The Gendered Impact of COVID-19:
solutions & SUGGESTIONS FOR THE WAY FORWARD
Between July and August 2020, the Gender & Politics Lab collaborated with the Consortium on Electoral Democracy (C-Dem) and the Canadian Opinion Research Archive (CORA) to organize a series of professional development workshops that explored the impact of COVID-19 on early career researchers and researchers in precarious work situations. Through these workshops a number of needs were identified, resulting in a comprehensive list of ideas and suggestions for recognizing work interruptions related to COVID-19.
In addition to the webinar series, Dr. Jennifer Dyer, Head of the Gender Studies Department at Memorial University, has shared a list of requests and requirements (PDF) for university administrators to address gender equity and fairness during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Feel free to adapt this letter, or see if faculty at your institution are working to gather support for similar calls to action on reducing teaching loads, stop-the-clock options for tenure-track faculty and funding arrangements that reflect caregiving needs.
Below, you can find an overview of each workshop as well as suggestions for early-career researchers and their allies on mitigating the effects of COVID-19 on academics and their work.
Workshop series Overview:
recognizing covid-19 Pandemic work interruptions: Suggestions for early career researchers & their allies
Below are a series of ideas and suggestions that we offer in light of the discussions at the Workshop on Early Career Researchers and COVID-19. We’ve divided the advice into three sections: what ECRs can do, what those who support ECRs can do to directly and indirectly improve systemic recognition of the challenges faced by ECRs during the pandemic, and some resources for understanding (and helping others understand) the burdens the pandemic is placing on ECRs.
The intent of this advice is to ensure that no one is unfairly penalized in their career (in terms of tenure, promotion or compensation) for a decline in productivity due to this unprecedented worldwide situation. We are mindful that a lack of fairness can exacerbate existing inequities, such as gender gaps in compensation and diversity in higher ranks.
1) early career researchers
The most important advice gained from the workshops is that support can only be given when communication occurs. This means that ECRs must advocate for themselves.
Do not hesitate to ask your chair, who should be your main ally, for help with adjusting your workload or getting additional support to manage your workload. Such support could include:
Tenure clock extension
Additional teaching assistants or grading support
Reduced service obligations
Alternate teaching workloads (in some cases, institutions may be willing to provide course relief in exchange for teaching at a later time)
Set realistic expectations for yourself.
In research: recognize that there are inevitable delays and setbacks associated with this pandemic. Pursue what you can and try not to stress about things you cannot change. If you have sought a tenure clock extension, some of this hardship should be mitigated.
In teaching: you do not need to be the world’s best online teacher. You need to teach your students well and provide them a quality education experience, but it does not need to be the best online experience ever. Your knowledge is what they have paid to learn.
Do not hesitate to borrow from what others have already learned! Recreating the wheel is simply a waste of effort. Some helpful resources to seek out:
1. Canadian Political Science Teaching and Learning Network
2. APSA syllabus bank
If you are applying for promotion, a grant or have to prepare your CV for any other type of evaluation, this may be a particularly stressful time. It’s important that you provide whoever is evaluating your file with the information necessary for them to gather an accurate picture of your pandemic interruption.
Consider providing details in your personal statement, cover letter and CV. You should only include as much detail as you are comfortable with. As noted by a panelist, mentioning the number of children you have and going into details about domestic responsibilities may signal different things for racialized individuals.
Can you estimate the change in work time? If a normal work week is 40 hours (!) and due to other responsibilities you found yourself just able to carve out 10, consider indicating that - “My work time capacity was reduced to only 25% from March 2020 until August 2020.”
If you had to transition to online teaching rapidly in March 2020 and found that your teaching-research-service balance deteriorated to be 100% teaching, indicate that, again providing an estimate of the timeline.
Mentioning the general scope of extra responsibilities is fair and relevant. Elder care, for example, may not be widely understood but assuming responsibility for all of the errands of another person can be quite time consuming. Child care and homeschooling may be more easily recognized.
We know that the burden of increased childcare, homeschooling and domestic work has disproportionately affected women. We have compiled a list of reports that document this (see below). Consider citing this information when you indicate the particular responsibilities you had to take on.
Important note: While we know about general trends in pandemic burdens, we cannot assume that we know the specifics of any situation or for members of specific minority communities which might have been especially hit. If you think that your own situation may not be recognized (for example, noting the existing research, if you are male and took on the childcare responsibilities in the home because your partner’s work was inflexible), consider providing such details.
2) Allies of early career researchers
If you are called upon to provide a reference letter for an ECR, provide support by recognizing their pandemic career interruption. Consider citing the studies noted below to validate the extra burdens faced by women, rather than providing descriptive details which may prime gendered stereotypes. Focus on productivity in the past and potential productivity in the future, especially in terms of the value of the work itself. Unique and valuable research put on hold will not be on hold forever - someone with the ideas and initiative has amazing potential to contribute to the discipline when the pandemic is over.
If you are called upon to evaluate files, check your personal stereotypes and bias. EDI guidelines and requirements necessitate that we recognize differences in opportunity. Continue to do so, and evaluate files with a focus on demonstrated potential rather than preconceived notions of achievement that cannot apply during this pandemic period.
To regularize statements of pandemic career interruptions, and to recognize your own, consider including your own statement in your CV and personal statements. If your own workload balance shifted appreciably, or if you took on substantial service responsibilities due to your position at your university, indicate that. If your own workload shifted to 10% research - 50% teaching - 40% service that also deserves recognition, and has the added benefit of normalizing such considerations for others.
Provide support for ECRs in terms of mentoring whenever possible. Your institutional knowledge and experience in the discipline may provide invaluable help for someone.
Advocate for your colleagues. In committees and discussions with others, speak up if others are not respecting the disadvantages placed on ECRs due to the pandemic.
If you are a tenured and/or senior professor, and in a position to do so, pick up the slack by taking on more than your “fair share” of collective work. This might ease the load on your junior colleagues who have different pressures on their time.
C Collins, LC Landivar, L Ruppanner, WJ Scarborough, “COVID-19 and the gender gap in work hours.” Gender, Work and Organization, 2020, 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1111/gwao.12506
Regan M. Johnston, Anwar Mohammed, and Clifton van der Linden, “Evidence of Exacerbated Gender Inequality in Child Care Obligations in Canada and Australia During the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Politics & Gender, 2020, 1–16. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1743923X20000574
Claire Cain Miller, “Nearly Half of Men Say They Do Most of the Home Schooling. 3 Percent of Women Agree: A survey suggests that pandemic-era domestic work isn’t being divided more equitably than before the lockdown.” May 6, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/06/upshot/pandemic-chores-homeschooling-gender.html