Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Female professors stressed by expectations

Female professors report feeling more stressed in their jobs than their male counterparts. A new study tries to tease out whether that's all in their heads or a result of real added loads, and finds good evidence of the latter. Women on average teach more courses, get fewer of the lighter seminars, and are expected to provide more support for the students that they interact with than are their male colleagues.
Summing up the problems female faculty members face with students, the authors wrote that “women felt students expected them to balance authority and nurturance in the classroom in ways that their male colleagues were not. Having to consider this balance while trying to deliver a course that is meaningful certainly contributes to stress related to teaching and students.”
I can remember in graduate school (in biology) that a female professor warned female students of the dangers of being one of few women in a department; if nothing else, you would be tempted to carry an excessive committee load, as each such group's desire for "diversity" meant that they wanted you as a member. A definite Catch-22 there, as the need to protect professional time and personal resources must be balanced against the need to have female perspectives represented in decision-making bodies and mentoring positions. feh.
mortarboard and diploma
The study had some concrete recommendations for countering these problems, ranging from increased hiring of women to reviewing course and committee loads by gender. An interesting can of worms for some colleges to open, but certainly worthwhile. I've also known particularly nurturing men who got overloaded with student demands (office hours and the like) in small colleges, but at least they're generally free of the effects of other kinds of environmental biases.

(via Knotted Knickers)

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