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cartoon of mother homeschooling childThe pandemic is particularly challenging for mothers in the academic workforce, say two researchers associated with the Faculty of Education. Illustration by Lauren Crosby

Pandemic parenting highlights inequities in academia: researchers

Within the academic community, mothers are facing an increase in challenges already well-documented prior to the pandemic, say two researchers associated with the University of Windsor Faculty of Education.

Recent doctoral grad Kimberly Hillier and associate professor Christopher Greig note that while the shift to working from home has meant more time for writing and other work-related responsibilities for some, others — most notably mothers — are experiencing far less time to engage in writing, research, and academic work.

“Women are often expected to shoulder the lion’s share of caregiving duties,” Dr. Hillier says. “Research is demonstrating that domestic loads have been increased by the closure of schools in Ontario and inability to outsource childcare. Some mothers are finding themselves at a disadvantage that is far greater than what many were facing prior to a global pandemic.”

While recognizing that academic fathers and nonparents are not exempt from the challenges the pandemic has generated, the two add that gender issues are intersecting with many other social justice factors — including, though not limited to, race, social class, ability, marital status, and age — in impacting their productivity on the job and the overall experiences of the pandemic for mothers and women.

“The current pandemic presents an opportunity to actively reflect upon social injustices and the important work that mothers and women perform every day. This includes mothers’ visible work and invisible work like remembering things that need to be done,” says Hillier.

“Although women have come so far in academia and the labour market, the COVID-19 pandemic highlights the ways in which women and mothers continue to experience disempowerment within the domestic sphere and beyond.”

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