It can be too easy to shrug off unequal divisions of labor as an unavoidable fact of life in academia, says KerryAnn O’Meara, professor of higher education and director of UMD’s ADVANCE program, which supports recruitment, retention and career development of women and underrepresented minority faculty.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. In an essay in Inside Higher Ed, she and colleagues Joya Misra, professor of sociology and public policy at the University of Massachusetts Amherst; Audrey J. Jaeger, alumni distinguished graduate professor of education at NC State University; and Dawn Culpepper, doctoral student and faculty specialist for Maryland’s ADVANCE program, envision a series of faculty workload imbalances and lay out simple steps to help correct them:

Dear Diary:

Tuesday, 10 p.m. Today I attended my first promotion-and-tenure committee meeting with four colleagues to prepare the case of a junior colleague. The chair said he did not understand the research -- thus I should write the bulk of the review letter or the candidate might not make it.

Wednesday, 9 p.mI had lunch with a senior colleague today who told me the service role of graduate program director was typically compensated with a course release or summer month of pay. I was offered neither. He said I should have asked.

Thursday, 9:30 a.m. Got to my office this morning, and three students were waiting, all of whom needed career advice and a letter of recommendation this week. A colleague and office neighbor, whom all three students knew well, smiled as I walked in and said, “Boy, are you popular!” and closed her door.

What do all three entries have in common? They reflect situations where a lack of action on the part of bystanders contributed to workload inequity among faculty members. Many people hear such stories and shrug their shoulders. They might blame bad mentoring or a discourse of individual choice, saying, “Yes, that is hard. But, really, what can be done?” Indeed, many people see workload as a can of worms that shouldn’t be opened and can’t be fixed.

As principal investigators and project leaders of the Faculty Workload and Rewards Project, an action research project funded by the National Science Foundation, we have been trying to answer that question.

Read the rest in Inside Higher Ed.