Paul L. Caron
Dean




Tuesday, August 3, 2021

The Pandemic Hit Female Academics Hardest

Chronicle of Higher Education, The Pandemic Hit Female Academics Hardest:

Scholars of all kinds and across ranks have had their careers disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. But a substantial body of social-science evidence suggests that women, who were already disproportionately burdened, have been hit especially hard. How should institutions of higher learning respond? How can tenure and promotion procedures adequately reflect gendered disparities in Covid impact? How can the amplified demands of child care and elder care be addressed? Can evaluation criteria — including expectations around leave — be made more transparent?

These and other questions were on the table when The Chronicle’s Liz McMillen spoke with five leading thinkers about the pandemic’s differential impact on female academics:  Jessica Calarco, an associate professor of sociology at Indiana University; Vineet Arora, the dean of medical education at the University of Chicago; Robinson W. Fulweiler, an associate professor of biology at Boston University; Henrika McCoy, an associate professor of social work and interim associate dean for academic affairs at the University of Illinois at Chicago; and Joya Misra, professor of sociology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Here’s an excerpt from their conversation.

Liz McMillen: Jessica, I’d like to set the stage for this conversation with something that you said last year. You said, “Most countries have safety nets; the United States has women.”

Jessica Calarco: Social safety nets are supposed to give people a sense of security, give them the resources and the support systems that they need to survive and thrive.

Things like paid family leave, paid sick leave, affordable child care, living wages, and universal health care — these are what we think of when we think of a social safety net.

In the U.S., the paltry safety net we do have doesn’t provide that kind of security. It’s designed to be as stingy and even as punitive as possible.

The work of that social safety net falls to women. Women are the ones who run the bake sales so schools can have an art teacher. They’re the ones who run church-outreach programs, who check in on sick family members, who help their colleagues at work feel like part of a team. Women do all of that unpaid service for institutions, including academia.

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