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Women’s academic journal submissions plummet amid coronavirus

The academic world shows early indicators of how the lockdown may impact women’s careers. They’re not good.

Women’s academic journal submissions plummet amid coronavirus
[Photo: Joshua Hoehne/Unsplash]

Women are submitting far fewer papers to academic journals, and barely submitting at all in some fields, while men are submitting more, according to an investigation by The Washington Post’s The Lily. Mothers everywhere say, “Well, yeah.”

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This is a damaging blow to the careers of female academics in areas where career tracks are largely determined by publishing histories. In astrophysics, for example, The Lily found a drop of up to 50% in draft versions of academic papers in the first four months of 2020 versus last year. The deputy editor of the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science tweeted “negligible number of submissions to the journal from women in the last month. Never seen anything like it.” Some editors reported rises in male submissions.

The dip is attributed to the quadruple labor of childcare, housework, homeschooling, and professional duties that women are currently shouldering. “Academic work—in which career advancement is based on the number and quality of a person’s scientific publications, and their ability to obtain funding for research projects—is basically incompatible with tending to children,” says Alessandra Minello, a statistician at the University of Florence. “I expect that data on publication records over the next couple of years will show that parents in academia were disadvantaged relative to nonparents in 2020.”

Previous research has shown that a similar dynamic arrives during academic paternity/maternity leave. For example, in a study of 20 years’ of economics departments, the policies “substantially reduced female tenure rates while substantially increasing male tenure rates.”

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