April 18, 2017

Female academics spend more time on internal "service" work than their male colleagues.

"New study suggests female professors outperform men in terms of service -- to their possible professional detriment."

I object to that word "outperform." I got to that article via Paul Caron's post at Facebook, where I wrote:
Why is spending more time doing something considered "outperforming"? What I noticed over the years before I retired is ever increasing committee work, more meetings, more papers, and people who seemed to think it was a good idea to inflate this kind of work. I don't call this "outperforming." This is like complaining about how women spend more time on housework when their husbands are doing much less, without trying to figure out if the husbands are actually doing 50% of what should be done if things were done competently and efficiently. I don't see why the efficient, no-nonsense people aren't seen as performing better.
From the linked article:
As to righting the imbalance, [Joya Misra, a professor of sociology and public policy at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst] said that it may seem like “women simply need to become more protective of their research time, as men are.” Yet they face “grave consequences if they are not perceived as team players,” she said, while men usually don’t.
Stop "outperforming" in doing internal administrative tasks and start outperforming in your scholarship. You can't do both, and you're competing with people who know that and are protecting their time. Another solution is to recognize that there is a problem and start promoting efficiency, but how do you do that? Maybe Althouse should chair a committee to study efficiency in administrative work. We could put 12 people on that committee and divide it into subcommittees, each working on an aspect of administrative work and spend a year writing a long report developing a proposal for the reduction of administrative work that could be discussed at successive faculty meetings. Sorry I mentioned it. Excuse me while I protect myself.

53 comments:

John Tuffnell said...

But first you need a committee to call a meeting to discuss the creation of the committee to study efficiency in administrative work, and then do all those things you listed. It won't work otherwise.

Rick Turley said...

Never confuse activity with accomplishment.

rcocean said...

You often give the impression that some of your co-workers were time-wasting chatty Cathy's.

Untrue?

My sister is a teacher and often complained about the large number of academics who just love to attend meetings. They'd set up a meeting on whether to hold a meeting.

Nonapod said...

"Service" is way too vague. I assume it means basically any other task other than the primary one? Which if we're talking about college professors would be either teaching or working on their own research?

If people are talking on other responsibilities unrelated to their primary one, what conclusion are we to draw from that? Is someone other than themselves to blame?

Michael K said...

Governmentium

The Higgs boson is an evanescent particle expiring after nanoseconds, while the Higgs ratchet seems to be a robust phenomenon, which has alternately been identified as “Governmentium” on the periodic table of the elements:

The heaviest chemical element yet known to science. Governmentium (Gv) has 1 neutron, 12 assistant neutrons, 75 deputy neutrons, and 224 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 312.

These 312 particles are held together by forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons. Since Governmentium has no electrons, it is inert. However, it can be detected as it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact. A minute amount of Governmentium causes one reaction to take over four days to complete when it would normally take less than a second. Governmentium has a normal half-life of three years; it does not decay, but instead undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and deputy neutrons exchange places.

In fact, Governmentium mass will actually increase over time, since each reorganization will cause some morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes.

When catalyzed with money, Governmentium becomes Administratium–an element which radiates just as much energy as Governmentium since it has half as many peons but twice as many morons.

Owen said...

The formation of the proto-committee will need to be preceded by a survey to assess the scope of the problem and estimate the budgetary impact. In order to design and conduct the survey, a consultant will need to be engaged. To avoid accusations of bias and waste, the consulting contract will need to be put out to public bid. Creating the bid proposal and overseeing the contract award will fall under the purview of a special task force. Whose membership and mandate will need to be considered by...

A committee.

Fun!

Owen said...

Michael K: I love that one. Thanks.

Sebastian said...

In academia, complaining about outperforming anyone in service is just CYA excuse-making.

buwaya puti said...

I thought modern US universities were awash in administrators already. Let them earn their keep.

buwaya puti said...

Owen, same thing goes on in the Fortune 1000. There are reasons these people are desperate for government favors.

madAsHell said...

What I noticed over the years before I retired is ever increasing committee work, more meetings, more papers, and people who seemed to think it was a good idea to inflate this kind of work.

This is usually promoted by people that can't do their job, and have nothing else to do!!

Angel-Dyne said...

It's a common observation, confirmed by my own experience, that lots of women love "service work" in the form of meetings. Meetings about everything and anything. Meetings, meetings, meetings. Meetings where the ratio of jawing to actually getting shit done is very high. One must ask, ladies, are you doing this to yourselves? Though, to be fair, interminable pointless meetings in academia were the subject of writers long before there was much of a female presence there.

(I always truly, deeply hated this stuff. I'm pretty slick about avoiding meetings. Sometimes they catch you, though, and you can't escape. I have worked in companies where I found groups having meetings about the exact same issues they were meeting about an entire freakin' year previously. Issues that should have been decided upon right there and implemented in a few weeks. Maddening.)

William said...

if there is one problem that academics and Hillary voters can solve amicably and quickly it's that of sexual discrimination in the workplace. The problem has been identified, and it will be resolved by the weekend. This is right in their wheelhouse.

campy said...

Yet they face “grave consequences if they are not perceived as team players,”

Right, 'cause as we all know women have NO affirmative action or EOE protection from losing jobs.

William said...

Heh heh. Females. Service work.

tcrosse said...

Years in the belly of the Corporate Beast have shown me that this is not confined to Academia.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Said: Yet they face “grave consequences if they are not perceived as team players...

Unsaid: ...by other women.

Real American said...

shouldn't it be the men who are complaining? They're carrying a heavier workload because they don't spend so much time with other busybodies with solutions looking for a problem to solve.

Henry said...

Here's some blurbs from the study:

Faculty members in business and some sciences appeared to spend less time on service than those in the arts and humanities.

“Women in the public policy faculty performed significantly more service than men on that faculty, and women in law and, to a lesser degree, education performed less.”

The softer the field, the harder it is for women.

Faculty members in business and some sciences appeared to spend less time on service than those in the arts and humanities.

women’s service work “is necessary for the institutions to survive,”

The softer the field, the more it needs help.

Quayle said...

The left's puritanical drill-down continues unabated.

Soon we'll have articles explaining how oxygen enters the noses of one group in a molecular shape and pattern different than the noses of another group, and it will be considered an achievement to point this fact out to everyone so we can all vex ourselves over how to solve the injustice.

lgv said...

This is really strange, but when I put sales people on commission only, everything changed. They seemed to manage their time better. They focused on obtaining larger and better customers. That spent minimal time doing administrative tasks, other than that which supported customer acquisition and service. They "outperformed" their previous selves. Sales went way up. Their pay did, too. They didn't work any more hours than they did before.

Crazy, isn't it?

That last boss I had told me I would a much better manager if held more meetings. He once formed a cost reduction task force, which I was forced to be on. Then came the inventory reduction task force, because we had too much inventory from buying larger volumes in order to reduce our costs.

Yancey Ward said...

Time is the ultimate currency of everything we do- there are only 24 hours in a day for everyone. The sad fact is that 95% of us are pretty fucking incompetent at doing anything efficiently, so we try to hide that reality from our managers by looking busy when we aren't, and we find that our peers, being in the same boat, are more than happy to collaborate with us in creating work that helps us with that task, and, as it turns out, most of our managers do to.

I was a medicinal chemist most of my professional life. The only goal of the job is to find an optimal chemical/s that meets certain specific and general characteristics to move eventually into clinical trials. All you really do is make iterative changes to the things you or your colleagues made previously that were deficient. It is a job where 95% of your work time should be devoted to only two things- working at the bench to make the compounds or spending time planning what and how to make things tomorrow.

When I started my career, I spent 95% of my work day doing exactly those things, but by the time I retired from it 7 years ago, it would have fallen to 50% at best had I been doing what most of my peers were doing in their jobs. The pressure to be involved in the latest corporate bugaboo or fad is intense, and I am particularly hard-headed in this regard, and it cost me a great deal at times. I will say this- if people in academia are getting professionally rewarded for skating by on these "service" jobs, it will be a big surprise to me, and likely to anyone who has worked in the corporate world.

Anthony said...

If there's one thing academics love above all other things, it's hearing themselves speak.

Birches said...

Interesting. Facebook used to allow me to see the posts you shared without logging in. Now it won't allow me to see the post without logging in first. I will refrain though I am interested in the discussion that happened over there.

MadisonMan said...

Never confuse activity with accomplishment.

Exactly.

You have 24 hours in a day. Maybe 6 of those are useful for getting things done. Don't waste your time talking about nonsense.

Faculty members in business and some sciences appeared to spend less time on service than those in the arts and humanities.

They either did or they didn't. Why the mealy-mouthed "appeared to" in there? Because this was written by someone who was in the Arts and Humanities where hard decisions never have to be made.

rhhardin said...

Women tend to the social end of whatever male field they're in.

Hence my quip that women in science wind up volunteering for the Women's Workplace Issues committee.

The guys are unaware of anything but the science.

Because women like social and its unresolved complexity, and guys like to abstract from complexity, as their science does.

Abstraction is more productive in science; and less productive in human relationships.

Do women really want to do what guys like doing and they don't?

Alex said...

Women love committees. Men love to create shit and break stuff. That's just hard-wired in our DNA.

Alex said...

Men are also aware of the women-led committees and see them as just the chattering hens that they are.

Hens I say!

Rick said...

rhhardin said...
Do women really want to do what guys like doing and they don't?


No. They want to get paid / recognized as if what they like doing is as important as the currently used measures of quality or accomplishment.

John Lynch said...

Women seem to prioritize different things than men. To men, prioritizing something means that you do the high priority task first and other things wait. Women do the high priority task in addition to the other normal tasks. Which is the better approach?

Freeman Hunt said...

People can't make you sign up for things, so don't.

Todd said...

Angel-Dyne said....

(I always truly, deeply hated this stuff. I'm pretty slick about avoiding meetings. Sometimes they catch you, though, and you can't escape. I have worked in companies where I found groups having meetings about the exact same issues they were meeting about an entire freakin' year previously. Issues that should have been decided upon right there and implemented in a few weeks. Maddening.)

4/18/17, 11:19 AM


In a prior company I worked for, my boss would have me attend meetings that had nothing to do with my area (as well as meetings that did) in part because she knew I hated meeting for the sake of meeting and was not afraid to make a decision. When no one else in the room is willing to "own it", anyone not afraid to make a decision can.

hombre said...

Would "service" be focusing more on politics than performance? Sounds like it.

rehajm said...

Women Do More

The secret to doing good research is always to be a little underemployed.

CR said...

This cleverly combines two common themes in feminism: 1) women are better than men (outperform); and 2) women are at a disadvantage compared to men.

Also, I'm trying to imagine any news source publishing any article stating that men outperform women in any way. I can't imagine it.

rehajm said...

Time Management by Randy Pausch.

Fernandinande said...

Quayle said...
Soon we'll have articles explaining how oxygen enters the noses of one group in a molecular shape and pattern different than the noses of another group, and it will be considered an achievement to point this fact out to everyone so we can all vex ourselves over how to solve the injustice.


People with noses are responsible for their own nosal issues.

Birches said...
Facebook used to allow me to see the posts you shared without logging in. Now it won't allow me to see the post without logging in first.


I was stupid enough to log in and it said I had to be invited.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

I love the housework comparison. I don't get mad at Mr. Pants for not doing housework that only I think is important. If we split housework equally (we don't) it'd be pretty churlish for me to get mad at him for not doing half the decorating, party planning, gardening or baking, which are all things that are important to me but he has no interest in.

Peter said...

"New study suggests female professors outperform men in terms of service -- to their possible professional detriment."

If this is so then isn't the obvious question, why? For rational people respond to incentives: therefore, they put the more work effort into activities that are more rewarding.

Therefore if these female professors are doing this work "to their possible professional detriment" mustn't one conclude that either they are not rational, or that they must be receiving some other reward(s) by doing this work?



Assuming the intent isn't just to reward effort over (or at least in addition to) achievement. A goal which, although it may well "reduce inequality," seems inappropriate after first grade. Probably because most individuals and organizations understand that if you reward effort itself then you'll get more of it, but (because anyone's personal resources are always limited) can also expect to get less accomplished.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

Women do that stuff because they want to. It's really easy to say "no, I won't be on the birthday potluck planning committee. I am here to do research not plan birthday potlucks." See, how hard was that. Or "no, I don't have time to plan the celebrations for Inclusiveness Month. Or show up at them. Because I'm here to do research." Women don't say no to those things because they don't want to, generally speaking.

Birches said...

Pants, your comment about committees reminds me of the greatest Seinfeld episode of all time.

Mark Jones said...

"D-D-D-D-Don't quote me regulations. I co-chaired the committee that reviewed the recommendation to revise the color of the book that regulation's in... We kept it grey!"
Bureaucrat #1 to Hermes Conrad, Futurama

JaimeRoberto said...

The article is another example of when there is a difference between men and women, women are framed as better or outperforming.

Tarrou said...

Alternate interpretation: Female academics spend far more time than male academics attempting to do anything other than their jobs.

Unknown said...

What I've observed is that there is a Law of Jante in academia that committees must not be all men or all white, or have merely "token" representation. No-one will speak of this, but it is evident.

Given that 35% of USA university faculty are female, (much less in many fields) and % for most minorities measures in single digits, the burden of committee work is going to fall disproportionally on females and (especially) minorities. I know many white male faculty who, though very willing, have semesters or years with no committee assignments. I know no minority or female ones who escape the burden.

Scott Gustafson said...

My experience from 25 years in corporate America is that women focus on process while men focus on results. Note that these are averages. Individuals will vary.

Given that, these results are in line with my expectations.

Jupiter said...

"Joya Misra, a professor of sociology and public policy at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst"

Let's keep in mind that this person is not merely unproductive, she is paid a good salary to fuck things up all day long. It's like paying someone to drive around your town smashing windshields with a golf club and lighting homes on fire. If she had not been "educated", it is possible that she could have become a competent waitress or photographer. Probably not smart enough to be a good photographer, but it is getting easier, with all the digital crap.

LordSomber said...

Secretaries gonna secretary.

Donald Sensing said...

In hierarchical organizations, measurements of success to move up the ladder will soon supplant quality with quantity and productivity with activity.

ObeliskToucher said...

Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people":

First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration.

Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.

The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.

Inkling said...

Many of the differences between men and women lie in their threshold for action and their willingness to sacrifice to achieve results. At home, a man's threshold for cleanliness is much more relaxed and his willingness to sacrifice to achieve a certain level of it is less than that of his wife. That's the core reason why she ends up doing most of the housework. She can't let it go and he can.

In academia, a similar distinction arises. Men want professional recognition among their mostly male peers more and sacrifice to achieve it. That means late hours, although I doubt any of them consider not being on numerous faculty committees a sacrifice. On the other hand, for many women professors their department is like their home. They can't stand to see internal issues remain unsolved much like they can't stand a messy home.

Trouble arises when one side in this perennial difference demands that the other adopt their point of view and behave like them. That only creates tensions and trouble. Nothing in heaven and earth is going to get me to worry about all the dirty dishes pilling up around my sink. For me, it's the height of good sense to keep collecting them until there's enough to fill the dishwasher, after which the problem is easily solved.

Life is like that. Smart wives know their hubbies ability to deal with kids is limited and take that into account. Smart husbands know that when their wife gets upset about a sound late at night or a odd noise coming from the family car, they must give the appearance of doing something. Telling her, "It's nothing. Don't worry about it," won't do. There are problems that women instinctively see as men problems. Men neglect that to their peril.

In the case of a law school, my sense is that much of the internal needs to be streamlined and just settled. That doesn't remove the distinction between the research-and-publish externals and internal issues involving students, classes and the library. That's why this distinction in how different roles are valued matters. A law school is, after all, a "school." If anything, those internals matter more than the externals. It matters little whether a faculty member writes on some obscure point in law for some little-read legal journal. It matters much that students graduate prepared to practice law.

That is why the 'internals' work that women professors do more than their male colleagues need to be more highly valued. They are more important. Indeed, healthy families often implictly recognize the equivalent—that the child-rearing that the mother is doing is of primary importance and that the father's work exists to get the income to enable them to do that.
-----
For those who're interested in knowing more, years ago I worked at the perfect job for contrasting the two sexes—the adolescent unit at a major children's hospital. The stress of sickness or surgery created the pressure to bring out their distinctions and, being teens, they'd not yet learned to pretend attitudes they did not feel. The did what they felt. The fact that we did a lot of major orthopedic surgeries added another factor. The teen boys had to deal with all the embarrassment issues that arose between their near-helpless state and our almost all-female nursing staff. And as the unit's only male staff, the teen girls faced the same issue with me.

The differing responses of the two was so great, a visitor to the unit could note them in just a few minutes passing through. I can't go into them in detail here, but they matter so much to effective patient care that I wrote an entire book on the topic, Embarrass Less: A Practical Guide for Doctors, Nurses, Students, and Hospitals. It's also a very vivid illustration of the distinctions between men and women gathering under near perfect conditions. The stress those teen boys and girls were under was identical, but their responses could not have been more different.

--Michael W. Perry, medical writer

Eric Rasmusen said...

In any organization, you can get ahead by production or by politicking, and you must allocate your time between them. If you are more talented at production, you'll allocate more of your time to that, ordinarily. (An interesting exception is if you are so good at politicking that you only have to spend 10% of your time at it to overwhelm the opposition, who have to spend 80% of their less talented time.) Organizations have to work hard at keeping the reward to politicking appropriately low, lest their members spend all their time at it. (We do want some level of politicking, though, because it's useful to have members reveal their actual achievements; you want to promote a good workers, so overly meek good workers are bad for the organization.)

Also, while the old adage is "Those who can't do, teach", a modern snarky version could be, "Those who can't do research, teach. Those who can't teach, go into administration." That's not really true, since administration takes time and talent, if of a different kind. It's true, though, that if someone isn't very good at research but gets tenure anyway, that person and his department will both want him to shift his attention to something that he *is* good at. or, at least, less bad. This last is the principle of comparative advantage (as contrasted with absolute advantage).

Eric Rasmusen said...

Obelisk, thank you for your observation about Pournelle's Law. What is teh First Law? Michael W. Perry, I will buy your book.