Women Faculty Placed in a “Catch-22” Situation When It Comes to Requests to Serve on Committees

Karen-PykeA new study by Karen Pyke, an associate professor of sociology at the University of California, Riverside, finds that women faculty members disproportionately are asked to serve on university committees and that serving on these committees deprives women ample time to write and conduct research. She cites research that at some leading universities, women faculty serve on 50 percent more committees than their male peers. With women often making up one third or fewer of tenure faculty posts at many research universities, they are often besieged with offers to join faculty committees as the chairs of these committees are eager to demonstrate their commitment to diversity.

Ironically, this practice is an institutional barrier to women’s faculty advancement,” writes Dr. Pyke, “as it deprives them of precious time needed to conduct research, the requisite activity for promotion.” But saying no to requests to serve on committees can also have a negative impact on their advancement, as women face the risk of not being seen as team players committed to serving the university.

Dr. Pyke explains that “the organizational structures of today’s universities, which trace their roots to the universities of medieval Europe when higher education was the exclusive province of men, reflect men’s life course trajectories and social practices, not women’s. Men continue to occupy the upper ranks of higher education where they have failed to recognize, let alone alter, gendered institutional practices that block women faculty’s advancement. Casting higher education as a gender-blind institution and failing to acknowledge structural hurdles to women faculty’s advance leads to blaming women for their failure to achieve equality and puts the onus on them to change rather than on men or the university structure.”

Dr. Pyke has been on the faculty at the University of California, Riverside since 2000. Earlier, she was an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Florida.

Filed Under: FacultyResearch/Study


RSSComments (0)

Leave a Reply