Written by Emily Redler ’20
Academia is an unusual employer; career advancement (in the form of tenure) is not directly related to amount of time spent on different activities, but on how “valuable” an activity is considered. Not all activities are considered equally “valuable” or prestigious. There are many aspects to a faculty member’s job at a research institution, including:
- research (e.g., conducting studies),
- teaching (e.g., teaching undergraduate courses), and
- service (e.g., holding office hours, mentoring, public speaking, and sitting on committees).
Often faculty are asked by students or other faculty members to perform tasks related to any of these job aspects. How a faculty member distributes their time is often driven not by prestige of activity or potential career advancement, but by what tasks they are asked to perform. Many studies have shown that female faculty tend to engage in more service-related activities than male faculty, and service activities are often seen as less prestigious and are not as highly valued as other activities. The researchers for this study (O’Meara et al, 2017) wanted to analyze how faculty spend their time in a detailed way to determine any gender differences. They also wanted to examine what kinds of tasks faculty were requested to perform and who requested it of them.
The participants for this study were 111 professors from 13 Big-10 research institutions. Each participant was asked to keep a time-diary in which they recorded their work activities in five minute increments for four weeks.
Study results showed that, overall, male and female faculty had similar workloads, but male faculty spent more time on research activities than their female counterparts, and female faculty spent more time on service activities and teaching activities. Specifically, female faculty were more likely to chair master’s theses, comps papers, and undergraduate capstones as well as plan to submit grant proposals. Male faculty were more likely to be an editor of a journal and have submissions of journal articles. It was also found that women received more work requests than men, and these requests tended to be related to teaching and service. In addition, women tended to receive more requests from women and men tended to receive more requests from males.
These results are consistent with previous findings that female faculty members tend to spend more of their time on service activities, while male faculty members tend to spend more of their time on research. However, this could be partially due to the differing number and nature of the work requests that female faculty receive as compared to male faculty. Female faculty are often seen as more approachable and as being more committed to service, which encourages more people to request that they engage in activities related to teaching and service. This perpetuates the inconsistency in type of work by gender.
Overall, this study shows that there are implicit biases in faculty workload. Research universities are implicitly gendered organizations (Acker, 2006); they are organized in a way that lend themselves to gender inequality. Certain activities are valued more highly than others, and this leads to certain faculty’s work being valued more highly than others. Because of the inconsistency in type of work by gender, female faculty’s work is often valued less highly than male faculty’s work, which can lead to slower career advancement and fewer opportunities. Organizations, including research universities, should work on reducing implicit biases and becoming more aware of differing workloads between faculty so that those differences may be remedied or acknowledged in a fair way.
Acker, J. (1990). Hierarchies, Jobs, Bodies:. Gender & Society,4(2), 139-158. doi:10.1177/089124390004002002
Implicit stereotype. (2018, May 22). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Implicit_stereotype
O’Meara, K., Kuvaeva, A., Nyunt, G., Waugaman, C., & Jackson, R. (2017). Asked More Often: Gender Differences in Faculty Workload in Research Universities and the Work Interactions That Shape Them. American Educational Research Journal,54(6), 1154-1186. doi:10.3102/0002831217716767
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