University of San Francisco Professor Says Female Professors Should be Paid Extra for ‘Emotional Labor’

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A professor at the University of San Francisco argues that female professors should receive additional compensation for their “emotional labor.”

University of San Francisco professor Brandi Lawless argued in an academic journal article that female academics should receive additional compensation for their “emotional labor.”

The journal article, which was recently highlighted in a piece by Campus Reform reporter Toni Airaksinen, opens with a description of an email exchange that Lawless had with a student who had recently lost a close family member. Lawless was shocked when the student wasn’t satisfied with the level of emotional support that she provided in her first response email.

A student wrote to me recently to say that a close family member had passed away and that she would be missing class. I wrote back to tell her what she would be missing and added a “I’m so sorry this happened,” before sending the email. Her reply suggested that I had not expressed appropriate concern and did not care enough. She explained, “As my teacher and advisor I expected that you would reach out and offer more social support.” I was shocked and hurt. I had to wonder whether she expected additional emotional labor because I am a communication studies professor, a woman, or a combination of both. My next email took a different tone and offered her the emotional caretaking that she requested. I later spent more time meeting with this student in person, to heal wounds and move forward. I chose to spend a lot of time building and maintaining this relationship—time that I felt the student expected of me.

Lawless uses the article to argue that “emotional labor” is just as valuable as teaching, grading papers, and doing research. Because of this, Lawless believes that female professors should make more than their male counterparts. Why only women? Because, according to Lawless, female professors are burdened by an alleged social tendency of humans to associate females with the emotional support that mothers often provide to others.

“For most academics, compensation is distributed based on teaching, research, and service,” Lawless wrote. “Including emotional labor in all of these categories paves the way for direct and indirect compensation such as course releases and service relief.”


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