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Research, Writing, and Resources from Project Leaders

FWRP Research Papers

Faculty workload inequities have important consequences for faculty diversity and inclusion. On average, women faculty spend more time engaging in service, teaching, and mentoring, while men, on average, spend more time on research, with women of color facing particularly high workload burdens. We explore how faculty members perceive workload in their departments, identifying mechanisms that can help shape their perceptions of greater equity and fairness. White women perceive that their departments have less equitable workloads and are less committed to workload equity than white men. Women of color perceive that their departments are less likely to credit their important work through departmental rewards systems than white men. Workload transparency and clarity, and consistent approaches to assigning classes, advising, and service, can reduce women’s perceptions of inequitable and unfair workloads. Our research suggests that departments can identify and put in place a number of key practices around workload that will improve gendered and racialized perceptions of workload.

Faculty members experience a gap between how they would prefer to spend their work time and how they actually do so. In this article we report results from a four-week workshop called “The Terrapin Time Initiative.” It was guided by theories of behavioral economics and behavioral design, which suggest that small changes to the context, or “choice architecture,” in which individuals make choices can enhance decision-making. Results indicate that the workshop was effective in changing the “choice architecture” in which faculty made decisions about their time-use, thereby helping them to develop new strategies for managing their time.

We conducted a randomized control study to improve equity in how work is taken up, assigned and rewarded in academic departments. We used a four-part intervention targeting routine work practices, department conditions, and the readiness of faculty to intervene to shape more equitable outcomes over an 18-month period. Our goal was to (a) increase the number of routine work practices that department faculty could enact to ensure equity, (b) enhance conditions within the department known to positively enhance equity, and (c) improve the action readiness of department faculty to ensure equity in division of labor. Post intervention faculty in participating departments were more likely than before the intervention to report work practices and conditions that support equity and action readiness in their department, and that teaching and service work in their department is fair. Participating departments were significantly more likely than control departments to report practices and conditions that support equity and greater action readiness to address issues of workload equity in their department. Finally, participating department faculty were more likely than control department faculty to report increased self-advocacy and were more likely than control department faculty to report that the distribution of teaching and service work in their department is fair.

For decades, national surveys have shown faculty report high levels of dissatisfaction with the distribution of labor in their departments, especially women and underrepresented minority faculty. Research suggests this dissatisfaction is warranted, as these groups are often engaged in more service, mentoring, and institutional housekeeping than their peers. Despite the ample work revealing workload inequities and their consequences, few studies have examined the backdrop of conditions and practices within which workload is perceived as more or less fair, especially within departments. Drawing on survey data from 30 academic departments in Maryland, North Carolina, and Massachusetts, we empirically test three propositions about the conditions under which faculty experience their department workloads as equitable. We found departments where faculty reported equitable work conditions and practices (e.g., transparency, clarity, rotations of time-intensive roles) were significantly more likely than departments where faculty did not report these conditions and practices to report satisfaction with workload distribution, and satisfaction with teaching and service activities. Department work practices and conditions had a small or insignificant effect on faculty intent to leave. Interestingly, faculty confidence in the ability to enact these practices and conditions, which we termed action readiness, was not predictive of faculty satisfaction with workload distribution or teaching and service activities. We outline implications for academic leaders seeking to make academic workloads more transparent and equitable, and for future research.

FWRP Reports, Op-Eds, and Guidance

Work-time Inequality

Guided by research on gendered organizations and faculty careers, we examined gender differences in how research university faculty spend their work time. We used time-diary methods to understand faculty work activities at a microlevel of detail, as recorded by faculty themselves over 4 weeks. We also explored workplace interactions that shape faculty workload. Similar to past studies, we found women faculty spending more time on campus service, student advising, and teaching-related activities and men spending more time on research. We also found that women received more new work requests than men and that men and women received different kinds of work requests. We consider implications for future research and the career advancement of women faculty in research universities.

Time is a valuable resource in academic careers. Empirical evidence suggests women faculty spend more time in campus service than men. Yet some studies show no difference when relevant variables are included. The primary source of data for most workload studies is cross-sectional surveys that have several weaknesses. This study investigated campus service inequality and factors that predict it at 1 research university using a novel and more comprehensive source of data - annual faculty reports. The investigation was guided by Kanter’s work on the role of power and representation and Lewis and Simpson’s rereading of Kanter’s work to focus on gender, power, and representation. The authors examined 1,146 records of faculty campus service during 2 years. In both years, women faculty reported more total campus service than men while controlling for race, rank, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and the critical mass of women in a department. When considering levels of service, women reported higher numbers of service activities at the department and university levels. Women in male-dominated fields tended to have service workloads more like their peers and less like women in non-STEM fields. The article concludes with considerations regarding implications for organizing practices that maintain inequity between men and women in campus service.

Background/Context: Empirical evidence suggests women faculty spend more time in campus service than men, which perpetuates inequality between men and women because research is valued more than service in academic reward systems, especially at research universities. Purpose/Focus of Study: In this study I apply insights from research on gender inequality to examine whether women and men faculty at a research university were thinking about their campus service differently. I add to the literature by (1) making faculty thinking about campus service visible, (2) examining how this thinking is constrained by gender, and the gendered nature of organizations, and (3) revealing how individualistic and cosmopolitan orientations, and communal and local orientations appear together in faculty thinking about campus service. Research Design: My research assistants and I conducted 60–75 minute-long, semistructured interviews with 88 faculty including 34 men and 54 women on their work environment experiences. Interview questions focused on choices that faculty had made to emphasize different kinds of work (teaching, research, service), balance work priorities, and succeed. Findings/Results: Overall, more women framed campus service in communal terms and expressed local orientations toward campus service; more men positioned service as a campus problem, and noted their own interests to avoid or minimize involvement in campus service so as not to hurt their career. In a smaller group of cases, (e.g., four men and five women) the faculty member expressed the dominant pattern for the other gender; however, even in these cases participants provided examples of the dominant pattern for their gender as well. In all cases, women and men were influenced by gendered ways of thinking about work, and gendered organizational practices that permeated their socialization and work environments. Conclusions/Recommendations: Findings suggest that interventions are needed to affect thinking about campus service within university environments, as thinking shapes gendered divisions of labor. Sharing campus service data transparently, developing department consensus about appropriate levels of service contributions, and developing a sense of collective ownership for academic programs are examples of organizing practices that could generate change toward more gender neutral divisions of labor. Addressing the complex issue of inequality in campus service is not only about counting the numbers of service activities, although this is important. It is also critical to understand how faculty may be approaching the issue, the forces shaping their thinking, and the consequences of their thinking for individual careers and the future of the academic community.

This study explores how faculty at one research-intensive university spend their time on research, teaching, mentoring, and service, as well as housework, childcare, care for elders, and other long-term care. Drawing on surveys and focus group interviews with faculty, the article examines how gender is related to time spent on the different components of faculty work, as well as on housework and care. Findings show that many faculty report working more than 60 hours a week, with substantial time on weekends devoted to work. Finding balance between different kinds of work (research, teaching, mentoring, and service) is as difficult as finding balance between work and personal life. The study further explores how gendered care giving, in particular being a mother to young children, is related to time spent on faculty work, controlling for partner employment and other factors. Men and women devote significantly different amounts of time to housework and care giving. While men and women faculty devote the same overall time to their employment each week, mothers of young children spend less time on research, the activity that counts most toward career advancement.