Tuesday, November 06, 2012
Less Work, More Pay
I attended a panel discussion on Work-Life Balance and Gender Issues in Academia today. Some of the things which were said seemed sensible to me, some of them less so; Rainbow Murray was particularly impressive I thought. What struck me was that the panel, one of whom began by saying that clocking off was basically impossible for academics, all more or less accepted that there should be work-life balance issues in a profession the majority of whose work requires nothing more than a laptop and an internet connection, at least in the social sciences and humanities. It should be fairly straightforward to fit your nominal contractual hours of 36.5 hours a week around family life since other than teaching and meetings, which shouldn't take more than a day, almost all of it can be done wherever and whenever you want. There are of course other reasons why women struggle in academia - good old-fashioned sexism of the sort that systematically devalues women's achievements when making appointments, for example - but the problem with work-life balance is that there's too much work and not enough life. I know of one person who must work coming close to twice their contracted hours a week as a matter of course, and although they are I think an outlier, they're not as much of one as you'd hope. This is hardly good for them, their work, or anyone else in an environment where they drag the norm more and more towards the destruction of a life outside of work. People in the UK work more than the EU average, yet a fulltime worker in the UK works on average 42.7 hours a week; I'd be amazed if the average for a fulltime lecturer in the UK was less than 50. Of course this is a disaster if you want to care for children. A central part of any policy to address gender imbalances in academia, short of eliminating the effect of gender norms on child-rearing responsibilities, has to be dealing with that issue.