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Teachers of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and Work-Life Balance: Insights with a Gender Lens*

Updated on August 23, 2016
A good university enables its teachers and other employees to achieve work-life balance.
A good university enables its teachers and other employees to achieve work-life balance. | Source

In 2003, "The Mapping Project: Exploring the Terrain of U.S. Colleges and Universities for Faculty and Families" by Robert Drago and Carol Colbeck examined the employment and family issues of professors. Using the "ideal worker" theory, the study tackled how gender biased work conditions are in universities.

Discrimination against women in universities

The Mapping Project's initial report in 2001 noted that women teachers are subjugated in the academe. To protect their career, they resort to “discrimination avoidance” because universities often give value to professors who put aside their personal commitments for the sake of the academic institution. They avoid falling prey to such bias by engaging in:

1. Productive behaviors which lead to enhanced teaching performance. For instance, there are female professors who delay marriage or motherhood because doing so will disrupt their focus from getting promoted; and

2. Unproductive behaviors which disrupt teaching, such as when women teachers file for sick leave to care for an ill parent, partner, or child.

According to Drago and Colbeck, discrimination in universities exists due to:

  • Bias acceptance

This is reflected in penalties when certain teaching tasks are sacrificed for family or personal life responsibilities.

  • Daddy privilege

This rewards male teachers who still work in spite of dealing with family commitments, while women's care giving priorities are taken against them.

  • Bias resistance

This refers to behaviors which oppose or protest gender bias in the workplace by “...switching time and effort away from work and towards family, making commitments to family explicit in the workplace, or pressing for policy innovations which facilitate dual commitments to work and family.”

Work-Life Balance (According to Nigel Marsh)

Implementing gender-sensitive policies in the academe

Educational organizations need to recognize college teachers as people who have a life outside the academe. It is important that universities implement a gender-sensitive employment policy which allows both teaching and non-teaching employees to manage their priorities and to minimize, if not avoid, stress caused by paid work and personal life demands.

A gender-sensitive policy is a rights-based policy. Ideally, all organizations should treat their workers fairly and humanely. All employees have the right to work in an environment which preserves their dignity as an individual whose personal needs should also be satisfied.

Some Practices of a Gender-Sensitive Workplace

The Importance of Gender-Fair Language

The traditional standard of expressing ideas - either verbally or written - emphasizes the use of masculine nouns and pronouns. This suggests then that a gender-sensitive organization views equality between men and women as an integral component of the work environment; thus, it prefers to use a gender-fair language. As what The Writing Center of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill posits: "There is a relationship between our language use and our social reality. If we "erase" women from language, that makes it easier to maintain gender inequality."

Adopting a gender-sensitive language requires the use of words that make women "visible" in business policies, correspondences, presentations, and training programs, among others. The use of gendered nouns (for instance, using "Ms." to address a woman regardless of her civil status), as well as the use of "she or he" or "she/he" and the elimination of gendered pronouns in sentences are some of the steps to make workplace communication gender-neutral.

Work-Life Balance: Where do you stand?

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Resources for Institutionalizing Gender-Responsive Units

Aside from language, the existence of a committee, an office, or a center that will initiate and oversee gender-related activities indicates a significant degree of gender-fair treatment towards employees. All campuses of the University of the Philippines (UP), for example, have a Gender Office (GO) and an Office of Anti-Sexual Harassment (OASH). Throughout the school year, the former conducts a series of gender sensitivity training (GST) sessions among students, non-teaching personnel, and faculty members. The latter, on the other hand, provides information about the university's laws against sexual harassment and a grievance process to address related complaints.

Additionally, UP has a Center for Women's Studies (CWS) that essentially serves as the umbrella unit of all campus-based GOs. Securing resources or investment to set up these institutions, including those that are concerned with the work-life balance and wellness of employees (which is the case in many universities in North America and in Europe), signals a heightened awareness in terms of gender and gender issues.

Sex-aggregated data and anti-discrimination policy

Another indicator is ensuring that all university-related data are aggregated by sex or have a gender component. For instance, with regard to university benefits, how many men and women employees have availed of certain privileges, such as housing assistance, tuition discounts, scholarships, vacation leave, etc.

Moreover, having a no discrimination policy is crucial in creating a gender sensitive workplace. Most, if not all, universities in the United States and in other countries post this policy on their websites, especially in recruiting personnel for vacant positions.

Women often experience discrimination in the workplace.
Women often experience discrimination in the workplace. | Source

The Struggle Towards a Gender-Sensitive Academe

In spite of these feats, gender discrimination still exists not just in the university setting but in many other organizations as well. Various organizations like Eve Ensler's V-Day and Lady Gaga's Born This Way Foundation have launched initiatives to fight gender-based discrimination. Likewise, many state governments have participated in international conventions, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), to promote gender rights.

The journey is far from over, however. Undoubtedly, gender equality remains a formidable challenge not only to women, but to men as well within and outside the university walls.

*Note: Some sections of this hub are based on another online article that the author wrote for a different site where she deleted all of her posts.


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    • Yadav SK profile image

      SK Yadav 2 years ago from Gurgaon, Haryana

      The insights are really worth reading as per understanding the issues that a teacher might be facing during their teaching career.

      Further I too have noticed some gender biased work conditions also create some sort of problems in a teacher's career.

      Anyways, thanks for sharing this valuable awareness.

      SK Yadav -

    • Leann Zarah profile image

      Leann Zarah 8 months ago

      Thank you, SK Yadav.

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