Written by Emily Redler ’20
As mentioned in a previous post, academia is a strange profession in that career advancement is often based on how a professor distributes their time amongst their job activities. Of the three main components to a faculty member’s job (service, research, and teaching – see the previous post for a description of these), research is the most important to career advancement. However, how professors distribute their time is not typically driven by their own choice but by requests from others. Faculty rank is also an important factor in determining career advancement.
In academia, there are three main ranks of tenure-track faculty. In order of rank:
- Assistant professor (pre-tenured)
- Associate professor (tenured; often this is when many faculty being getting more service requests)
- Full professor (tenured; promotion to this rank is not on a set timeline, but instead occurs at the discretion of the department chair and others)
When a professor achieves tenure, it means that their job is secure and they can only be fired under extreme circumstances. In addition, a tenured job comes with an increase in salary and prestige. Expectations and tasks requested of faculty change as rank increases, especially from when transitioning from a non-tenured position to a tenured one.
It is well established that as faculty rank increases, the percentage of women in the role decreases (Christidis, 2014). The previous blog post examined gender as a factor in how faculty distribute their time as well as what kinds of requests faculty receive and from whom. Because rank and gender are related, it is important to also examine rank when looking at these factors.
The present study (O’Meara et al., 2017) examined rank of professor as a factor in how faculty spend their time as well as what tasks they are requested to complete. They were interested in not only how rank affects this, but about the interaction between rank and gender. The participants were 111 professors from Big-10 research institutions. The study limited the sample to only tenured professors (associate and full professors) because workload and the types of activities performed change drastically from a non-tenured position to a tenured position. Participants were asked to record their daily activities in five minute increments for four consecutive weeks.
The results showed that, on average, full professors had more overall work hours than associate professors (46 vs 40 hours per week, respectively), but associate professors reported receiving more work requests than full professors (294 and 202 requests during the 4-week period, respectively). Full professors were more likely to consider themselves a primary mentor, be an editor for a journal, and make off-campus presentations. All of these are considered service activities. In addition, full professors spent more time on research activities than associate professors, who spent more time on teaching and advising. Associate professors were more likely to be unsatisfied with the distribution of service activities in their department.
When taking gender into account, these findings stayed constant, but some were even more extreme for women. For example, female full professors spent less time on research than their male counterparts (7.3 hours per week less) and female associate professors spent less time on research then their male counterparts (5.92 hours per week less).
These findings support previous research and work as a possible contributor to the gender inequality in academia. Associate professors are systematically not engaging in the activities they need to in order to advance, and are being asked to complete activities that do not contribute as much to their advancement. Coupled with the fact that women are less likely to be full professors than associate professors, this contributes to the difficulty women have advancing their careers in academia.
Christidis, P. (2014, October). How is the gender composition of faculty in graduate psychology departments changing? Retrieved January 18, 2018, from http://www.apa.org/monitor/2014/10/datapoint.aspx
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