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The differential impact of COVID-19 on the work
conditions of women and men academics during
T. Murat Yildirim†| Hande Eslen-Ziya†
Department of Media and Social Sciences,
University of Stavanger
T. Murat Yildirim, Department of Media and
Social Sciences, University of Stavanger, Kjell
Arholms gate 41, 4021 Stavanger, Norway.
That the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the work condi-
tions of large segments of society is in no doubt. A growing
body of journalistic accounts raised the possibility that the
lockdown caused by the pandemic has affected women and
men in different ways, due mostly to the traditionally
gendered division of labour in society. We attempt to test
this oft-cited argument by conducting an original survey
with nearly 200 academics. Specifically, we explore the
extent to which the effect of the lockdown on childcare,
housework and home-office environment varies across
women and men. Our results show that a number of factors
are associated with the effect of the lockdown on the work
conditions of academics at home, including gender, having
children, perceived threat from COVID-19 and satisfaction
with the work environment. We also show that having
children disproportionately affects women in terms of the
amount of housework during the lockdown.
academics, COVID-19, daily routines, gender, housework,
T. Murat Yildirim and Hande Eslen-Ziya contributed equally to this work.
Received: 27 June 2020 Revised: 27 July 2020 Accepted: 13 August 2020
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and
reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
© 2020 The Authors. Gender, Work & Organization published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Gender Work Organ. 2020;1–7. wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/gwao 1
That the lockdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has had differential impact on women and men across the
globe has received much recognition. The closure of schools and day care facilities has dramatically increased
childcare responsibilities, impacting parents’division of labour at home significantly. Recent accounts have shown
that the work and family boundaries became indistinct, and the gendered distribution of responsibilities within the
household became more apparent (Alon, Doepke, Olmstead-Rumsey, & Tertilt, 2020; Cui, Ding, & Zhu, 2020). Some
accounts go so far as to suggest that gender inequalities worsened during the lockdown (Minello, 2020). For working
women, this typically meant increased responsibilities as the main care provider and as an employee who needs to
work from home. Previously described as the double burden or the second shift, this brought forth an overwhelming
demand from both family and work (Hochschild & Machung, 2012).
In an attempt to understand the extent to which the pandemic-related lockdown has affected women and men
working in higher education, we designed a survey that asked a series of questions related to the experiences of
cademics from various countries, including Norway, Sweden, Italy, France, Germany, the United States and the UK,
among others. In particular, we examined the correlates of perceived changes in housework and childcare
responsibilities, as well as the work conditions of academics. Our results from a series of ordered logistic regressions
indicate that having children is the most important predictor of perceived changes related to work and housework,
with women reported being more heavily affected. Perhaps more importantly, we show that the lockdown's impact
on individuals varied significantly by whether one had children. Specifically, women with children have reported
being affected considerably more, compared with individuals without children.
In this article, we take critical gender theory as the basis of our theoretical framework where gender is defined as a
social constructed definition of biological sex where dos and don’ts of masculinity and femininity are shaped by
cultural ideals and social institutions (Acker, 1990; Connell, 2002; West & Zimmerman, 1987). Such gendered
construction in return results in creating and maintaining structural inequalities at all levels among which higher
education institutions are no exception. In fact, universities have long been gendered with strong hierarchy and
inequality between women and men academics, with the gap remaining wide in favour of the latter group (O’Hagan
et al., 2019). Such structural inequality gets even more enhanced once women have children and caring responsibili-
ties at home. This double burden constitutes one of the obstacles towards the work–life balance where the negative
spillover between paid work and domestic duties influences women enormously (Fleetwood, 2007).
We argue that the lockdown caused by the pandemic has worsened this dynamic. For instance, Jessen and
Waights (2020) report that working mothers combined childcare and homeschooling with their paid work during this
period by working long hours in the evening. Likewise, Andersen, Nielsen, Simone, Lewiss, and Jagsi (2020) show
that the pandemic has led women to devote more time to childcare and homeschooling responsibilities, where men
remained relatively less affected. The authors go on to argue that the pandemic had a differential impact on the
research productivity of women and men. We join this growing body of research in an attempt to advance our
understanding of the pandemic-related changes in the working conditions of women and men in higher education
3|DATA AND METHODS
To advance our understanding of how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the work conditions of academics, we
fielded an online survey between 10 and 20 June 2020 via a cloud-based survey platform. In addition to commonly
2YILDIRIM AND ESLEN-ZIYA
used sociodemographic questions, the survey asked respondents a wide range of questions concerning their percep-
tions of the work environment at home during the lockdown. We circulated our survey both within and outside our
networks, mainly by posting our survey on the social media pages of various academic organizations. In total over
460 respondents have engaged with our survey, where 42 per cent of the respondents (n= 198) have completed
it. Among those who completed the survey, 65 per cent were women and 55 per cent were social scientists. Slightly
more than half of our respondents hold a permanent position, where those with less than five-year post-PhD experi-
ence constitute around 30 per cent of our sample. Finally, our sample is highly diverse in terms of the country of res-
idence of our respondents; about 90 per cent of our sample consist of academics working in France, Germany, Italy,
Norway, Sweden, Turkey, UK and the United States. We report the descriptive statistics of key variables in Table 1.
We utilize four ordinal dependent variables that measure the perceived changes in housework and work condi-
tions after the pandemic. We specifically asked how the pandemic has affected the respondent's (i) time spent on
work; (ii) routines in housework; (iii) routines in childcare; as well as (iv) how their contribution to housework has
been affected by the lockdown. Accordingly, we estimate a series of ordered logistic regressions, where we control
for a number of factors such as family income (single income = 1), satisfaction with home-office, satisfaction with
economic wellbeing, having children, holding a tenured position, age and being a social scientist.1
We report our findings from a series of ordered logistic regressions in Table 2, where we explore how the lockdown
has affected academics’work time (Model 1), routines in housework (Model 2) and in childcare (Model 3), and
TABLE 1 Descriptive statistics
Variable Obs Mean Std. dev. Min Max
Perceived threat from COVID
230 0.296 0.457 0 1
223 3.816 1.169 1 (not at all) 5 (a great deal)
209 3.522 1.248 1 (not at all) 5 (a great deal)
101 3.515 1.411 1 (not at all) 5 (a great deal)
Contribution to chores
205 2.502 0.607 1 (less of my time) 3 (more of my time)
Satisfaction with economic wellbeing
200 3.275 1.098 1 (not at all) 5 (a great deal)
Single income 200 0.355 0.48 0 1
Satisfaction with workspace at home
188 3.202 1.124 1 (not at all) 5 (a great deal)
Tenured 184 0.516 0.501 0 1
Age 184 2.897 1.038 1 5
Without child 253 0.356 0.48 0 1
Full professor 253 0.17 0.376 0 1
Social scientist 253 0.379 0.486 0 1
Gender (1 = woman) 253 0.474 0.5 0 1
Are you concerned that COVID-19 is more dangerous for you as an individual?
How did COVID-19 influence the time that you are spending on your work?
How do you think the COVID-19 pandemic has changed your routines in housework?
How do you think the COVID-19 pandemic has changed your routines in childcare?
Compared to what it was prior to the outbreak, your contribution to house chores is taking: [less of my time, same amount
of time, more of my time].
How satisfied are you with your economic wellbeing?
How would you rate your satisfaction with your workspace at home?
YILDIRIM AND ESLEN-ZIYA 3
perceived changes in the contributions to housework (Model 4) during the period they worked from home. As seen
in the models, the gender variable is positive in all four models and statistically significant in two of the models, indi-
cating mixed evidence that the pandemic has disproportionately affected the work conditions of women academics
during the lockdown, compared with their male counterparts. In particular, women reported being affected at greater
rates in terms of their routines in childcare (p< 0.01) and in housework (p< 0.1). Furthermore, academics without
children reported being affected significantly less while those who perceived greater risk from COVID-19 reported
being affected significantly more by the lockdown. Satisfaction with the work environment at home and with eco-
nomic wellbeing appears to be important factors in explaining perceived changes in one experience with the lock-
down, though they come up statistically significant only in two models and at the p< 0.1 level.
Table 2 shows that having children appears to be one of the most important predictors of the perceived effect of
the pandemic. We delve further into this particular finding by interacting the ‘without child’variable with gender to
explore whether having children affects female and male academics in similar ways. Figure 1 illustrates the substan-
tive impact of gender on daily routines at home across households with and without children, where the predicted
outcomes are ‘COVID-19 has greatly affected my routines in housework’and ‘my contribution to housework takes
more of my time after the pandemic’. As the figure on the left-hand side shows, women with children have stated at
greater rates that the pandemic has affected their routines in housework. In contrast, the gender gap is statistically
indistinguishable among households without children. While the figure on the right-hand side shows the gender gap
in the likelihood of saying ‘housework takes more of my time after the pandemic’among the couples with children
TABLE 2 The impact of COVID-19 on the daily routines of academics
Effect on work
Model 1 Model 2 Model 3 Model 4
Women 0.515* (0.308) 0.477 (0.293) 1.208*** (0.449) 0.417 (0.330)
Without child −0.541* (0.302) −0.836*** (0.298) −0.838** (0.332)
Single income household 0.602* (0.308) 0.361 (0.295) −0.448 (0.527) −0.180 (0.325)
workspace at home
−0.259* (0.137) 0.0206 (0.126) −0.347* (0.210) −0.0162 (0.141)
Satisfaction with economic
−0.278* (0.144) −0.189 (0.135) 0.0555 (0.197) −0.00661 (0.152)
Perceived risk from
0.566* (0.336) 0.828*** (0.316) 0.877* (0.519) 0.710** (0.359)
Full professor −0.0870 (0.414) −0.0459 (0.395) −0.572 (0.515) −0.277 (0.439)
Tenured −0.205 (0.338) −0.259 (0.330) 0.635 (0.473) −0.184 (0.370)
Social scientist −0.0466 (0.282) −0.0601 (0.274) 0.492 (0.429) −0.0597 (0.306)
Age 0.00183 (0.175) −0.202 (0.164) −0.804*** (0.266) −0.0213 (0.186)
Constant cut 1 −4.225*** (0.820) −3.409*** (0.767) −4.038*** (1.191) −3.030*** (0.858)
Constant cut 2 −3.651*** (0.798) −2.321*** (0.745) −3.280*** (1.162) −0.556 (0.816)
Constant cut 3 −1.989*** (0.760) −1.137 (0.731) −2.432** (1.131)
Constant cut 4 −0.939 (0.746) 0.0381 (0.722) −0.977 (1.100)
0.043 0.034 0.073 0.038
Observations 180 183 89 184
Standard errors in parentheses.
**p< 0.05; p< 0.1.
4YILDIRIM AND ESLEN-ZIYA
almost disappears, it is still clear that having children has no impact on the housework routines of men. What is more,
relative to women without children, women with children found housework much more time-consuming.
Our findings based on an original survey with academics show that while the gender gap in the extent to which the
pandemic has affected the working conditions of academics is only weak, the gap becomes alarming among aca-
demics with children. Specifically, we show that the daily routines of women academics with children have been dis-
proportionately affected by the pandemic-related lockdown. These findings are greatly in line with the findings
academic work —in which career advancement is based on the number and quality of a person's scientific publica-
tions, and their ability to obtain funding for research projects —is basically incompatible with tending to children
(Minello, 2020, p. 1)
and that having children leads to reductions in the academic productivity of women, but not men (Lutter &
Schröder, 2020, p. 442). Our findings also lend strong support to recent research that found similar gender gaps in
the broader population (Collins, Landivar, Ruppanner, & Scarborough, 2020). As schools and childcare facilities were
closed during the pandemic, households with children were left with childcare responsibilities including their
homeschooling on a daily basis. Our findings imply that the traditionally gendered distribution of labour within the
household disproportionately affects men and women working as academics, even among dual-income families.
Although our data do not allow us to tell more about the causal mechanism at work, one possibility is that the lock-
down may have forced women working in academia to prioritize care-taking responsibilities in line with ‘cultural
ideals of the good mother’(Collins, 2020; Sutherland, 2010), bolstering the traditional gender roles at home.
In the absence of concrete projections as to when higher education institutions will return to normal, we pro-
ceed with caution in interpreting the implications of our findings for the working conditions of academics in the near
future. However, the gender gap in perceived challenges related to increased caregiving demands among academics
is not likely to wane soon if the pandemic worsens in the coming months to further aggravate the disruption of
FIGURE 1 The interactive effects of gender and having children on housework
YILDIRIM AND ESLEN-ZIYA 5
routines at work and home. The growing importance of distance learning in the coming semester will surely require
many academics from across the globe to reorganize their teaching strategy to go online, which might come at the
expense of academics’research activities. Hence, while it is early to tell the long-term consequences of this trend for
academics’research activity, the gender gap in perceived disruptions in daily routines may translate into gendered
disparities in research productivity. Future research delving further into these possibilities might help us better
understand how the pandemic has affected, and will continue to affect, families from across the globe.
The survey utilized in this study was designed in collaboration with Selcen Ozturkcan, who we thank for her
extremely constructive comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. We would also like to thank the editors
and the reviewers for their helpful suggestions.
DECLARATION OF CONFLICTING INTERESTS
The authors declared no potential conflicts of interests with respect to the authorship and/or publication of this
T. Murat Yildirim https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7120-6020
Hande Eslen-Ziya https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7113-6771
There is no multicollinearity among our variables. The correlation between tenured and full professor is 0.48, whereas the
correlation between full professor and age is 0.47.
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6YILDIRIM AND ESLEN-ZIYA
T. Murat Yildirim is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Stavanger. His research focuses on legislative
behavior, public opinion and gender politics, and has appeared in various journals including Journal of European
Public Policy, Party Politics, Policy Studies Journal, Legislative Studies Quarterly, and Political Research Quar-
terly, among others.
Hande Eslen-Ziya has an established interest in gender and social inequalities, transnational organisations and
digital activism, and has a substantial portfolio of research in this field. Currently she co-edited the book titled
The Aesthetics of Global Protest: Visual Culture and Communication published at Amsterdam University Press.
Eslen-Ziya is the Co-I of Covid-19 project funded by the Norwegian Research Council (2020-2022): “Fighting
pandemics with enhanced risk communication: Messages, compliance and vulnerability during the COVID-19
outbreak”Dr. Eslen-Ziya is an Associate Prof. of Sociology at the University of Stavanger and founder of the
Populism, Anti-Gender and Democracy Research Group.
How to cite this article: Yildirim TM, Eslen-Ziya H. The differential impact of COVID-19 on the work
conditions of women and men academics during the lockdown. Gender Work Organ. 2020;1–7. https://doi.
YILDIRIM AND ESLEN-ZIYA 7