Study Finds Women Faculty Experience
More Stress Than Men in Higher Education
In today’s work force, stress is more prevalent than ever. While demands and pressures are the main fuel for the fire, gender can also play a key role. A new study from the University of Missouri-Columbia identifies factors causing female faculty in higher education to experience more stress than men and offers suggestions for reducing the stress load for women.
“Often in higher education, women are not taken seriously when they voice their concerns about work environments and pressures,” says Dr. Jennifer Hart, assistant professor in MU’s department of educational leadership and policy analysis, who conducted the study with Dr. Christine Cress of Portland State University. “This study pinpoints specific stress sources for women and outlines certain steps to be taken to ensure their workload and stress levels are equal to those of their male counterparts.”
Faculty members from a large southwestern university participated in Hart’s study, which used a series of surveys and focus groups to analyze individuals based on stress-causing factors in their professions. Each participant addressed three key topics in their responses, including factors contributing to success, factors hindering or impeding success and recommendations for change.
Results from Hart’s study concluded that teaching loads, students, publishing and research demands, review and promotion processes and committee work produced much more stress for women than men. Specifically, up to 15 percent more women than men reported that teaching and students were sources of stress. Overall, women were also more concerned with research and publishing demands, with 85 percent of female faculty indicating that they felt these areas were sources of stress compared with only 67 percent of males. Women also were more likely to indicate committee work as a source of stress, and reported overwhelmingly that they were expected to do more service than men and were not rewarded for their work.
Hart concludes that working in a stress-producing environment can lead to morale issues, absenteeism, depression and lack of productivity. Her suggestions for balancing stress loads include developing a critical mass program to support hiring of women faculty in departments with a small proportion of women, educating search committees about criteria for new research areas and establishing an annual reporting process comparing faculty teaching and service responsibilities.
Hart’s study recently was submitted to Stress, Trauma and Crisis: An International Journal.
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