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14th December 2015

Two-thirds of female academics are unhappy with work-life balance

A report has shown that ‘workaholic’ working environments in academia are detrimental to the career paths of female academics

Academic leaders are regularly working well beyond their contractual hours, according to a report in the Times Higher Education.

According to the Higher Education Leadership and Management Survey, 90 per cent of the male respondents and 85 per cent of the female ones said they work more than 48 hours per week.

The survey also highlights a gender difference concerning the satisfaction with academic work-life balance. Female academics are more likely to suffer from stress and find it difficult to cope with pressure. 23 per cent said that they felt unable to manage the stress caused by their job.

The survey’s results show that 60 per cent of men occupying a leadership position in the academia are happy with their work-life balance. Among female academics, less than 40 per cent said they were satisfied with it.

The report, carried out by the Leadership Foundation for Times Higher Education, comes to the conclusion that long working hours are a widespread phenomenon: “A culture of long working hours is clearly evident [which] translates to a significant number of academics and academic leaders reporting dissatisfaction with their current work-life balance.”

The survey also investigated whether having flexible hours could be a solution. However, the respondents said that this would have little or even no impact upon the stress levels and the overwhelming dissatisfaction.

The report stated fixing the levels of stress within academia staff is a factor, which can increase “greater institutional pride, a willingness to help contribute to institutional success, and a desire to continue working within the institution.”

Although several academics expressed dissatisfaction, the survey shows that many of them said that work-life balance is an “active choice.” They answered that career aspirations often are in conflict with family commitments and to focus on one can undermine the other. Some academics were reluctant to embrace a workaholic attitude, because they wouldn’t be ready to sacrifice family for career.

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