It’s time to improve the narrative: Ladies in COVID-19, science, and academia

13 February, 2021
History has a habit of erasing women’s contribution to science - from NASA’s ‘hidden statistics’ and the women who propelled males into space to the countless female researchers whose job won Nobel prizes for his or her male supervisors. We cannot give recognition to feminine researchers and their contributions to the fight against COVID-19 without acknowledging the barriers they possess overcome.

This year, the International Day of Women and Girls in Science will concentrate on female scientists at the forefront of the fight COVID-19.

Barriers and problems for women in science existed long before the pandemic but are actually in the spotlight due to increasing social and specialist inequities - especially found in academia, vaccine study and development, and COVID-19 response decision-making.

Women make up simply 28% of the workforce in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), with even more affordable representation found in its leadership, while significantly less than 30% of the world’s researchers are women. Over the years, these amounts have refused to change, and females remain underrepresented regardless of the increasing number of female graduates in these fields.

Numerous studies have revealed that ladies in STEM fields publish fewer, are paid much less for their research, and do not progress so far as men within their careers, with the gap only worsening since the start of the pandemic.

COVID-19 heightens challenges for women in science
Lockdowns implemented all over the world left woman academics and scientists with increased responsibilities in looking after children, older family members, and ailing members of the family. Many women likewise faced increased domestic duties as “work” and “house” became inseparable spaces.

Stemming from social inequities and expectations - and the actual fact that men in academia are several times more likely to truly have a partner engaged in full-time domestic care than their female colleagues - this kind of resulted in women falling further lurking behind than their man counterparts at work, and it lowered their capability to be productive.

Research in Nature suggests that although females have authored about 20% of functioning papers since 2015, they constitute simply 12% of the authors of COVID-19-related research. Likewise, the proportion of papers with females as 1st authors was 19% significantly less in 2020 than it had been in 2019.

Women’s increased care responsibilities have not only led to a decrease in scholarly production but as well avoided them from leadership positions and institutional decision-making, thus expanding inequity gaps in science and academia.

These challenges are then compounded for women of color, ladies in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), women with disabilities, and women owned by other marginalized teams, who all face more exceptional challenges to equality in science and academia.

For instance, only 0.5% of full professors in medical schools in america happen to be Black women, while women overall constitute 22%.

Women-led research is crucial as it contributes to revealing significant gaps or dissimilarities in policy and system implications through a gender-conscious lens. For instance, the predominantly women-led research on speech research of heads of claims and COVID-19 unveiled significant variations in the way men and women speak about the pandemic.