Pandemic Hit Academic Mothers Especially Hard, New Data Confirm

Katie Langin

Science | February 09, 2021


In March 2020, Reshma Jagsi—a radiation oncologist at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor—wrote an opinion piece predicting female scientists would feel a disproportionate impact from the COVID-19 pandemic. Skeptical journal editors declined to publish it. Since then, though, many commentators have echoed her message. And now the evidence has become clear: The pandemic has exacerbated existing disparities and created additional challenges for women, especially those with children, struggling to maintain their research productivity.

In some fields, studies show, the proportion of female authors on preprints, submitted manuscripts, and published papers dropped during the first few months of the pandemic. Mothers also suffered a 33% larger drop in research hours compared with fathers, according to a global survey of 20,000 Ph.D. holders published as a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper last month. The survey, conducted from May to July 2020, also found that mothers took on more household and child care duties than fathers.

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