The Hidden Pandemic

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The pandemic drastically altered the daily tasks of many adults who, in addition to their everyday professions, took on new responsibilities in the home, including child and elder care. As many of these new duties fell mainly to women, associate research scientist Ji-Young Son and Professor of Environmental Health Michelle Bell launched a series of studies on how women and minority scientists were potentially disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. One study with the Yale School of Environment, supported by the Yale Women Faculty Forum, focused on gender disparities in submissions to academic science journals.

The researchers hypothesized that the percentage of women scientists submitting articles would decrease during the pandemic. They found that there was actually an increase in women’s submissions compared to men. They examined 99,114 submissions from January 2019 to July 2021. Of these, the corresponding authors were 82.1 percent male, 17.8 percent female, and 0.1 percent nonbinary. Comparing the pre-pandemic time to the pandemic time, the percentage of women submitting slightly increased to 18.7 percent. However, the pandemic did have one notable effect on women’s submissions. “The rate of increase in submissions [by women] slowed during the pandemic compared to the pre-pandemic period,” Son said. 

There is still an enormous gender disparity in the sciences. Although studies such as this one are bringing the issue to light, the problem continues—before, during, and after the COVID-19 pandemic. “More resources from universities, not [just] individual efforts, and other measures for women scientists are needed to promote equality,” Son said.