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The Disproportionate Impact of Corona on Female Academics

People working in equal opportunities and women across academic fields could see it coming from a mile away – the disproportionate disadvantages that female researchers would face as a result of the situation surrounding COVID-19. And, as a number of recent articles discuss, this has turned out to be true.

A large part of the problem stems from existing inequalities between men and women when it comes to childcare and housework. In the US, women spend twice as much time on these tasks as men. In northern Europe, women do almost two-thirds of this work. So when your house becomes your office and children are at home all day – as was the case for most people around the world in recent months – the impact of these inequalities becomes more significant. The effect is that women in academia have less time for research, resulting in fewer papers, and disadvantages down the line when it comes to career advancement.

Meanwhile, for many male academics (who are four times more likely than women to have a spouse who doesn’t work full time), this has been a time of increased productivity. And some people see the risk that the productivity of these researchers will become the benchmark by which all researchers are compared for this period – they managed to get work done in this challenging time, so why couldn’t everyone?

These two phenomena are reflected in journal submissions and activity on preprint servers. On the preprint server arXiv in astrophysics, there was 50% more productivity loss among women than men. One researcher even conducted a preliminary study that showed that the number of male preprint authors is growing faster than the number of female preprint authors. And as an editor for the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science tweeted: “Negligible number of submissions to the journal from women in the last month. Never seen anything like it.” On the other hand, at the journal Comparative Political Studies, the number of submissions from men increased by more than 50%.

To read more on the topic, see these articles, from which all of the above information was drawn:

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