Pandemic - plight of female researchers with children

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University committees of OZZ Inicjatywa Pracownicza addressed the Minister of Education and Science with a request to "take into account the difficult situation of female academics taking care of children during the pandemic". The situation in which they have found themselves has affected their productivity, while the way in which they are accountable for their scientific work has not changed," argue the authors of the appeal.

Life in a pandemic was turned upside down. Also for academics: cancelled research trips, limited access to laboratories or libraries have made scientific work more difficult.

Closed nurseries and kindergartens have further complicated matters, especially for mothers who have been forced to combine scientific work with childcare.

- 'We appeal to the Minister of Education and Science to take into account the more difficult situation of female employees and other people who work in science and provide primary care for children, especially if this care is provided independently. We also stand in solidarity with similar initiatives taken by female workers in other branches,' - we read in the letter.

Full text of the appeal

The authors of the appeal ask for taking into account the situation of female researchers with children especially in the process of accounting for the implementation of grants (by extending the time allocated for this purpose) and in the process of applying for new grants (by extending the period for which the scientific output is calculated) as well as in the evaluation of the work of scientific units employing them (by taking into account the number of employed female researchers with children).

In their opinion, assessing the work of mother-scientists as if they were not burdened with additional care responsibilities is discriminatory.

As dr Agata Rudnik, psychologist and director of the Psychological Support Centre at the UG admits, psychologists have no doubts that the pandemic highlights and even exacerbates inequalities in various spheres of our lives.

- 'Even before the pandemic, women working in the field of science declared that they devote over eight hours more per week to household duties and childcare than their partners,' - says dr Agata Rudnik. - 'Researchers from the University of Washington School of Medicine and the University of Michigan School of Medicine analysed the gender of the authors of nearly 800 scientific articles published in medical scientific journals during the first seven months of the pandemic. Their analysis showed that there were fewer publications where a female scientist was the first author than male scientists, also compared to 2019. Interestingly, these differences were not shown for the proportion of ladies as senior authors meaning heads of a research group. This may imply that the pandemic has a particular impact on women starting their careers,' she adds.

EMW/Press Office of University of Gdańsk