The FemEdTech collective is calling on the Editors and Editorial Boards of scholarly journals to acknowledge and mitigate the disproportionate impact of the current COVID-19 pandemic on women researchers and scholars. Multiple voices have highlighted the escalating impact of COVID-19 on women’s scholarly productivity, and hence the quality and representativeness of the research and scholarly work published during this global pandemic.
In order to support authors and reviewers, we are asking Journal Editors to consider these issues while reviewing submissions and commissioning editions during and after the COVID-19 crisis. We therefore, call upon Editors to:
- State on their websites the special measures they will take to support women researchers and scholars during this time. For example, editors may delay calls for special issues.
- Promote gender balance by inviting potential authors to submit papers written by both female and male authors and prioritise papers written by women, particularly where they are single or lead authors.
- Ensure that revision and review timescales are flexible and take into consideration the additional schooling, caring and community responsibilities which fall disproportionately on women.
To evidence this call for action, we note that:
- Generally, editors of academic journals have already noticed a drop in submissions from women, particularly of single-authored papers, and an increase in submission of papers by men, the so-called Isaac Newton effect of increased productivity during a period of quarantine (though the origins of this idea are known to be problematic).
- Women are more likely to bear the majority of responsibility for childcare / home-schooling / caring for older and more vulnerable family members during lockdown, and are more likely to have community support roles that are bearing the brunt of virus response.
- Alessandra Minello, a social demographer, expects the gender difference in caring responsibilities will be mirrored by an impact on career advancement, with increasing disparity between those with and without care responsibilities.
- There is a variety of practices across universities with regard to strike pay deductions and handling fixed-term contracts. A recent article noted the over-representation of women on the 54% of staff on precarious and short-term contracts.
- An article first published at FemEdTech highlights that women, people of colour, early career researchers, precarious employees, and those on lower pay grades are routinely required to carry an invisible burden of emotional labour in providing care and support for students and colleagues.
- A study at University College London has evidenced that during the pandemic, as teaching and learning moves online, and students’ need for emotional support escalates, the burden of this emotional labour falls increasingly on women. The home becomes a place where teaching staff provide emotional support to students, making it difficult to leave demanding work situations or to block out negative emotions at home.
In the longer term, these factors are likely to have a significant impact on women’s career progression, and may increase their precarious work situation, as they take on more of the emotional labour of caring and pastoral support, labour that is rarely acknowledged or rewarded in the same way as research outputs and publications. We encourage Editors and Editorial Boards to help ameliorate the effects of the pandemic on women’s scholarly contributions and careers.
We acknowledge that these issues can also have a significant impact on the publication record and career progression of BAME colleagues, differently abled academics, and other minorities but data on this is more scarce. Staying Power, published by UCU in 2019 , reported on Dr Nicola Rollock’s research that interviewed 20 of the only 25 black female professors in the UK (that’s 0.1% of all professors). A recently published book Data and Feminism, available open access as well as in print, is informed by intersectional feminist thought. The book goes beyond gender: to question who has power and who has not, and to support challenges to those differentials of power.
If nothing else, we ask Editors to read our letter and the articles linked to increase their awareness of these issues. Thank you for listening.