Non-tenured and female faculty feeling COVID burdens, study says

by Brian Wallheimer, Purdue University

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — The COVID-19 pandemic forced many faculty scientists to come in from field work and leave their labs for makeshift home workspaces. Those disruptions have affected faculty differently.

Purdue University and Colorado State University researchers surveyed ecology and evolutionary biology faculty across the United States to understand how the pandemic is affecting them and their work. In the journal Ecological Applications, they report that junior faculty and female faculty — especially those with children — are most negatively affected.

“Women in these fields are often still primarily responsible for their children, and we found that this is obstructing them from keeping up with the demands of their research and teaching,” said Zhao Ma, a professor in Purdue’s Department of Forestry and Natural Resources. “Faculty seeking tenure or promotion feel a lot of pressure to conduct and publish research, and that’s difficult when they can’t be in the field or in their labs. They work day and night to make sure their children’s needs are met, their classes are delivered, their students’ needs are met through increasing mentoring, and then they may or may not have much time left to do their own research. There’s a feeling amongst many women scientists, particularly assistant professors, that they could be left behind.”

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Read the Ecological Applications paper: