Inside Higher Ed, 'Dancing Backwards in High Heels': Study Finds Female Professors Experience More Work Demands and Special Favor Requests, Particularly From Academically "Entitled" Students:
Numerous studies have found that female professors shoulder a disproportionate amount of service work compared to their male peers. Research also suggests that students hold female instructors to a different standard than they do male faculty members, especially when it comes to personality. Women are expected to be more nurturing and are perceived harshly when they’re not, for example.
Both sets of findings matter because they have negative implications for women’s professional success: service is generally the least valued criterion in the tenure and promotion triad of research, teaching and service, and students who view female professors as unfriendly may rate their teaching poorly as a result.
Both lines of inquiry also intersect in a new paper, which says that students request more special favors and friendship behaviors from their female professors than they do of men — resulting in more actual work demands and emotional labor. The paper also suggests that "academically entitled" students more strongly expect that women will grant their favor requests than will male professors, and that they react strongly when women deny those requests.
“If students set higher standards for their female professors, it is more difficult for female professors to meet student expectations, perhaps resulting in poorer course evaluations, and putting more work demands and emotional strain on female professors,” lead author Amani El-Alayli, an associate professor of psychology at Eastern Washington University, said Tuesday. “Female professors may consequently be more likely to experience burnout and low job satisfaction than their male counterparts.”
All of this could interfere with female professors' likelihood of success within academe, El-Alayli said. If women feel more emotional strain, spend more time dealing with student requests, have more disgruntled students, get lower course evaluations and have less time for research activities or class preparation because of the extra demands placed on them, she added, “then their chance of getting promoted may be reduced.”
The paper, published in Sex Roles, is called “Dancing Backwards in High Heels: Female Professors Experience More Work Demands and Special Favor Requests, Particularly From Academically Entitled Students.” (“Dancing backwards” is a reference to a comment once made about Ginger Rogers doing everything her onscreen partner Fred Astaire did, just backward, in high heels.) It is based on two studies conducted by El-Alayli and her co-authors, Ashley A. Hansen-Brown, an assistant professor of psychology at Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts, and Michelle Ceynar, a professor of psychology at Pacific Lutheran University. ...
Joya Misra, a professor of sociology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, has published numerous studies on gender and service in academe. ... In any case, Misra argued, the root of the problem is that people view women as “helpers” and men as “doers,” which she “has a tremendously negative effect on the careers of academic women, who either engage in helping behaviors -- and spend less time on more valued work -- or do not, and are viewed as selfish or not team players, even when their men colleagues are similarly less likely to engage in helping behavior but face no consequences.”