Faculty members carry out many different tasks – teaching, research, advising, and administrative and leadership work (often called “service”). How these tasks are weighed in faculty rewards systems may differ from institution to institution – with teaching valued more heavily in some settings, and research valued more heavily in others. Across settings, mentoring and service are often devalued.

Within this system, workload inequities are rampant. Women report a greater mismatch than men between what they want to spend time on and what they actually spend time on. Women faculty members tend to spend less time on highly valued research. Service work is often particularly devalued, and men are much more effective at avoiding it, while women are more likely to be good team players. Students also expect more mentoring and support from women faculty members. Time spent on campus service, teaching, mentoring and advising appear can reduce the time that would otherwise be spent on research.

This problem is worse for women of color, who face an identity tax, carrying out more service and mentoring than other faculty members. Women of color also often feel overburdened with responsibility for the much-needed diversity work on their campuses. These inequalities in workload have long-term effects. Faculty members who focus on research are often more likely to get recognized and promoted, while the good citizens of the department go unrewarded, hindering their career progression.

Our article in Gender & Society draws on our NSF-ADVANCE funded project, which carried out a survey of 957 faculty members from fifty-three mostly STEM departments, primarily located in research-intensive universities. 

We find that white women, by and large, feel that the workload distribution in their departments is unfair, and are less likely to think that their colleagues are committed to having a fair and equitable workload. This finding supports what we already knew about women doing more of the less-valued mentoring and service work in their departments. We further find that women of color are more concerned about how their workload is valued. Women of color indicate that the essential teaching, mentoring, and campus service work they do is not credited within their department rewards system. The work that women of color see as important appears to be devalued by their colleagues and goes unrecognized and unrewarded. * * * 

However, our study also had some good news. There are a number of strategies that departments can use to create workload policies that faculty view as more equal. For example, faculty in departments with transparent workload systems, clarity about workload expectations, and fair teaching and service assignments are more likely to see workload as fair, regardless of their race and gender. Similarly, faculty members in departments with clarity about workload expectations and fair teaching and service assignments are more likely to see workload as fairly valued, regardless of their race and gender