Students Expect More Special Favors From Female Professors

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Prof. Amani El-Alayli PhD Eastern Washington University

Prof. Amani El-Alayli

Prof. Amani El-Alayli PhD
Eastern Washington University

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: This research was conducted on the premise that people tend to view women as more nurturing, and also set higher standards for women to behave in a nurturing manner. The same pattern has been observed in past research examining how students view their female professors.  Female professors are expected to be more nurturing, such as being more available outside of the classroom, as compared to their male professors.  In the present research, we investigated whether these higher expectations of nurturing behavior would cause students to be more likely to ask things of their female professors, consequently placing higher work demands on them.  In our survey of male and female professors across the country, we indeed found that female professors received more requests for standard work demands (e.g., office hours visits or assistance with course-related matters), as well as special favor requests (e.g., requests to re-do an assignment for a better grade or asking for some form of exception, extended deadline, or alternative assignment), compared to male professors.

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings? 

Response: Our results suggested that the frequency of special favor requests seemed to put more emotional burden on female professors, with female professors reporting that they spend more time helping students with emotional issues.  Our second study had students respond to a fictitious professor with a male or female name and imagine hypothetical scenarios in which they might ask the professor for a special favor.

We found, particularly for more academically entitled students, that the students expected the female professor (though identical to the male professor) to be more likely to grant the special favor requests, which consequently caused these students to say they were more likely to make the request, to feel irritated/disappointed and disliked by the female professor if the request was denied, and to plead and persist further after getting a “no” from the female professor.  These results suggest that female professors are likely to have more disgruntled students than male professors simply because students expect more of their female professors.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Whether in academia or any other work setting, we should take care to not place higher demands and expectations on women, and we should notice when we may be treating women unfairly by setting them to a higher standard.  It is difficult to recognize and address our own automatic biases because we all want to view ourselves as unbiased, but it must be done if we are to treat people fairly.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: In the realm of academia, I think it would be interesting to examine all of the other possible detrimental effects of students expecting their female professors to be more motherly.  If students expect to be taken care of by their female professors, they may be more likely to bend the rules or put forth insufficient effort in courses with female instructors.  Further detrimental effects on the female professors could also be examined in future work, such as the possibility that lower course evaluations of female professors are a result of female professors not living up the motherly expectation that is placed on them by their students. 

Citations:

Dancing Backwards in High Heels: Female Professors Experience More Work Demands and Special Favor Requests, Particularly from Academically Entitled Students
Amani El-Alayl Ashley A. Hansen-Brown Michelle Ceynar
03 January 2018 Sex Roles 

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