COVID-19 Threatens Progress Toward Gender Equity Within Academic Medicine

Nicole C. Woitowich*, Shikha Jain, Vineet M. Arora, Hadine Joffe

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations

Abstract

Women remain underrepresented within academic medicine despite past and present efforts to promote gender equity. The authors discuss how the COVID-19 pandemic could stymie progress toward gender parity within the biomedical workforce and limit the retention and advancement of women in science and medicine. Women faculty face distinct challenges as they navigate the impact of shelter-in-place and social distancing on work and home life. An unequal division of household labor and family care between men and women means women faculty are vulnerable to inequities that may develop in the workplace as they strive to maintain academic productivity and professional development without adequate assistance with domestic tasks and family care. Emerging data suggest that gender differences in academic productivity may be forthcoming as a direct result of the pandemic. Existing gender inequities in professional visibility, networking, and collaboration may be exacerbated as activities transition from in-person to virtual environments and create new barriers to advancement. Meanwhile, initiatives designed to promote gender equity within academic medicine may lose key funding due to the economic impact of COVID-19 on higher education. To ensure that the gender gap within academic medicine does not widen, the authors call upon academic leaders and the broader biomedical community to support women faculty through deliberate actions that promote gender equity, diversity, and inclusion. The authors provide several recommendations, including faculty needs assessments; review of gender bias within tenure-clock-extension offers; more opportunities for mentorship, sponsorship, and professional recognition; and financial commitments to support equity initiatives. Leadership for these efforts should be at the institutional and departmental levels, and leaders should ensure a gender balance on task forces and committees to avoid overburdening women faculty with additional service work. Together, these strategies will contribute to the development of a more equitable workforce capable of transformative medical discovery and care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)813-816
Number of pages4
JournalAcademic Medicine
Volume96
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education

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