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Posted 02.25.05

Women Faculty Experience More Stress Than Men in Higher Education

COLUMBIA, Mo. - In today's workforce, stress is more prevalent than ever. While demands and pressures are main fuel factors, gender also can play a key role. A new study from the University of Missouri-Columbia identifies factors causing women faculty in higher education to experience more stress than men and offers suggestions for reducing the stress load for females.

"Often in higher education, women are not taken seriously when they voice their concerns about work environments and pressures," said Jennifer Hart, professor in MU's Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis, who conducted the study along with 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."

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Faculty members from a large southwestern university participated in Hart's study, which used a series of surveys and focus groups to analyze individuals and 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 more concerned with the research and publishing demands they faced, with 85 percent of female faculty indicating 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 newer 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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