More Time Dedicated to Service Work Hinders Female Professors’ Careers, Study Shows

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Equality between man and woman concept with beam scales and sign

A recent study published in the journal Research in Higher Education shows that female faculty engage in significantly more academic service work than their male colleagues, which means they may have less time for career- enhancing activities like research.

The report, titled Faculty Service Loads and Gender: Are Women Taking Care of the Academic Family?, was co-authored by Cassandra Guarino, PhD, a professor of education and public policy in the Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Riverside, and Victor M.H. Borden, PhD, a professor of educational leadership and policy studies at Indiana University Bloomington.

Using data from a 2012 faculty survey at a large Midwestern university and a 2014 national survey of more than 140 institutions, the researchers found that female faculty spend more hours on service per week and complete more service projects per year than men do. This dedication to service may “have an impact on productivity in 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 authors said.

Furthermore, female faculty members are also more likely to perform internal service — that which benefits the university, campus, or their department — as opposed to external service for the local, national, or international community. Internal service tends to be considered less valuable and often garners less recognition than external service. These circumstances, Guarino and Borden said, could mean that women who devote themselves to “taking care of the academic family” rather than enhancing their visibility outside of their departments or institutions may be hindering their careers.