Female college professors are more likely to get requests from students for an increase of marks or extended assignment deadlines than their male counterparts, a study has found.
Researchers from Eastern Washington University in the US found that women in academia more often face added work demand.
They analysed data from a survey of 88 US professors and found that students make more standard work demands and requests for special favours to their female rather than male professors.
However, female professors also reported more acts of friendship from their students.
Although these can be positive experiences, the findings indicate that such friendly behaviour may be emotionally taxing in the same way that special favour requests seem to increase the emotional burdens of female professors.
Another study involved 121 college students, and set out to find out if a certain type of student is more likely to ask favours from female professors.
Researchers found that a student’s view about women in authority or sexism did not play a role.
Instead, students who believed that they were deserving of academic success, irrespective of their actual performance or the effort they put in, were particularly likely to ask a female professor for extra favours, and react negatively if those favours were denied.
These effects were driven by entitled students’ greater expectations of getting special favours granted by a female professor than a male professor.
“Our research provides more information about how students treat female professors, how they react to them when the professors stand their ground, and what kinds of students are particularly likely to treat female professors differently from male professors,” said Amani El-Alayli, lead author of the study published in the journal Sex Roles.
“Students with high academic entitlement were more inclined to be irritated or disappointed when a female professor denied their requests, and more likely to then persist in asking for favours after being denied,” said El- Alayli.
“They were also more likely to conclude, if the professor was female, that a request denial meant that the professor disliked them,” he said.
The gendered expectations that men are more respected and authoritative make even entitled students unlikely to oppose their male professors’ decisions.
They might even believe that it would be fruitless to oppose male professors and to keep on nagging, because they are not easily swayed. Thus, these students’ entitlement may only manifest when interacting with female professors.
“Aside from contributing to burnout and taking time away from career-enhancing activities, greater demands and special requests from students may affect female professors’ career advancement by causing them to get less favourable course evaluations or even more complaints filed against them,” said El-Alayli.
“Students may perceive female professors as less fair than their male counterparts if female professors are expected to expend exceptional effort to help out their students in unrealistic ways, thus resulting in worse evaluations,” she added.