When the coronavirus struck in mid-March, most research work was put on hold. However, virologists had to remain active in studying different viruses similar to SARS-COV-2, a virus that causes COVID-19. It also led to the closure of schools and daycares, meaning women had to take responsibility of nurturing their children since they perform most of the work needed to raise kids.
Pandemic worsens existing inequalities
For a long time now, women have been underrepresented in scientific productivity. According to recent statistics, underrepresentation has increased by over 31%. Furthermore, these numbers have constantly reduced since the pandemic struck. Gender disparities have not only been seen in the research labs but also the submission of research articles. The number of male authors in common preprint servers increased by 6.5% while that of female-only grew by 2.6%.
The relative drop in women’s productivity started before the pandemic, but it has drastically risen after the pandemic. The decline in productivity has been attributed to factors such as childcare that have accelerated due to the closure of learning institutions. Furthermore, being a single mother is also another factor that has stalled their productivity.
Besides, the division of labor at homes has not been equal. Surveys indicated that women were doing more of the house duties as compared to what their male counterparts were doing. Furthermore, women also took care of old and sick relatives, hence reducing their scientific research contribution. Female academics have also been doing a lot of teaching than male scholars, and the transition to online education has also affected their research productivity.
Gender disparities may bring some consequences for COVID-19 research
The gender gap is going to affect COVID-19 research. Several surveys have indicated that only one-third of women authors have participated in the coronavirus research. Besides, women may be relegated from senior author positions to less influential lower authorship posts. Similarly, female economists have also experienced a drop in productivity during the pandemic. Analysis has indicated that female economists are less likely to publish on COVID-19 related issues than their male counterparts.
It is, therefore, beneficial to include more women researchers, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic, as it affects men and women differently. Women should thus be engaged in shaping the research response to this pandemic. Other groups such as the Hispanics, Native Americans, and blacks who are underrepresented in the scientific research should also be included as they have been unequally affected by the pandemic.
Having all these groups in designing drugs, vaccine trials, and other COVID-19 researches will ensure a better and complete result. It could give more room to publish the findings and could also attract more funding. Therefore, it is necessary to provide equal opportunities to both genders to avoid gender disparities, especially during the pandemic. Experts say companies like Predictive Oncology (NASDAQ: POAI) may already be implementing in-house solutions to the problems that their female staff are facing during this time.
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