This Op Ed breaks down the problem of how and why service gets taken up, assigned and rewarded unequally, my next Op Ed, will describe the solutions and why they work.

The Hallway Ask....

Imagine a university hallway. There are six faculty offices: three doors are open and three are closed. The department chair comes down the hall. He’s just learned that the dean needs a faculty member to chair the fellowship committee.

In one of the offices with open doors is Dan, an associate professor considered a good researcher and OK colleague who will probably go up for promotion next year. Dan tends to say no when asked to take on new service roles to protect time for research. Next is Amanda, a full professor with a strong research profile who is considered an abrasive colleague and committee member. She is difficult to work with but also detail oriented and gets things done. Then there is Elizabeth, an associate professor with strong research whom everyone likes and who often takes on extra department work and does it well.

Guess who will be asked to chair the fellowship committee? In most of our departments it’s Elizabeth. Research, including my own, has found that women in academe spend more time than men doing necessary, time-consuming and underappreciated service work. Far from being a harmless request or expectation, such an ask has long-lasting consequences. Faculty members who do more service, administrative work and department “housekeeping,” like Elizabeth, will take longer to advance, face lower research productivity and be more likely to withdraw from academe or burn more here

AuthorKerryAnn O'Meara