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Women In Science


Women scientists are more affected by the COVID-19 pandemic than men

by Andrea Widener
March 20, 2021 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 99, Issue 10


Women in academia have suffered from increased workloads, decreased productivity, and other issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Many women already faced problems of work-life balance, the report says. But preliminary data, including results from a survey of 900 US women faculty, show that lack of access to childcare, in-home schooling, increased needs of elderly family members, and other physical and personal needs affected women more than men during the pandemic. In addition, many women in academia can’t take advantage of increased online access to conferences and collaborations because of their caregiving duties. As a result, women in some disciplines reported decreased productivity. It wasn’t universal, though: publication rates among women in some scientific fields remained steady. “The representation of women has slowly increased in STEMM [science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine] fields, but such progress is fragile and prone to setbacks, especially in times of crisis,” University of Pennsylvania professor Eve Higginbotham, chair of the committee that wrote the report, says in a statement. “Emerging evidence suggests that the disruptions caused by the pandemic endanger the engagement and retention of women in these fields—and may roll back some of the achievement gains made by women to date.”



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