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'Team players’

Study finds female professors are the head of the ‘academic family’

April 13, 2017

It’s no secret that women are the proverbial masters of multitasking. Female professionals often balance demanding professional careers as well as demanding home lives, often sacrificing their own ambitions in the process. But a new study suggests that female professors have extended the boundaries of their nurturing spirits even further and begun to take care of their “academic families” by taking on even more work than their male colleagues.

Published in Research for Higher Education, the study, conducted by Cassandra M. Guarino, professor of education and public policy at the University of California, Riverside, and Victor M. H. Borden, professor of educational leadership and policy studies at Indiana University at Bloomington, describes how female professors not only are assuming heavier workloads than their male colleagues, but are also more likely to get involved in the internal services of their respective institutions (i.e. department meetings, clubs, etc.)

Surveying more than 19,000 faculty members from more than 143 different universities and colleges across the country, it was determined that on average, female faculty members perform about 30 minutes more service per week and engage in 1.5 more service activities per year than their male colleagues. While this varied from discipline to discipline, women were still determined to shoulder the brunt of the work.

In analyzing this disparity, Joya Misra professor of sociology and public policy at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst said that despite the fact that women’s service involvement among faculty is essential for their departments and institutions, “the daily grind of service and leadership rarely carries the respect and reputational benefits of disciplinary service, while it actively limits women’s research time.” In the high-stress university atmosphere of publish or perish, female professors’ dedication to the internal workings of their departments might have a detrimental effect on their careers.

Guarino went on to explain further that the impulse in female professors to assist with the internal service of their departments in often unconscious and they can be unaware that they are doing — or being asked to do more — than the men. What she did stress was the responsibility of the institution to help correct the gender disparity when they see it happening. “There needs to be more internal monitoring of this,” Guarino said. “But until we see evidence and we can really help women say no, it’s just going to keep happening.” While she suggests that women need to become more protective of their own research time, she understands that their desire to be selfish is often rewarded with the stigma that they aren’t “team players.”

There is no quick fix to the situation, but the study’s authors suggest that a re-evaluation of the rewards system for those professors involved in service would be a good place to start. Often overlooked in favor of other academic pursuits, more recognition would most likely result in more participation on both ends of the gender spectrum.

Read the full story at Inside Higher Ed.


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