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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
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Monday, April 17, 2017

Female Professors Outperform Men in Service, To Their Professional Detriment

Inside Higher Ed, Female Professors Outperform Men in Terms of Service — To Their Possible Professional Detriment:

Women shoulder a disproportionately large workload at home in ways that might disadvantage them professionally. But are female professors also “taking care of the academic family” via disproportionate service loads? A new study [Faculty Service Loads and Gender: Are Women Taking Care of the Academic Family?] says yes and adds to a growing body of research suggesting the same.

“We find strong evidence that, on average, women faculty perform more service than male faculty in academia, and that the service differential is driven particularly by participation in internal rather than external service,” the study says. “When we look within departments — controlling for any type of organizational or cultural factor that is department specific — we still find large, significant differences in the service loads of women versus men.”

All that matters because service loads “likely have an impact on productivity in other areas of faculty effort such as research and teaching, and these latter activities can lead directly to salary differentials and overall success in academia,” the paper says. “In the urgency to redress not only differences in time use but compensation imbalances, as well, the service imbalance is one that deserves to rise to the forefront of the discussion.” ...

In a first, basic crack at the data, the authors determined that women in the national sample performed 30 more minutes per week of service than men and 1.5 more service activities per year than men in the local sample, and that the difference was statistically significant in both cases. To glean more meaningful results and control for a number of factors, they proceeded with a multiple regression analysis. In the national sample, women reported 0.6 hours more service per week than men, controlling for rank, race and discipline. Female full professors, in particular, reported significantly more time spent on service than male full professors — though full professors of both genders spent the most time on service over all. Faculty members in business and some sciences appeared to spend less time on service than those in the arts and humanities. ...

Laura Perna, James S. Riepe Professor and executive director of the Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy at the University of Pennsylvania, said the new study sheds critical light on faculty workloads, especially with the suspension of the federally-funded National Study of Postsecondary Faculty in 2004. More broadly, the study raises important questions about “what it is we are valuing in our reward system,” she said. Service, not always rewarded like other kinds of faculty work, “is really oriented toward advancing [an institution’s] collective mission.”

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This isn’t surprising. I saw similar behavior when I worked with hospitalized teen boys and girls. The two dealt with the stress of their illness in quite different ways. I was amazed by both.
The boys responded with ‘fight and flight.’ Unable to attack their nurses—security would have frowned on that—they fled, withdrawing and cooperating as little as possible. Many were recovering from major orthopedic surgeries, typically athletic injuries and motorcycle accidents, and much of their stress came from the embarrassing situations that arose due to their almost all female caregivers. Indeed, all our nurses were young and attractive, which made their frustration even greater. What healthy 17-year-old guy wants to ask a pretty girl for a urinal?
In contrast, the girls responded with ‘tend and befriend.’ Many were also rendered helpless by orthopedic surgeries, typically complex spinal fusions that inserted two stainless steel rods the entire length of their backbone. As the only male nursing staff on the unit, I was at least a potential source of embarrassment for them, but they cooperated marvelous, each in his own way. That was the befriending. And other teen girls were equally impressive in their tending to my needs as a harried member of the staff. Two I particularly recall. Both had extremely serious medical conditions, and yet each took the time to find me, even when I was assigned to a different cluster of patients, and cheer me up. “Why,” I thought to myself, “do that do their. Their troubles are far greater than mine.”
If you’re interested in the entire story, it forms the foundation for a medical/nursing/hospital textbook I wrote, Embarrass Less: A Practical Guide for Doctors, Nurses. Students, and Hospitals. If you’re hospitalized, you might give it to those caring for you. It has a lot of advice those girls taught me about making hospitalization less embarrassing.
This is that same set of responses adapted for law school. Male professors rarely flee but they do fight for recognition for themselves and their school in a larger arena—researching, publishing and speaking. If law school were a family, they’d be the traditional father earning his living out in the world. In contrast, the women professors are “driven particularly by participation in internal rather than external service.” There couldn’t be a better definition of ‘tend and befriend’ than that. And were the law school a family, they’d be behaving like typical mothers. I suspect that’ll punch a few people’s hot buttons, but it’s true.
The unfairness of many law schools is that they’re unconsciously behaving like a family tilts its rewards heavily toward father-like behavior rather than that of mothers. Research is valued higher than service, even though both are needed. That’s an issue that needs addressing.
—Michael W. Perry, medical writer

Posted by: Michael W. Perry | Apr 17, 2017 2:44:28 PM

The mistake women are making is the assumption that administrative work is the key to academic success. It is not.

Posted by: mike livingston | Apr 17, 2017 9:42:12 PM

According to the studies, women are either assigned more service or feel more pressure to do service. This suggests that there are no inherent gender differences when it comes to this issue, instead, it comes down to the different treatment of women professors by departments.

Posted by: Anon | Apr 18, 2017 1:22:07 AM