Women in science are battling both Covid-19 and the patriarchy
The pandemic has worsened longstanding sexist and racist inequalities in science pushing many of us to say ‘I’m done’, write 35 female scientists.
Successful female scientists are, by definition, resilient. We have overcome well-documented barriers throughout our lives: discouragement by teachers, family and society to pursue careers in STEM fields; a lack of role models; hostile and sometimes abusive work environments; disproportionate domestic work and caring responsibilities; and biases against us in favour of men in every aspect of our professional lives – hiring, promotion, publishing, pay, service loads and grant allocation. These barriers are felt even more keenly by women of colour, who face the intersectional effects of racism and sexism.
And yet, even these lifelong battles for a place in science have left us unprepared for the gendered and racial inequalities we have experienced in the response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The worst impacts of the coronavirus will undoubtedly be the loss of lives, the collapse of economies, the disruption of humanitarian aid and the decay of democracies. But we fear that the hard-won progress for women in science will be collateral damage of this crisis.
Together, we represent scientists in North America and Europe who are working on Covid-19 both through research and in the translation of research to clinical responses, policy and public communication. We span the academic career pipeline from graduate students all the way up to senior, tenured faculty. We all share the same experience: the scientific response to Covid-19 has been characterised by an extraordinary level of sexism and racism.