Do men and women perform academic work differently?
Ana M. González Ramos, Fernando Fernández Palacín & Manuel Muñoz Márquez
Tertiary Education and Management (2015)
Full paper: DOI: 10.1080/13583883.2015.1065904
Why is the gender gap so large in researchers’ career progression? Do men and women have different priorities in their academic careers? This study explores men’sand women’s academic work to shed light on the strategies of male and female researchers. The online survey collected data on Andalusian researchers to determine possible differences in academic work that may explain the gender gap in the higher ranks of academia. The results reveal that men’s and women’s research performance mainly follows the same patterns, but they do differ in the diversity of women’s priorities, goals and working styles. This may explain women’s vulnerability that leads to their minority presence at the top. These results underline the importance of incorporating new approaches in academic careers based on non-linear trajectories departing from the ideal concept of career paths based on masculine hegemony.
Keywords: academic work; research performance; career trajectories; non-linear careers; merit evaluation
The current study explores different aspects of the research activity performed by women in the Andalusia, which lets us explore why women progress slowly in academic careers. In doing so, we have examined whether women adopt convergent patterns in their research work, as a result of the two genders having a different standing in the academic community and a different social attribution of roles or, conversely, if they do assimilate the predominant values and scientific culture.
The results contribute to the existing literature and expand upon the general understanding of women’s inclusion in academia. Our focus in this study aims to address the research environment in which men and women are involved, looking for new insights about how the nature of academic work may influence career trajectories, because other studies have already focused extensively on how work–life balance interferes with female careers, impeding their advancement. These findings suggest that a new direction is needed to assess research careers if we want to retain female talent, and truly appreciate and take advantage of the diverse strengths and circumstances of both male and female academics.
Women are more interested than men in developing social innovation than technological solutions, which suggests different gender orientations in research goals. They are greatly committed to their professional careers, as demonstrated by the percentage focusing on developing teaching, research, administrative and management tasks. They produce fewer articles in Q1 journals and are less involved in knowledge transfer. Their fundraising capability is less relevant than their male colleagues because their funding resources are mainly from the public sector. Women leaders judge their research work more critically than their male counterparts, placing their outcomes below the average in their research field, maybe because of low self-confidence, which probably leads them to plan mid-range objectives in their projects. They usually receive less money because they apply for smaller quantities. In line with this, the implementation of coaching programmes could be significant in generating successful results for women and research institutions.
The results of this study underline that career development is designed and planned according to standard criteria and is blind to gender. Women have to fit into these criteria because, otherwise, gatekeepers reject their applications, as they often do anyway, according to their lower numerical outcomes in comparison to male colleagues. Most women follow merit standards because this is the only path forward in academia, but they do show some differences that very likely affect their advancement and peer review opinions. While female researchers may have fewer papers in prestigious journals, their work is accepted in a wide range of textbooks and publications. This suggests that ideas and preconceptions about women’s careers must be challenged, and women academics should not be disregarded simply because they do not completely fit with standard patterns.