Giving and Receiving: Gendered Service Work in Academia

Margaretha Järvinen*, Nanna Mik-Meyer

*Corresponding author for this work

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Deploying the perspective of ‘relational work’, this article investigates the mechanisms behind the gender-unequal distribution of academic service. The concept of relational work is used to analyse how men and women in academia balance collective against individual interests when agreeing or disagreeing on service tasks. Four types of relational work are identified: compliance, evasiveness, barter and investment, with compliance being more common among women, evasiveness and barter being more common among men and investment being tied to temporality in a gendered pattern. The article shows that men are more successful in pursuing individual interests against service demands and how this depends on their relational work as well as organisational role expectations, reducing women’s prospects of ‘saying no’. The study is based on qualitative interviews with 163 associate and full professors in the social sciences and CV data on their service contributions.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCurrent Sociology
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jan 2024

Bibliographical note

Epub ahead of print. Published online: 17 January 2024


  • Academia
  • Academic service
  • Gender
  • Individual vs collective interests
  • Relational work

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