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On May 1st, 2020, FemEdTech published an Open Letter to Editors and Editorial Boards noting the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women researchers and scholars. In the two weeks since the publication of our letter, further accounts have emerged of the impact of the pandemic and the related lockdown on women researchers, e.g., Women’s research plummets during lockdown but articles from men increase and Meta-research: Is Covid-19 amplifying the authorship gender gap in the medical literature? Our FemEdTech Open Letter invites editors to acknowledge and identify actions they can take to help to mitigate such effects.

We have been gratified to see the many acknowledgements of our Open Letter from journals, organisations and individuals — and the conversations and actions it has prompted. This short post summarises some of these responses as a way of recording and sharing the overall impact of the letter so far. (All responses have been acknowledged personally also.)

Responses to FemEdTech Open Letter

We did our best to bring the Open Letter to the attention of journal editors through Twitter, emails and requests within and beyond the FemEdTech network to share widely, particularly with journal editors and editorial boards. Several journals responded:

  • Asian Journal of Distance Education posted a statement of support on their website, noting that they are already sensitive about and aware of the issues raised in the letter and noting that “we proudly share the same vision with #femedtech community.”
  • Hybrid Pedagogy posted a statement of support on their website, including reprinting the Open Letter in full, noting that the letter “offers an important and necessary call ‘to question who has power and who has not, and to support challenges to those differentials of power’.”
  • Irish Journal of Technology Enhanced Learning posted a statement of support via Twitter and the editorial team discussed the letter with guest editors of an upcoming issue to see “how the journal could help them do so in ways that serves authors to get their work published with as much care and equity as possible for everyone in and of the system.” IJTEL’s recently published call for papers includes this statement: “In response to the #Femedtech Open Letter to Editors, we particularly invite submissions from women researchers and the editorial team will support women authors with their submissions by ensuring that the revision and review timescales will be flexible.”
  • Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education posted a statement of support via Twitter, noting that the editorial team “would like to show our support for @femedtech open letter in support of female researchers during the current COVID-19 pandemic… we will also be extending the deadline for this year’s special conference issue to September.”
  • Private and other conversations with several other editors have indicated that the letter has been or will be shared with editors and/or editorial boards, and that these issues are being discussed.

Several organisations/institutions also responded to the Open Letter, e.g., BIST (Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology) tweeted their support; CILIP (UK Library and Information Association) CEO tweeted a statement of support; Graduate Student Assembly for AECT (Association of Educational Communications and Technology) tweeted their support, and the Open Education Working Group of the OKFN (Open Knowledge Foundation) tweeted their support: “we are calling Open Communities because there is no #OpenScience #OpenEd & #OpenAccess without women, please share it with your communities of practice and the journals you peer-review for.” Vivien Rolfe even wrote a detailed follow-up on her own blog.

Our thanks to all for their responses, and more importantly for their actions, both those planned and those already taken. We thank the many individuals who shared, reshared and amplified the letter so that it could be seen by as many people (particularly journal editors) as possible.

Additional actions

We note also that editors with whom we have not had contact are also responding to the current situation, e.g., the editors of the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research in their May 14th editorial note: “Keenly aware that many academic journals, including IJURR, are seeing a drop in submissions by women scholars, we will prioritize such submissions in our review process. We will do the same for early-career researchers for whom academic publishing is not a luxurious choice but rather a necessity in what are increasingly dire academic times. Such prioritization does not mean that these submissions will be fast-tracked to publication; rather it means that we will put them at the front of the review queue so that at a time of limited review capacity they get more immediate attention.”

Somos Radio in Argentina mentioned our post in a segment titled ‘La pandemia profundiza el desbalance de género en la academia’ (The pandemic deepens the gender imbalance in the academy) noting that the gender gap in academic publications will be even bigger in emerging economies. The segment argued that not only women with family-care responsibilities are affected, as women tend to participate more actively in supporting their communities, including caring for neighbours, as well as in providing pastoral support to colleagues and students.

Looking to the future

Writing in mid-May, we see that COVID-related lockdown conditions are changing at different rates in different places. However, it is clear that aspects of this lockdown will persist for some time at least: home working for many, home schooling for children and young adults, and social mobility restrictions. The burdens that such conditions place, predominantly on women, are highlighted in our Open Letter and elsewhere. For example, demand for emotional labour and pastoral care within academia have risen, and are likely to rise still further, as staff and students continue to deal with the demands of teaching and learning online during exceptional circumstances. We recognise that many of these burdens will be experienced also by our BAME colleagues, by disabled and differently abled academics, and by other under-represented groups.

As all engaged in higher education and scholarly publishing work within this evolving ‘new normal’, FemEdTech re-emphasises the need for all — particularly those in positions of power, at all levels — to actively and continually seek to raise their awareness of potential and actual inequitable outcomes in their contexts, including the gender equity issue highlighted in the FemEdTech Open Letter, and to act, lead and move forward with this in mind.