Faculty Workload and Rewards

Research shows significant gaps in time spent by women and men faculty in teaching, research and service activities.  The pattern is consistent across different kinds of data including faculty surveys, faculty activity reports, interviews, focus groups, and time diary studies. While awareness of equity gaps and their consequences are increasing, the processes through which work is taken up, assigned, and rewarded unequally are still not well  understood, in part because they often occur through unscripted work interactions. I study the processes through which workload can be designed proactively to be equitable as well as the forms of bias embedded in professional interactions and "constrained choices" that foster workload inequity and dissatisfaction.

Select Articles & Op-Eds

O’Meara, K. (2018, June 27). Undoing the Can of Worms. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieve here or view PDF

Some faculty members do more than their fair share of department service, institutional housekeeping and student mentoring, writes KerryAnn O’Meara, who provides guidance for how to make such demands more equitable.

O’Meara, K. Kuvaeva, A., Nyunt, G., Jackson, R. & Waugaman, C. (2017). Asked More Often: Gender Differences in Faculty Workload in Research Universities and the Work Interactions that Shape Them. American Educational Research Journal-SIA. 1-33. View PDF

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 micro level of detail, as recorded by faculty themselves over four 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 male faculty spending more time on research. We also found women receiving more new work requests than men and men and women receiving different kinds of work requests. We consider implications for future research and the career advancement of women faculty in research universities.

O’Meara, K., Kuvaeva, A., & Nyunt, G. (2017, January 27). Constrained Choices: A View of Campus Service Inequality from Annual Faculty Reports. Journal of Higher Education. 1-29. View PDF 

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 1,146records 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.

O’Meara, K. (2016). Whose Problem is It? Gender Differences in Faculty Thinking about Campus Service. Teachers College Record. 118, 080306. 1-38. View PDF

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, semi-structured 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.

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