The Status of Women in the Historical Profession, 2005
Chapter 3: Departmental Climate
Unequal Distribution of Service Commitments
The disparities of gender are starkly evident in the area of departmental and university service. A strong refrain in survey responses, especially from women with the most recent Ph.D.'s, relates to the degree of service-related work women perform. Respondents noted that this work is often in positions offering less prestige and power than that offered to male colleagues. Specifically, women are not routinely serving as department chairs, nor are they in many cases considered chair material. Despite this, our respondents were nearly unanimous in asserting that more service was expected of them than of their male counterparts. This is doubly so in the case of minority women, who are appointed to countless committees, asked by their institutions to give public lectures, and expected to mentor minority students, and who may then be told, at tenure time, that their research profiles are wanting.
Respondents report that the commendable focus on promoting women's concerns has led to the unfortunate result that they are overburdened by committee requests. When they are appointed to committees, their suggestions are less likely to be heard or implemented, and they are frequently asked to perform less desirable or more "secretarial" tasks (copying, minute-taking, data-gathering); our respondents observed that, in addition to shouldering an unequal committee load, they also provide more mentoring for undergraduates and graduate students than their male colleagues. These time-consuming tasks often throw the research-teaching-service triad off balance, in some cases resulting in weaker cases for tenure.
Departmental work, in the words of one survey respondent, has "taken on the coloration of ‘domestic labor,'" with women socialized to pitch in when others either feign incompetence or strategically avoid service work, cognizant of the meager rewards it brings. One recently hired assistant professor wrote she was "shocked" to see the level of service women faculty are expected to perform, and many others noted the same thing. Respondents variously felt that men "have mastered the skill of learned incompetence," and that they avoid service when then can, "knowing how deleterious committee work can be to research agendas and career ambitions."
Further, women noted that the intradepartmental rewards of childrearing are
unequally distributed. Men regularly garner prestige for displaying their
involvement in childcare, while women are punished for the same. For example,
as one respondent
noted, women are not permitted "to excuse themselves from service obligations
in the late afternoon or evening because of family needs. But a male colleague
who spends time with his children is considered exceptionally praiseworthy
and is allowed to renege on service obligations on those grounds." More
than a few noted that men who bring young children to the office in childcare
emergencies are fêted, while women who do the same are censured for being
unorganized and uncommitted to the job. These sentiments are but echoes of
the stark findings of the Berkeley report: at tenure time, across the disciplines,
men are rewarded for having babies, while women are penalized.