Research in higher education has repeatedly pointed to a need for more faculty of color: non-white faculty members make up only 21 percent of full-time faculty nationwide and can often face discrimination, racism, and isolation throughout their careers.
Research has also pointed to the dire need for work-life balance among academics. Lack of work-life balance is associated with poorer health — both physical and emotional — for faculty members, as well as lower rates of job retention and satisfaction.
But what role does work-life balance play in retaining faculty of color? Could helping people achieve work-life balance mean losing fewer qualified faculty to other fields? Those are questions that researchers using data from Harvard University's Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE) sought to answer by analyzing survey results from nearly 3,000 faculty members at 69 institutions. About 36 percent of the analytic sample were Asian American, 17 percent African American, 12 percent Latinx, and 35 percent were white.
Overall, the researchers found that ambivalence or dissatisfaction with work-life balance cuts through race and ethnicity. Race did not predict perceptions of work-life balance, except for in one case: Asian American respondents were far more likely to report satisfaction with their work-life balance; respondents from other groups tended to report either dissatisfaction with their work-life balance, or ambivalence.
While race, for the most part, did not predict perceptions of balance, the authors of the study say it is an important factor to consider, since lack of balance may add to the considerable stressors that faculty of color experience. Past studies have shown that faculty of color face repeated inequities, from undervaluing of their research by their peers and institutions to unreasonably high service expectations.
“Work-life balance literature focuses predominantly on white faculty, or it does not consider race at all, so we also felt like the literature on work-life balance was very skewed to focus on white faculty members,” says study co-author Katalin Szelenyi, a researcher from the University of Massachusetts Boston. “White faculty experiences were standing in for the experiences of all faculty.”