE and applied for it as a job share. The Maths Department suggested it would work better if they split the job in two and offered it as two part-time roles with each person teaching a separate course. They accepted.
Peter and Julia took up their posts just over two years ago, each on a 50% contract, working three days a week with two days overlapping, but around a year ago they moved up to a two thirds contract.
Peter, who did his PhD at LSE, says the part time hours cover administrative and teaching work. It is much harder for academics to work part time on their research. “It’s the nature of academic life,” says Peter, “and in any event it’s in our own interests to do as much research as possible in order to get promotion.”
As both Peter and Julia work four days a week their daughter only has to go to nursery three days a week and they bring her into the LSE nursery on the train.
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Additional paternity leave
This Spring when their second child is born they are cutting their office hours from 80% to 60% so they can have more time with their children. Peter also plans to take additional paternity leave. His wife will stay off work until September and he will take September to January as additional paternity leave. Currently both of them are on a sabbatical from their teaching duties so they can focus on their research and can work more from home.
Peter says both he and Julia are happy with the support they have had as parents from LSE, which won Workingmums.co.uk's Top Employer Best for Dads Award, although he adds that some universities include childcare costs in their research costings, for instance, if a babysitter is needed to cover while an academic attends a conference. As Peter and Julia are in the same discipline, they tend to go to the same conferences and they take their daughter with them and book childcare once they are there. When their daughter is at school Peter says they may have to share conferences.
He says he has not encountered any negative attitudes at LSE towards the work arrangement he has with his partner. “No-one has complained,” he says. “A couple of men in my department work part time. It’s not so rare at LSE. Also very few people in the department are native English. Maybe things are different in other countries.”
Eventually the couple hope to move to full-time roles, but at the moment they are happy with things as they are. “We want to enjoy some time taking care of our children,” he says.
Picture credit: Mr Lightman and www.freedigitalphotos.net