It will come as no surprise that the same inequities in workload allocation we found in our analysis of Athena Swan Award applications are replicated internationally: women academics spend more time on teaching and service than men do. Not apparent in our analysis—but also of no surprise—is that underrepresented minorities do more diversity and mentoring work than their majority counterparts.[1] And, as we all know, these inequities have real consequences for progression and retention of women and other underrepresented groups.

About the Faculty Workload and Rewards Project

The Faculty Workload and Rewards Project (FWRP) at the University of Maryland was a five-year action research project, working with 51 academic units across 20 US universities, to establish equity-minded reforms to workload.

Watch the webinar below for an overview of the Project and to hear participants reflect on their experience:

Findings and subsequent reforms

The Project identified six conditions that support equitable workloads and suggested ways to promote these.

Table 1. Conditions and corresponding practices that support equitable academic workloads, as identified by the Faculty Workload and Rewards Project.

Condition Examples of ways to promote this condition
Transparency – data on workload is visible to everyone
  • Dashboards
  • Transparent policies & practices for assigning work
Clarity – expectations of workload are clear
  • Published expectations guidelines
  • Compensation for key roles
Credit – the full range of work activities are recognised & rewarded
  • Credit systems policy
  • Credit swap system
Norms – workload equity is normalised and reinforced
  • Planned rotation of roles and tasks
Context – workloads respond to individual strengths, interests and demands
  • Differentiated workload policy with options for negotiated deviations
Accountability – mechanisms are in place to ensure staff fulfill their workload obligations
  • Reduced & restructured committees
  • Statement of expectations

They then worked with individual academic units to drive systemic change to reform their workload allocation through training on workload inequity, creating a department workload dashboard and developing an equity action plan. They supplemented this with voluntary, individual professional development on assignment and uptake of, and reward for, work activities.

Want to apply the Project’s recommendations in your organisation? You can find helpful tools and insights in their report, ‘Equity-Minded Faculty Workloads: What We Can and Should Do Now‘.

If you’re looking for a framework that’s tailored to Australian universities, a SAGE Special Interest Group is developing good practice guidelines for workload allocation. Contact us to find out more about the Group’s work and how you can contribute.


[1] Wood JL, Hilton AA and Nevarez C (2016) ‘Faculty of color and white faculty: an analysis of service in colleges of education in the Arizona public university system‘, Journal of the Professoriate, 8(1):85–109.