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Friday, July 18, 2008

Women and service in the academy

Insider Higher Ed had a short column examining several recent and forthcoming studies of the increased school and university service and committee responsibilities given to women (especially newly tenured women) which, while important and potentially influential, distract from their scholarly work that remains the coin of the realm in academe. The studies suggest this is a new, if less overt, barrier to women's advancement in education, at least for those who want to be scholars rather than administrators. (H/T: Matt Yglesias, via Kay Steiger at Campus Progress).

Steiger has an interesting take on it: This is a product of the continued (although improving) underrepresentation of women in the academy. The urge is to give the women who are there powerful leadership roles by putting them on important committees and projects. The school's need to show itself as women-friendly demands that women be represented on public-face-but-time-consuming committees, such as appointments. All of which gives women power, but arguably of the wrong kind. Because, as one commentator in the Insider Higher Ed piece said, "You might move to a new job with your third book. You don’t move with your third university commission report."


Posted by Howard Wasserman on July 18, 2008 at 08:40 AM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink


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Based on anecdotal evidence, I would agree that the uneven distribution of administrative labor poses a real problem for the advancement of female professors in the academy, and especially in law schools, where committees proliferate much more than in the rest of the academy. The paradox is that, while it is incredibly valuable for enhancing the diversity of the workplace and educational environment for women to serve on committees like appointments and curriculum involving important aspects of schools' self-reproduction, excessive committee assignments do detract from the ability to engage in scholarship. I think the only solution is just the overall increase of female faculty in law schools; when there is adequate representation, the same woman won't be obliged to sit on several different committees just to ensure that each has a female member.

Posted by: Bernie Meyler | Jul 18, 2008 11:12:48 AM

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