Beki Grinter

Posts Tagged ‘service’

Diversity and Service

In academia, academic management, computer science, discipline, women on February 4, 2013 at 8:15 am

As I mentioned in a previous post recently I read this article about the advantages of being married for male academics versus the disadvantages of being married for women academics. It’s left me with a lot of questions. And being inspired by  Female Science Professor‘s question “why don’t more senior women in STEM blog?” I want to continue

In addition to teaching, research, and publishing responsibilities, service constitutes a major part of a professor’s career. … The gender breakdown within a department plays a significant role. Typically, there are more men than women within a discipline, and yet committees seek as much diversity as possible. Women, then, are often asked to do double the amount of service as men, a number that increases for women of color. While service is certainly considered when promoting, publications play a much larger role.

I understand the logic, to have a diversity of representation/voices at the table and so forth. But this is clearly the flip side of it, that women and minorities can get over-serviced. And since time is limited, service will eat into other important activities like research and teaching. This is a serious problem. But I don’t know what to do to change it. In the long-term we do need to recruit and retain women and minorites in STEM, but what do we do in the short-term? There seems to be a conflict here: we want to hear from diverse voices but in so doing we ask them to participate in things that compete for their precious research time.

One short-term piece of advice I would offer to anyone who fits this potential category, is to be very aggressive about saying no. Benchmark your service against a non-minority in your department at your rank. Do no more. (Read studies such as Link et al. “A time allocation study of university faculty” to see broad trends and uneven distributions as a reminder to do no more.)


University-wide Committees

In academia, academic management on June 24, 2011 at 7:33 pm

There is so much service for faculty members to do, and I have certainly done “my fair share.”

But just lately I’ve been reflecting on the rewards of one type of service. I’m pretty used to department and school committee service but in the last few years I’ve served on some committees that span the University (Institute).

These committees have introduced me to a wide variety of people who work at Georgia Tech. They have helped me to understand the range of concerns and perspectives that make up the place I work. They remind me of both the similarities and differences I share with them as a member of the College of Computing. They also help me to see into the College of Computing as an outsider might, reminding me of things I would have otherwise perhaps forgotten.

I know people already know this, but I the reason I wanted to blog about it is because I find that quite often I am focused on my immediate colleagues or my invisible college (Diane Crane’s version). University committees have given me a different perspective into the composition of the University. Its introduced me to people with whom I have subsequently accomplished something. Sometimes this has taken more than a year, but the best things are never rushed right.

So, while I won’t be signing up for all committees, I just want to sing the praises of the University committee.

The Service Gap

In academia, academic management, women on January 14, 2011 at 10:13 am

On January the 11th, the AAUP (American Association of University Professors) released the results of a new study of Associate Professors. A study that reports that women are still taking on far more service than men, often out of guilt that if they do not do it it will not get done. As a female Associate Professor, I find this troubling.

There is some good news.

Compared with earlier cohorts, women are earning more doctorates, taking more academic jobs, and earning tenure more frequently.

Yay. We are making important and healthy progress on a more balanced academic workforce. A former Dean of the College of Computing Richard DeMillo likes to quote a colleague of mine, Professor (yes that’s FULL Professor) Elizabeth Mynatt, who told him that if he wanted increased people diversity in the College he should increase the intellectual diversity.

Whether or not you agree with that assertion (FWIW: I happen to subscribe to it) this report raises the important question of retaining that diversity. It’s discouraging to learn that still three quarters of all Full Professors in the U.S. are men. Where did all the women go? That, of course, has been the subject of other reports (and others here including a fabulous multi-institution time report), suggesting that women leave academia in far greater numbers than men. Some of it is attributed to external service, no I don’t mean serving on Program Committees, I mean housework!

It’s also discouraging to learn that Doctoral granting Institutions have the longest gap between the time for men to get promoted to Full and the time for women to get the same promotion. The report cites ambiguity in the promotion criteria as part of the problem (in combination with service loads). I certainly have some experience. I came to my current position as an untenured Associate Professor, and I remained in that category for just over five years. Typically tenure accompanies a promotion from Assistant Professor to Associate Professor. Some Universities decouple tenure and promotion, but the gap between one and the other does not last five years. Towards the end of the five years, I felt that the gap presented problems. While the lack of tenure (and its promotion criteria) drove me in one direction, being an Associate Professor and the promotion to Full increasingly demanded different behaviour. I was once told that the criteria for promotion to Full were to act like a Full Professor. In my case that would have been one without tenure. I still think that’s an absurd and unhelpful statement.

Recently, we went through a process of identifying and assessing the service that we do. We were asked to enumerate it and come up with a metric of how much time each activity took. There’s a lot of service work, and it was good to make it explicit so we could see what their was to get done and who was going to do it. I hope that activities like this will begin to balance workload, and I hope that in turn will lead to the more timely promotion of female Associate Professors.

This report encourages me to decline service, to remind and encourage graduate students to think about service balance, and most of all to continue to push for change through the example that I will try to be.

Battle of Britain

In European Union on September 16, 2010 at 6:34 pm

Yesterday was the official “70th anniversary” of the Battle of Britain. Of course it lasted more than one day, but the Royal Air Force decided to pick yesterday.

Well this is a day late, but on behalf of my family thank you. One member lived, during this time, near Bexley Hill in Kent. In other words on the flight path for the London bombing raids. And for her, for a woman who spoke with passion about the fear and relief, I think the Royal Air Force.

Service and Commitment: thank you students…

In academia on August 26, 2010 at 9:46 am

It’s the first week of the semester. It’s great in that way that first weeks are, there’s so much to accomplish… Female Science Professor had a recent post on service by graduate students.Specifically, how much and what type of service should students do for their academic institution.

Female Science Professor and Wendy P, in my opinion, have it exactly right. There is much good that can be gotten from this type of service, but it has to be managed. It may have come up in the comments, but I think learning to balance time commitments, much in the same way that any GTA must balance their time spent in the classroom with their research time. This is good preparation for faculty life, and probably any life.

But there’s more than that. Service to a program, school, community, instills a sense of commitment to the enterprise. That’s crucial. We could all show up for free pizza (well we are in Computing) and week after week eat and leave. Commitment requires giving and gaining. Do I feel more committed to the School of Interactive Computing because I am asked to and give my time to service for these entities and the myriad of programs (CS, CM, HCC, CS., ROBO)… and centers (GVU, RIM)…

Of course. And are there rewards. Yes. Sometimes all I see is the “to-do” list, but when I step back I look across the span of activities and what I really see are all the people who give alongside of me, and the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. And it is a crazy amazing whole.

And in this regard I must give a huge shout out to the students who have created a culture that I like to describe as “a force to be reckoned with.” Actually, many forces, I am sure that there are many cultures (by program, by time in the office, by language and culture, by well who knows). And it’s a form of service, one that turns on giving and commitment to the institutions of which they are members. Its whole is making sure some really good things happen. Sharing of advice, listening to talks, helping new students settle in, describing the “low-down”, being there to celebrate students’ accomplishments, being moral support and so much more. I’ve spent most of my service time focused on graduate programs, so I’ll just say that “team go to defenses and proposals and wait for results” or “team visit posters and applaud project presentations” wow… And of course there’s “team meet the new faculty candidate” and I remember you well, because there were more of you than I’d ever encountered… both times. It was noted.

So service. You have to give, but what you get is a whole that is truly greater than the sum of the parts. And when I am reminded of this, I know why giving matters. And I know what getting means. And to the students, thank you thank you thank you. Keep the good work up BUT ONLY in balance to the other demands that you have.

Housework is an Academic Issue

In academia, academic management, women on August 13, 2010 at 4:15 pm

I’ve just finished reading an article in Academe Online: Housework is an Academic Issue. I should begin by saying that I find studies of how academics spend their time fascinating. I’ve written about some of the differences between female and male academics in the past. Today, as yesterday, I want to turn my eye towards housework.

Before I turn to the findings of the article I want to say that I had some trouble with the article. First, self-report data for time estimates is problematic. It’s hard for people to know how many hours a week they work on average. Really. There are better methods for assessing this, diaries are a good example. But it’s probably good enough since the numbers are likely to be large enough (we’re not talking an assessment of minutes here, but rather hours). Still you have to be a bit skeptical when you encounter this type of self-report data. Second, I just had some trouble parsing some of their charts and sentences. I was confused for some time in the article whether they were considering academic couples, or people who are dual-income, but where one is outside of academia. That does become clearer later on.

What I expected the article to tell me was that women tend to do more of the housework, even in dual-academic couples (although the article says that these are the most evenly distributed in terms of load households–something that bears out in my own personal experience, thank you K). But what surprised me was how they saw academic housework as an opportunity to legitimize its outsourcing through having University compensation packages be flexible enough to make the payment of third parties possible.

Taking that slowly. One of their chief arguments is that female academic scientists are the University’s most expensive resource (well after male academic scientists who typically get paid more ;-). So, if they have a significant housework load it competes against the time that they could spend engaged in professional activities. This is frequently referred to as time in the lab. So, why not, provide a benefits package that allows people to not just pay for a service to perform housework, but also to allow those benefit packages to be flexible and tailorable by their beneficiary?

ROCK ON! I’m a real asset to Georgia Tech. Not just intellectually, although that too. I’m dirt cheap by comparison with people who have dependents. I have none! Why am I not entitled to financial benefits that matches those with dependents, why can’t I spend it on someone to clean my home?

The authors also argue that this would take steps towards solving another problem, the legitimacy and debate about hiring people to help with the housework. It would elevate the status of the labor, and those who do it, associated with housework. This is a complicated argument, debate has gone on for some time about whether this constitutes a source of continued oppression of women, but for the authors it’s an opportunity to establish a profession of outsourced household labor. And crucially, it also transforms unpaid labor, and therefore easier to under/un account for, into paid labor which easier to track. Just being able to compute what the U.S. spends on housework would be an interesting measure.

There are lots of interesting things in the article and here’s one. Female Assistant Professors outsource the same proportion of housework as male Full Professors. In other words, a junior female faculty member spends more proportionally of her lower salary than a senior male professor. Would moving some resources for housework change how much everybody spent? It might provide salary relief for junior women, just the types of people that Computer Science and other sciences are struggling to recruit and retain. The article ends by discussing how the University and the male professional with stay-at-home-wife have evolved together, and call for the University to now evolve to embrace women’s careers, citing things like stopping the tenure clock as an example of progress in that direction. And the authors conclude with the observation that benefit packages have increasingly moved into the domestic sphere, such as health-care and child-care support. Why stop there since that’s not the full spectrum of domestic activities that could be supported, and housework is a big time consumer that they argue if supported would free women, and men, to go back to the lab (or spend time with their family).

I may or may not disagree with the sentiment about whether housework should be supported as a means to relieve women. But, I do think that if benefits are going to be given for children, dependents, and so forth, I think that those without them should be entitled to equal financial compensation. Why should I get less just because I don’t have children or a dependent?

Service in the Academy: Broadening Participation by Reconfiguring Participation?

In academia, academic management, computer science, women on April 6, 2010 at 9:05 am

Ada Lovelace day was an opportunity to reflect on the accomplishments of women in computer science. But, I also took it as an opportunity to reflect on what can be done to broaden the base of opportunities for women in computer science. And that reminded me of a recent study: A.N. Link et al (2008) “A time allocation study of university faculty” in the Economics of Education Review 27, page 363-374

The Abstract says

Many previous time allocation studies treat work as a single activity and examine trade-offs between work and other activities. This paper investigates the at-work allocation of time among teaching, research, grant writing and service by science and engineering faculty at top US research universities.

So, what do they find?

Focusing specifically on untenured faculty, we find that male assistant professors work slightly less, on average, than female assistant professors, but these same males spend almost three more hours a week on research than their female counterparts. If this average difference is maintained for 50 weeks each year, after 6 years as an assistant professor, the average male will have spent 900 more hours on research than the average female. This difference may have an appreciable effect on the likelihood of receiving tenure.

I was reminded of this when I saw the New York Times’ report about a new study by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) that finds that there’s still a persistent bias against women in science and mathematics. I wonder, frankly, whether service loads is part of the problem. The paper goes on to show that the work gap described above is commonly filled by time spent on service activities. As a wise colleague of mine pointed out after I’d agreed to Papers Chair CHI pre-tenure, that no-one gets tenure for the service they do. And the idea that an average male faculty member might get 900 hours more time to spend on research, seems well, like a lot of time to do the things that do matter: establish a program of research and have that up and running and producing students etc…

The gap between the service loads borne by male and female faculty also appear to continue post-tenure according to Link et al’s findings, although the gap also appears to close somewhat. And other differences among female and male faculty also begin to emerge in terms of research and teaching. But, I don’t think a University can afford to wait until post-tenure to ensure that women are given the same career research opportunities to succeed as their male peers.

So I think the time has come to look closely at service loads as a potential area for short-term change that could broaden participation by redistributing the work.

Update: the original article ended here, but since this has triggered some discussion, I’ll add one more quote from Link et al.

Our results suggest that women spend more time on service and less time on research than their male colleagues. To the extent that the time allocation of faculty is related to subsequent academic success (e.g., substantial time spent on research and grant writing early in ones career may be related to later success) then understanding gender differences in time spent on different work activities may have, albeit in a general way, policy implications for balancing the representation of women in science and engineering. Our data do not allow us to understand whether the different allocation decisions are due to different preferences, teaching or service assign- ments, or other factors. The appropriate policy response depends on the reasons for different time allocations. If the differences were driven largely by differences in preferences for research across male and female academics, the introduction of ‘‘differ- entiated roles’’ may help encourage women, who have been under represented for decades, to pursue academic careers in science and engineering. Alter- natively, if the differences are due to a more general culture or differing assignments or rules, then changes in these dimensions will be required

I find myself in agreement. I think we should include a focus on gender differences as we discuss the balance among research, education and service. I want to know whether it’s individual or institutional as a women in science myself (I certainly have my own opinions, but I would like independent evidence to help me understand my own choices).