Graphic by Poppy Cartledge

Pandemic Pushes Female faculty Out Of The Workforce

COVID-19 has disproportionally affected female faculty

The pandemic has pressed the need for more gender specific policies within universities as data from HSU reveals that female faculty have been disproportionally affected by the lack of accommodation for unpaid caregiving responsibilities.

According to HSU’s data for fall 2020, 52% of faculty on campus are lecturers and of that percentage, 61% are women. Female faculty at HSU are no exception to being disproportionately impacted by the lack of COVID relief, as well as the ongoing budget cuts.

Nicola Walters is a lecturer in the Politics Department at Humboldt State and a member of the Humboldt chapter of the California Faculty Association. She said that following the CFA Statewide’s COVID-19 Relief Town Hall in February, the CFA finally received data from the CSU on COVID-19 leave use.

“Only 2% of faculty were granted COVID-related relief from CSU administrators,” Walters said.

Walters also said that the reasoning behind why female employees in universities are being significantly affected is because parenting and elder care responsibilities fall disproportionately to women and people of color. So, the CSU administrators rejecting COVID-19 relief creates a gender equity gap.

According to a study released in December to the Lancet Journal, there has been a significant drop in women authorship in research fields and an increase in male authorship since the pandemic began. The study also said that the unexpected day care, school, and workplace closures exacerbated many of the well documented challenges women in academia face already during non-pandemic times.

Meghan O’Donnell, CFA associate vice president of Lecturers for the North, said that faculty within the CSU are expected to meet standards set by their university’s reappointment, tenure, and promotion policies each year.

“There’s been many professors who have been stuck with caregiving and parenting responsibilities during COVID and have just been totally unable to do the required research and publications, as well as attend conferences and engage in professional development,” O’Donnell said.

She mentions that although there are many men who also take on primary caregiving responsibilities, the majority are women, particularly women of color.

O’Donnell said that with the issues of racism and gender inequality, institutions and businesses have notoriously created policies and practices that are gender-neutral and race-neutral. The reality is that by doing this, it actually harms those populations, it doesn’t support those populations.

“I think one of the solutions is to really focus on creating policies that support women, particularly women of color in academia,” O’Donnell said.

Another solution O’Donnell suggests for institutions to help their female faculty is to provide accessibility to paid leave and support, as well as being flexible with accommodations. She said that the recognition of unique needs is important.

Chelsea Rios, fiscal coordinator for the Women’s Resource Center at HSU, is not surprised that women, especially women of color, have to prove their existence yet again in male dominated spaces, but wants more for women than to simply be recognized.

“The pandemic highlighted how disproportionally women are accounted for in the workplace, but at the same time, I don’t believe much will come with this awareness unless action is done,” Rios said.

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