Innovations That Inspire

Gender Budgeting Faculty Workloads for Equality

Recognition Year(s): 2022
School: Birmingham Business School, University of Birmingham
Location: United Kingdom

This project provides an experiential, research-based guide to achieving greater gender equality in the allocation of teaching and institutional service workloads, a key determinant of quantity and quality of work for academic staff. 

Call to Action

Academic workload allocation models are often complex; even the smallest of academic tasks are quantified and the calculations the quantifications are fed into can be intricate. There is abundant quantitative evidence that women and men experience differential outcomes from faculty, school, or departmental workload allocation processes and convincing gender studies explanations as to why this happens. We built on this knowledge by developing a feminist analysis of our school’s workload allocation structures and processes. We concluded that we had been implementing “inequitable modeling.”

Workload allocation processes had been developed by model designers as a managerial tool to enable transparency and fairness—forms of procedural equity—however, the managed, especially women, experienced them as opaque and unfair, which we refer to as forms of lived inequity. We now systematically question the principles and outcomes of such tools in achieving gender equity, and have begun to implement a feminist approach to workload modeling and allocation.

This work is especially important now. The COVID‐19 pandemic has made manifest and exaggerated gender inequalities in academia. There is a growing volume of evidence demonstrating how the disruption of academic labor has disproportionately impacted women, especially related to the gendered division of domestic and care labor. Our initiative builds on the recent movement to promote gender budgeting as a strategy to increase the visibility of gendered inequalities. Gender budgeting acknowledges that the outcomes of financial and other quantified calculations are not gender neutral and objective; rather, these processes and their outcomes are political instruments with gendered implications and consequences. 


This innovation developed as a result of engagement in two initiatives: The first was the British Athena SWAN quality charter mark that celebrates and communicates good practice in the advancement of gender equality in higher education and research institutions. The second was the European Union-funded Horizon 2020 ACT research project. ACT is a group of Communities of Practice (CoPs) designed to consolidate and strengthen existing infrastructure for knowledge sharing and mutual learning in the field of institutional change and gender equality across Europe through development of their Knowledge Sharing Hub, an online survey tool for gender equality audit and monitoring, and an evaluation framework for communities’ collaborations and activities. Faculty from Birmingham Business School, University of Birmingham joined a CoP led by University of Iceland in 2019 during preparation of an Athena SWAN (AS) quality charter application.

As the CoP developed, Icelandic colleagues collected data on workload modeling and equality to inform development of a case study to be shared across the CoP. That dataset subsequently informed a 2021 peer-reviewed paper published in Gender, Work, and Organization: “Gendered workload allocation in universities: A feminist analysis of practices and possibilities in a European university.” Unfortunately, this first AS application was unsuccessful. However, the work done through the ACT CoP is now informing the preparation of a second application and the development of workload modeling for equality in the school. 


This project will be assessed for impact in three ways: 

  1. Regular staff satisfaction surveys that include workload and workload allocation as an aspect of continuing work on equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) to develop Athena SWAN Gold and Silver applications
  1. Monitoring of the pipeline of women moving into senior positions and roles within the school, including workload composition as a way of improving equality in this area
  1. Feedback to workload model designers and implementers on good practice from the CoP that supported our work 

While EDI is notoriously difficult to measure, and the impact of interventions even more so, we are confident that building recognition of our gender budgeting into the culture of the school will encourage colleagues to recognize institutional commitment in this area. We believe that will signal that workload allocation is understood as key to career management and development, rather than just a technical or managerial exercise. If we can reach a shared understanding that EDI happens in the most mundane areas of collegiate working life, then we will be closer to our goal of a school culture that values EDI for its own sake. 

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