The pandemic is all around us and countries took different ways and responses to it. Unfortunately some were affected more – especially women across the board. Even though we will need more time and perspective to evaluate Corona impact on academic life, it is obvious that women in academia were influenced more because women are facing additional constraints as a result of Covid-19. Women Academics in Covid world – how do they cope with it?
How women were affected one may ask? Well, firstly with the increase of responsibilities, tasks and stress. We wrote about it in the article earlier: Stress in Academia Because from offices we move to homes, it is hard to share our tasks with colleagues, find better solutions and discuss difficulties. Secondly, for some reason fewer women scientists are being understood as experts on Covid-19, they do not produce a new knowledge on the pandemic. Women academics experience a large teaching bundle – they have much less time for research and publication compared to their male colleagues while having higher tasks for teaching and students. This is the reality of Women Academics in Covid world.
Increased pressure on women academics shows a larger image of women in academia. Who is invited to be an expert in public? Who creates a knowledge? Who is being called on to provide advice. Not a women, most of the time. It is the bias towards men experts in media coverage of Covid-19. Women designs clinical trial, they advise policymakers on the virus, designing clinical trials, they collect data and do research but we do not see them in public. Especially taking into account that epidemiology and medicine are women-dominated fields, men get quoted far more often than women about the pandemic.
Research shows smaller output as well. When it comes to Covid-19 and research, fewer women were first authors on articles related to Covid-19. First authorship for women declined by 23 per cent in one year. This is a consequence of women responsibilities at home and their demands of family life during the pandemic. Recent data from the US, the UK and Germany suggest women spend more time on pandemic-era childcare and home schooling than men do. These problems and difficulties are not new, but pandemic shows how women become sensitive to the world instabilities and women in academia are not an exception.
Our world and institutions are male dominated. We have an implicit and subconscious biases in recruitment, research allocation, outcome of peer review, and number of citations where women experiences gender bias. For decades, women in academia have striven to achieve work-life balance, juggling professional and domestic responsibilities.Institutional support was rather weak. Flexible working hours, protected research time was rare. But now women must work from home, take care of children, clean, cook which leads to a lack of productivity in academic fields. This will have a negative impact on the diversity that is critical for excellence in academia and in civil society. Women Academics in Covid world
None of this is factored in to promotion criteria or performance assessments, when women in academia compete directly with their male counterparts. Consequently, women are seriously underrepresented in academic leadership, perpetuating a patriarchal institutional culture in tertiary educational institutions. This could be done via revisions to existing policies and proactive development of new policies to create optimal gender balance in research. Funders also have a responsibility to explore how institutions that financially benefit enormously from research funding via indirect costs support women scientists in academia.Scientific journals are becoming sensitive to gender balance and diversity with respect to authorship. But the requirement for gender equity in terms of participants included in research studies and authorship must be tightened.