Being a Woman · Nature of Academia · Tenure

What’s the Deal with Service?



I am not teaching this summer.  You’d think that would mean time for research and maybe even some well deserved R&R.  But no.  I said yes to one too many committees.  Committees that exist for a purpose in the university or department but still provide essentially zero personal benefit for me.

Research exists that shows that women do more service than men and get less credit, and from my experience, this is absolutely on the nose.  And I think it’s worth taking a moment to think about both parts of that statement (do more, and get less) and how they relate to our experiences in political science.

1.Women do more service than men.  

In my department, administrative and service requirements are disproportionately left to women.  There are, of course, men who hold administrative positions in the department and serve on committees, but those are the “sexy” committees that do things people care about:  research, graduate education, maybe faculty senate if they like being in the spotlight and/or want to run for real office one day.  The boring jobs, like assessment, undergraduate curriculum, or scholarship committees are left to the small number of women in the department.

Research has also shown this is true of student groups and graduate advising, so-called “care work.” When I look around at who advises Pi Sigma Alpha, or who advises the College Republicans, I see a lot of women in those roles. A lot of times they’re just handed to people- “oh, hey, so-and-so retired so now we need someone to advise PSA”- but also a lot of  times, students approach female faculty to advise their groups because they think female faculty are more likely to say yes. Additionally, graduate students tend to drop by female faculty’s office hours more often to discuss issues they’re running into, again because they believe the female faculty are more likely to take the time to talk to them.

Why is this the case?  Some of it is probably due to subtle sexism, where women are expected to do the “chores” at work just like they’re expected to do them at home.  Also, women need to be more available and nicer to students than men do, or they’ll get shitty student evaluations. But I’m not going to shirk all of the responsibility for this; I say “yes” far too often, when I should say “no.”  We are more likely to be asked to be on the university Beautification Committee, and we should say, “No, I am spending my summer on research, not on selecting art for the library.”  But we don’t.  Or at least, I don’t.  I say yes.  And why do I say yes?

Well, I don’t want to be a Problem.  The Unhelpful One.  That’s not a good reputation to have.  In addition, this work needs to get done. Somehow, we have to decide what art hangs in the library, and nothing at a university can be accomplished with a Working Group. Also, while we’re being honest, part of my type A personality enjoys being a part of big decisions affecting general education, or knowing that everyone is going to see a painting that I chose- I feel a sense of (small) power that is rare to feel in higher education. And, of course, I say yes because I want to get the credit for it.

But wait…

2.Women get less credit than men.

I put my service on my C.V.  Maybe not the Beautification Committee, but the university strategic planning committee? Sure! Of course!  I’m spending my summer in biweekly meetings for that committee, you better believe I’m putting it on my C.V.

But no one actually looks at my C.V., and I get the sneaking suspicion that no one in my department actually knows I’m on the committee at all.  I’m representing our department at the university level, making decisions that will absolutely affect our recruitment and advising internally, but no one even knows or cares that it’s happening. It’s that classic problem the hospitality industry has- if you do a good job, no one says anything. It’s when you mess up someone’s order (get known as the Woman Who Said No) that people leave scathing reviews on Yelp and TripAdvisor (say you can’t be tenured because you aren’t “collegial”).

When you get a publication and tell your colleagues, you might get some recognition, a congratulations, a mention on the department’s social media page.  When you make a decision on the QEP Committee, you might tell your colleagues. And they’ll go, “Oh, there’s a QEP Committee? What does that stand for?”

3. If we count service, where should it count?

Like I said before, these decisions have to be made- someone has to serve on these committees, and someone has to make sure student groups don’t run amok.  This is a mandatory part of higher ed.  But these things aren’t valued.  I’m not arguing that it should be as much a part of a tenure decision at a major research university as research, obviously, but it should count for something. We’ve started a culture of “Cite Yoself!”  Can we work on a culture of “Brag On Your Committee Achievements?” (Maybe someone can make it more catchy, though…?)

Someone has to be on committees and do administrative work. Women do more service, and we aren’t getting credit for it.  I’m going to try to say NO more often.  And when I do pick the library art, I’m going to email it to every member of my department. YES, in fact, I DID select that lovely lighthouse print.

You’re welcome.

Departmental Politics · Hilarious But True · Tenure

Best Strategies for Earning Tenure (by Hogwarts House)

We’ve mentioned that we are untenured women (who are also bitches), which means we spend a good deal of time ruminating on the best strategies for making sure we get tenure when the time comes.  We’ve seen too many of our colleagues (many women, but of course, men too!) be denied tenure. Sometimes the reasons seem relatively clear-cut:  at the R1 university, three publications in six years won’t cut it. At the SLAC, failure to demonstrate enough service via committee participation or undergraduate research.  All the usual suspects.

We’ve also seen some sort of arbitrary reasons for tenure denial.  Crazy deans on power trips.  “Too many publications” (I didn’t know that was real).  Departments that don’t consider certain subfields to be worthwhile (I don’t even mean just gender stuff, either. Try being a Ukrainian elections person, or in some places, a political theorist).  Then the truly whacko reasons, like “took time off to have a baby” or “didn’t like his wife, who teaches in the German department.”

But we must all play to our strengths, and the tenure process is long and difficult.  And, because we’re not just Bitches but also Extremely Nerdy Bitches, we’ve provided some strategies for your success*, based on your Hogwarts House.


There are people who might say that Ravenclaws are most well suited to academia, and those people might actually be onto something.  If you’re a Ravenclaw, you’ve got a brilliant take on your topic, and your work is novel and insightful.  Even if you’ve chosen an obscure subfield, your groundbreaking methods and theory transcend the substantive choice.  Publish a lot. Publish really good stuff.  Publish in great journals, but publish in mediocre ones too, because even your mediocre work is more well written and better political science than everyone else’s best.  Get a bunch of grants, give a TON of invited lectures, maybe start a web series about your little corner of political science.  Then, just watch the votes roll in.


So, your work isn’t always brilliant. You won’t be willing any Nobel prizes any time soon.  But you’re competent, and best of all, you’ve got a knack for strategy.  Pick the field not that interests you the most, but that is the most up-and-coming and sexiest.  Write about experiments or social media or something.  Make friends with the Dean and with the people in your department who “matter.”  Your Slytherin skills should help you identify which those are.  Have a backup plan ready to go: maybe a cushy administrative job in reserve.  Spend your time claiming just the right amount of credit (not TOO much) for being on just the right university committees (but not ALL of them).  Then, if all else fails, Imperius the committee into voting for you.


Never forget that Cedric Diggory was a Hufflepuff, and he… well, he died at the end of the TriWizard Tournament, but let’s not talk about that right now.  If you’re a Hufflepuff, do what you do best. Be nice. Teach well. Get amazing evaluations, advise grad students and make sure they put out their best work. Keep your colleagues happy by asking a few thoughtful questions at faculty meetings and always voting with the majority. Never rock the boat, and publish in some lower end peer reviewed journals where you’re likely to get accepted, even though they don’t have the impact scores. At the end of the day, maybe people will feel too guilty to vote no.


There are the Slytherins, who play the game, and there are the Gryffindors, who fight the system. Go ahead. Take on Gender and Politics as your primary area of research.  And when the department questions your research agenda, call them on their bull shit.  In valiant and eloquent terms, tell them why your research matters, and why equity in political science is so important.  Make friends, but stand up for yourself. Don’t let anyone walk all over you at faculty meetings. You probably see the Slytherins as betraying your discipline. Maybe they are (isn’t that a Slytherin quality?) so make up for it by pushing for what’s right!  Now, you’d better have some publications and service on your record (Faculty Senate seems right for you), because all this fighting for what’s right might leave you a bit unpopular on the collegiality scale, but the discipline is counting on your courage and tenacity. Pave the way for future scholars!  For Godric Gryffindor!!

*Remember, we don’t even have tenure. We have no idea how to actually succeed at this.

Departmental Politics · Nature of Academia · Tenure

On Tenure

MT: Today we’re talking about getting tenure as political science bitches.  So, Candy Ann, how does one achieve tenure at your R1ish institution?

CAR: Publish. Publish, publish, and publish more. Publish only in good journals, nothing interdisciplinary, nothing fluffy.

MT: What’s a good journal?

CAR: The department sits down and assigns scores to journals.  They use impact scores and sort of “their own judgment,” which sometimes results in certain areas being more highly ranked than others, because the people who are deciding which journals “count” tend to pick the journals THEY publish in. What about you? How important is publication, and how important is where you publish?

MT: At our institution, a LAC, any peer reviewed publication counts for tenure. Obviously, publishing in the main journals counts more, but any publication still counts.  And I like having the ability to publish many things in many places. I can prepare my submission to JOP, then work on a paper with the sociologists, then write a popular press article.

CAR: Yea, I don’t think anyone would take that too seriously for tenure here. Only “good journals” count.

MT: Do you think being bitchy is important to your success at work?

CAR: I don’t know. I think I have enough bitch in me to make sure no one walks all over me, but I also appreciate the value of playing a non-bitchy role to get what I want.

MT: I agree. At my institution, outright bitches don’t get anywhere. You have to hide the bitch. So I do: outwardly I’m super nice and friendly. In my head, I’m reciting Machiavelli.

CAR: Nice.

MT: Sometimes I have to be bitchy at home, to get proper research time.  Which I think Erica Chenoweth et al. talked about in the “How to Get Tenure If You’re a Woman” article.

CAR: Yes. What do we think about that article? I want to talk about their #4:  the idea that you should set boundaries, like “don’t talk about your kids.” The authors say, set your own boundaries and talk about your life, but sell your research, too.

MT: I think those boundaries are more important at your institution than mine.  At mine, if we didn’t talk about our kids, we’d be weird.  I specifically brought up my child during my interview, to seem older and fit in better. Plenty of people say that’s a deal killer.

CAR: Yes, it’s probably different here. When I was pregnant with my second child, I mentioned out loud often that this would be my last. I wanted to be sure no one was wondering if I’d get pregnant again and my productivity would drop.

MT: When I was on maternity leave, my department was so nice. They made sure I got food, they bought us a gift card for diapers. When I came back to work, they told me to take it easy. It’s like anything I did seemed impressive while having a baby at home. Would your place do that?

CAR: Absolutely not. I was receiving emails about work while nursing my 2 week old.  And no one was impressed. I don’t think the guy who sent that Emergency Email even remembered I’d had a baby; I just needed to address his issue right then.

MT: So here’s where my being at a LAC could be better:  maybe some gender bias is less pronounced. What I give up in salary or prestige, I get back in quality of life.

CAR: That’s probably true. Would you move to an R1ish institution if you were offered a job?

MT: No.

CAR: I wouldn’t move to a LAC either.

MT: I purposefully sought out this kind of institution because I knew I wanted a life.

CAR: I wanted to kick ass and take names at work. Good luck to my children.