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Stressed Out

A new study explains why female professors have added stress
University Business, Apr 2005

When female professors complain about stress, they're not just whining, says Jennifer Hart, professor at the University of Missouri who conducted a study that was submitted to Stress, Trauma and Crisis: An International Journal. The study is part of a larger climate study being conducted at an anonymous southwestern university.

In an interview with University Business, Hart says that the added stress for both male and female professors on the tenure-track is a result of the ambiguous requirements for obtaining tenure. She referred to obtaining tenure as a "moving target," since from the point of view of surveyed professors, the requirements seem to change from day to day.

She said that women professors experience additional stress because they are often expected to offer informal advisement to female students. This expectation is less for male professors. Women also take on more responsibility for teaching independent study courses, which do not count toward their courseload hours.

And all of this work outside of the classroom takes away from time spent on research and writing, which are key elements to obtaining tenure.

"To a certain extent, we don't know if women are really experiencing more stress," Hart says. "But if you look at the research, it is consistent over time. It's hard to believe that women faculty are just whining."

Hart says that the stress experienced by female professors is "still very real for the person who's experiencing it. And it's still going to have an impact on productivity and schools should care about that."

She suggests IHEs consider giving credit for independent study hours, informal advisement and research time.

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