I was late filing this article. While I was writing it, my three-year-old son refused to nap. When I interviewed people, he interrupted to tell them stories. He climbed on my lap as I typed and twice accidentally smacked me in the face with his plastic dinosaur. He hit a keyboard shortcut and pulled up my photo library, and then he somehow changed my font to Calibri.
Raising kids has always had its challenges. But raising kids during a pandemic, with no schools, no daycares, and no support from friends or family, and while trying to work, is downright impossible. And in certain fields—including those producing vital work for addressing the coronavirus itself, as well as the oncoming climate crisis—that’s starting to show.
Elizabeth Hannon, deputy editor at The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, recently wrote on Twitter that women have been submitting a “negligible” number of articles during this pandemic. “Never seen anything like it,” Hannon wrote. Another editor said submissions from women have stayed steady, while submissions by men have risen by 50 percent. Another said that submissions by women and men were high at the beginning of the year, but she expected a slowdown in the coming months. Recent analysis from University of Toronto ecologist Megan Frederickson confirms it’s not just those individual journals: Women submitted markedly fewer papers to preprint servers, where scientists post papers before peer review, in March and April, both compared to prior months and compared to those same months in 2019. The pandemic may be exacerbating—and revealing—stark divisions that have long existed in science and other fields, with troubling implications for the research these fields go on to produce.
All research has suffered from lab closures and travel bans. But being at home all day, every day, has also dramatically increased domestic duties, particularly for parents, Hannon told me in an email. (Like many of the women I spoke with for this article, email was easier to manage than a phone call.) Childcare and homeschooling are perhaps the biggest tasks, but we’re also cooking and cleaning more, grocery shopping has become a job unto itself, and we’re spending much more time checking in on family and friends.