Gendered workload allocation in universities: a feminist analysis of practices and possibilities in a European University

Finnborg Steinþórsdóttir, Fiona Carmichael, Scott Taylor

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The negotiated allocation of teaching and institutional service workload in universities is a key determinant of the quantity and quality of all work for academic staff. There is abundant quantitative evidence that women and men experience differential outcomes from faculty, school or departmental workload allocation processes, and convincing theoretical explanations as to why this happens. We add to this knowledge through feminist analysis of a mixed methods case study of an academic unit in a European University, focusing on gendered dynamics in the workload allocation processes there. Our analysis follows the ‘sweaty concept’ methodology proposed by Sara Ahmed as a means of developing feminist theory that is founded on embodied experiences of discomfort in worlds that are not welcoming. The concept we develop through this is ‘inequitable modelling’; it suggests that while workload allocation processes are understood by model designers as a managerial tool to enable transparency and fairness (forms of procedural equity), the managed, especially women, experience them as opaque and unfair (forms of lived inequity). We conclude by questioning the principles and outcomes of such tools in achieving gender equity, and then describe how a feminist approach to workload modelling and allocation might be implemented.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1859-1875
JournalGender, Work and Organization
Issue number5
Early online date19 May 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 May 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the University of Iceland Recruitment Fund. We are grateful for the community support of colleagues involved in the Horizon 2020 funded ACT GenBUDGET community of practice, https://genbudget.act‐on‐ , focused on challenging gender biases in decision making in scientific organizations by the means of gender budgeting.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • academic labor
  • academic workload
  • feminism
  • gender
  • inequality
  • university

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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