Whew! What a list! I'm forcing myself to stay away from work for just a wee bit longer (although I'm starting to actually want to do it, if I'm honest). What this means is that I'm going to write one heck of a rambling and long blog post. Consider yourselves forewarned.
So I was first alerted to this Inside Higher Ed article by this post over at Historiann's. The short of it is that female and male faculty in English and Foreign Languages (according to a survey of associate/full profs - and it's notable that we're talking about tenured people here, so this isn't about pre-tenure or underemployed disgruntlement - conducted by the MLA that has yet to be released but which was described at an MLA panel) experience disparate levels of job satisfaction (with men having more satisfaction, natch), and job satisfaction correlates to the emphasis given to research (more satisfied) and teaching (less satisfied). Historiann, in her response to the IHE article, while she's sympathetic to the gender politics of the study, pretty much disagrees with the following premises: 1) that female faculty feel more control over their teaching than their research and this is why they invest the time in it as an "escape" or "refuge" from research, 2) that teaching should not be valued equally (or more) than research, since if one wanted that one should have taught high school or at a CC, but rather that women faculty should spend less time on teaching, just like their male colleagues (appear from the survey to) do. (I'm paraphrasing Historiann here, and it's sounding a little bitchy. I don't mean it that way at all - I'm just trying to be succinct because I've got a lot to blather on about. So head on over there if you want the non-succinct version.)
I wanted to post about this over here to flesh out the comment that I made over at Historiann's, the gist of which is "institutional context is all." (God, that's totally my dead horse that I beat on this blog. But seriously: my kind of institution - not research universities or elite slacs - is where most people end up in this profession, and it's a kind of institution that I heard almost nothing about as a grad student. And thus, though the horse is dead, I shall continue to beat it.)
Because here's the thing, addressing her second criticism first: I agree that if one is at a research university that whether one is a man or a woman that research is where one should spend the bulk of her energy and time. Dude, that's the point of a research university. And I also agree that if one is called to teaching first and foremost that a CC or a high school is probably a good fit for that emphasis. (Aside: my best friend from high school is a high school English teacher. She always liked English ok, and she reads a lot and stuff, but she always knew, like deep down in her soul, that she wanted to teach. To mold young minds and all that. In contrast, I had no clue whether I'd like teaching or whatever when I decided to go to grad school. If I got into this for the teaching, I'd have been a high school English teacher. Less opportunity cost and anguish than 7 years of grad school. The thing is, I love the field first and the teaching second. I think that's true for a lot of professors, which doesn't mean that they don't care about teaching, but that teaching wasn't what made them invest the time in getting the research degree that is the PhD.)
But when we enter the realm of middling slacs and 4-year state schools that cater to a regional population - where again, most of the people who go to grad school end up - I think that the survey results that the article describes make a lot more sense. The "point" of institutions like that, historically, was teaching undergrads. Once upon a time, that was the biggest factor in tenure and promotion decisions and raises, and there are most definitely people at my institution who made it to full professor with very little research (most of them men). In the promotional materials for prospective students and their parents, teaching remains the point of my institution. But on the ground, while teaching undergrads is still important (as evidenced by 4/4 and 4/3 and multiprep 3/3 loads), research has increased in significance. This comes into play with increased requirements for tenure, but it becomes even more central when we think about the move from associate to full.
At my institution, the general rule for making it to full prof is one or more books. Sure, those books might be textbooks or teaching-oriented books or more creative endeavors, and you could probably squeeze through with 6-8 articles in top-tier journals instead, but ultimately, at a place where teaching is supposed to be number one, teaching will not get you to the top of the ladder. No, indeed, it will not.
So with all of this taken into account, where does that leave women profs working at institutions in the middle? Not at CCs (or 2-year branches of state systems) or at R1s? And why does it seem that women profs are less satisfied in all areas than their peers who are men? Is it that women value teaching more than research? Do women see teaching as a space where they have more control, and so they invest more energy there? Do women spend more time on grading because teaching is more rewarding to them? Do men spend more time on research because they're more suited to it or more inclined in that direction? Is this a question of support? Acculturation? Economics? What?
These are big questions. And of those on the panel who were discussing the survey, not a one was from what is actually the middle of the higher education pool. The panel included an associate professor at Princeton, a professor at a 2-year branch campus, and a named professor at a non-flagship university (and yet, one with a PhD program, so not exactly a "comprehensive" that doesn't have doctoral students or a regional slac in the middle of nowhere). This is pretty typical of MLA panels on teaching and on the profession. This typical tendency makes me want to poke the MLA with something very pointy. Dude, it's not either 2-year institutions or places with doctoral programs. There's a whole hell of a lot that falls in between. So, although I don't know more about these survey results than what IHE reported, and although I'm nobody, I'm going to speak for my kind of institution, and explain why I think that the results of the survey came out as they did. Or at least I'll offer some possibilities for why they did.
Why are men in English and Foreign Languages more satisfied than women on every measure of job satisfaction?
Ok, now this, I think has to do with the broader culture as much as it has to do with MLA fields. I have nothing in the way of "facts" to back this up, but I'd say that men generally are more satisfied with their jobs than women are because, in general, they're not the primary caretakers at home (whether just of home stuff or of kids) and because culturally we expect men to devote most of their energy to their jobs. It's easier to like your job and to be satisfied with it when it's the primary index of your value as a person. It's harder to like your job and to be satisfied with it, no matter what you achieve, when people say to you at Christmas, after they've seen your recently published book, "I hope you get a man." (This actually wasn't so horrifying as it sounds, but still, it was said, and it does indicate a certain cultural perspective on where my value lies.)
Why are women most satisfied (though still less than their male counterparts) with their autonomy in the classroom?
I'll offer two answers to this one. The first, is, again, about the broader culture. If it's true that women are socialized to be more interactive, more responsive, more "nurturing" than men, no shit that they find their life in the classroom most satisfying. Dude, they've been trained to find those sorts of interactions more satisfying. It's not rocket science.
But my second answer to the question is more complicated. In my institutional context, I am often more satisfied with teaching than research because teaching is much more immediate and I don't feel like I have to squeeze it in or to be "selfish" by taking time for it. When you teach a 4/4 load, teaching is going to take up most of your time. If you care about research, you've either got to take away from your personal life for that (and see my answer to the first question about women's broader value in culture and the roles they are expected to play vs. men's), or you have to take away from your teaching (ostensibly your raison d'etre and what you've been socialized to do) in order to do it.
Also, and this is probably not entirely gender-specific, when you do research at my kind of institution, I think there is often the fear overshadowing anything you submit that people will judge you on institutional affiliation. Or at least there is for me. It's hard to see my research outside of that sort of insecurity. That does make me feel like I have a lot less agency in the process of getting my research out there than I do in the classroom. So while I care about research, and while I am excited by the activities that go into putting things into written form, once I send something off, I feel incredibly ambivalent about the research side of things. Sure, it's exciting when something is finally accepted, but then once it is I feel like I have to downplay it in order to be seen as a "good teacher" at my institution. And there is the insecurity upon submission that anything I do is seen as "less than" because I'm not at a research institution. Or that if what I do is regarded favorably, that people only do regard it that way because it's amazing that I could have an idea in my head with my teaching load, which annoys the crap out of me. Dude, just because I teach a lot it doesn't mean I'm brain-dead. It shouldn't be a surprise that I'm interesting or have good ideas. So teaching is often more satisfying because it doesn't come with so much baggage. It's either good or it's not. My students either learn or they don't. It's simple. And not nearly so fraught. And as much as this might be any person's response at my sort of institution, I do think that gender exaggerates my feelings in this area. I don't feel like I've got authority in certain ways that I would if I were a dude. Period.
But then I think there's a problem with the way that this result is framed. It makes it seem like it's either one is satisfied with teaching or with research, as if the two are completely disconnected. Maybe teaching and research are entirely divorced at a CC, and maybe they are at an R1. In my context, though, one is part of the other. So sometimes why I'm satisfied with my teaching is precisely because it gives me ideas for research, or energizes the research I'm currently doing. This is pretty much how it has to work at my kind of institution (and also why I can tend to feel great autonomy over what I teach - moreso than a person at an R1 or a CC - because they need my warm body teaching a wide range of classes, I get to go where my fancy takes me and to design my courses accordingly, and as long as they fit into a certain ratio of gen ed to upper-level, I'm golden). This is not necessarily a "male model" for thinking about research, nor is it how most people are taught to think about research in graduate school, nor is it how research can work at research and 2-year institutions for the most part. Was there a question about this on the survey? I do not know. The results aren't out, and as they only surveyed associate and full professors, I wasn't part of the survey. I do get the sense, however, from the IHE article - in which one of the speakers was quoted as talking about women professors at teaching-intensive institutions lacking "intellectual food," as if our students can't provide us with intellectual stimulation - that there was no such question.
Why do women spend 1.5 hours more than their male counterparts on grading?
Well, I can tell you why I comment more than my male colleagues, though I can't tell you whether I'm spending more time in total than they do (for I've never asked how much time they actually spend). It's because I have to justify every grade I give much more than they do. Period. They put a couple of question marks in the margin and write a final comment, and that C grade is just fine. If I don't write a novel, I get grade challenges. Because clearly I'm "unfair" or "a bitch." I'm being "subjective." So yep, I write a hell of a lot on my students' papers, and I probably assign more papers than do my male colleagues in order to take some of the sting out of my rigor. (More papers = more time for them to get used to writing well for me, and it also means they generally do better as the semester goes on, for which I can reward them. It's not grade inflation if they have to bust their asses to earn the grade. It is, however, more work for me.) And yes, all of this equals more time spent grading.
Another answer to this question: I don't spend more time on grading because of the "magic" of teaching. And I don't do it because I don't care about my research. I do it because it made my student evaluations better. And because it makes me appear more "nurturing," which the students dig. But I'm not some selfless martyr doing this. I'm doing it because it stops me from having to deal with bullshit, which I'd suggest would take up at least 1.5 hours a week if I didn't spend that time on the grading. Did they ask about the bullshit that comes with grading for less time if you're a woman? This is another question to which I'm interested in knowing the answer.
Why do men work for 2 hours more per week than do their female counterparts on research?
See my answer to the first question. I don't think it's that women faculty are martyrs to teaching or that they don't care about research. I think cultural expectations about what women are supposed to spend their time doing is at the root of this. I don't think it has shit to do with the fact that women "value" teaching more. Or at least I, a woman, don't value teaching more. Also, I think "hours per week" questions make no sense to me at my kind of institution, because I typically do research in bursts (see how much grading I do above), so if I were a respondent on that survey I would have had a hard time coming up with "real hours" for amount of time spent on research hours per week, where I could do a much better job with grading or teaching prep time. Also, does it count as research time if I read the article for class? Or to help a student out? I'd say no, until it made its way into an article, which might not happen for years. So maybe I'm "doing research" when I don't know I'm doing it? And counting it as teaching?
Why does it take women longer than men to earn the promotion from associate to full professor?
This is the most important part of this survey, as far as I'm concerned. And this directly relates to the way that the teaching/research distribution plays out at middle-of-the-road institutions, as well as to the fact that the biological clock and the tenure clock intersect in really awful ways. So let's talk about my institution, because that's what I know best. To get tenure, it takes a book or more. To write a book takes uninterrupted time. Thinking time. Writing time. Etc. Now, I'll have tenure at 34-35 years of age. I don't have a kid. I'd like to have a kid. Let's imagine I have a kid in the next 5 years or so. How likely is it that I write and bring to publication a book (or equivalent) any time between now and, say, 2015? Not bloody likely, right? I mean, sure, it could happen, but probably this would be very difficult, given the fact that come hell or high water it's in my contract to teach 4 courses a semester, and given the fact that babies are time-consuming and make it hard to do things like think deep thoughts.
Now, let's imagine instead that I'm a dude of the same age. First, there's no rush to have a baby in the next five years. I could easily put it off until I got full, and all would be well. No worries about the menopause or about being "high risk" a few years down the road. Or even let's say I did have a baby, and I were a dude, in that 5 year span. Ostensibly, I'd have somebody else being the primary caregiver of my kid. (Obviously, I'm generalizing, but I think the generalization is not an unfair one.) On top of that, I wouldn't have the cultural baggage about being a bad mother weighing me down if I went into the office to work, and I would frequently be congratulated for any involvement I had with my children ("Aw! He's such a great dad! He helps his wife so much!") by students, colleagues, and administrators.
If promotion to full is linked to research, particularly at an institution with a heavy teaching load, and where women faculty often are called upon to teach outside the discipline in which they are housed, in disciplines like women's studies to which women are politically committed but that the university doesn't value terribly much, then women will not get promoted to full as quickly as men do. Period. And even if one doesn't have a super-heavy teaching load, or if one is only teaching in one's research area, if one is the primary care-giver of children, it's going to take longer to make it to full. Not because one is giving more to teaching (although it will look that way, because teaching is the most visible part of what we do), but because more is expected of one on the home front. Once one gets tenure, if one doesn't already have children, one doesn't have the luxury of time. And even if one already has children, one may want to spend more time with them because one is no longer in danger of being fired for not producing. Again, this isn't rocket science.
So why is this the most important part of the survey for me? Because at my institution, power has much to do with rank. Those female colleagues of mine who've been at associate forever have less demonstrable power (and lower salaries) than men who came into the institution right alongside them. They are "less than" their male counterparts who've made it to full, in terms of university governance, in terms of administrative opportunities, in terms of voice. That has to do with how resources are allocated, and it has to do with the direction of the university. And yet, there are all of these women at associate, doing heavy lifting, directing crap programs with little funding, advising students, etc. But when it comes to real power, they've got less than those men who had the resources and support - material, intitutional, and cultural - to fit into a model that values research more than teaching when it comes to getting to the highest level of promotion at the university. So it's not that I think that teaching should be valued equally to research, necessarily, but I do think that attention must be paid at institutions like mine to the way that making research the gold standard for achieving full professor institutionalizes an underclass of women professors, even in feminized fields like English, especially if those women have or hope to have children, but even if they do not.
Why do women and men report about the same level of service obligations, even though anecdotally and in previous reports there has been a belief that men do less service?
I really need to see the survey questions to answer this reasonably, but I'll take a shot at it anyway. I think I probably believe that men and women at a given institution do about the same amount of service in terms of lines on a cv, and maybe even in terms of hours spent. I wonder, however, how types of service are allocated. If men are all running the show on faculty senate, other university-wide committees, task forces, etc., and if women are spending their service time on advising and organizing events for students, then service burdens are not equal.
Now, I will say that I have avoided many of the feminized service traps, but that is not because people didn't try to track me into them. Indeed, lots of people have tried to track me into those things, and sometimes they've even succeeded. And I'll tell you what: it is not equal service if one faculty member is organizing bake sales and another is redesigning the curriculum of the major. It's just not. One kind of service, which is a good amount of work, sticks you in the ghetto, makes you invisible, and gets pretty much no recognition; the other kind, while it's a lot of work, at least gets you noticed, gives you more opportunities, and helps you to make a name for yourself. Which kind of service do you want to do? Assuming both take identical amounts of time? Did the survey take this stuff into account? I wonder.
So, what to make of all of this? Well, the first thing that I'd say is that the issues that the survey brings to light reach far beyond MLA fields. I'd also say that the way that the MLA typically ignores the vast middle swath of institutions of higher education in this country is a real problem, and I think it keeps us in a binary where research is "male" and teaching is "female" and never the twain shall meet. (Everybody gets to hate service, but there is no differentiation between types of service in that, and so women still often get screwed even in that more equalized area.) In some respects, I think that teaching at my kind of institution shouldn't be valued "more" than it is but that it should be valued in real ways. It shouldn't just be about evaluation numbers. Work in the classroom should be seen as important work that is not disconnected from research. One shouldn't be ashamed of the work that one does in the classroom, but one also shouldn't be made to feel like research isn't part of that work. My mentor in my department - a man, a man who has published widely and more than anyone else in my department - has encouraged me to think in this way and has modeled for me how to conceive of this job in those terms. If I've been able to achieve in both areas, it's partly because I've had support from him in learning how to do that. I do not have a single female mentor - though I have many great female colleagues - who has modeled this for me. They're all stuck at the associate level, demoralized, barely able to carve out time for research with all of the family and less visible institutional demands placed on them. They're working just as hard, and doing important work that must be done, and yet they won't make it to full professor any time soon, if at all. There is not a single full professor who is a woman in my department. In our department of foreign languages, there are but two full professors who are women. I can't believe that those numbers are about "merit" or "achievement" of my female colleagues. I can't believe that women really are just crappier professors. Nor can I believe that it's the "magic of the classroom" that distracts us nurturing ladies from other things that we might be doing.
Teaching enriches my intellectual life. Research makes me a better teacher. Maybe it's time to come up with a new model for thinking about how the two might work together, rather than accepting the model that we've inherited, one that reinforces gender hierarchies? But what do I know? I'm at a nothing university with a 4/4 load. What I think about this crap clearly has nothing to do with the state of the profession as a whole, even if it's this kind of institution that educates so many students who end up with college degrees. It's just my bad luck (and the bad luck of thousands of PhDs) that we've ended up at this sort of institution, right? Nobody could possibly learn anything from us.
4 years ago