COVID-19 scientific response marked by sexism, racism, say women scientists

Thirty-five female scientists, including eight from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, wrote that “the scientific response to COVID-19 has been characterized by an extraordinary level of sexism and racism” in a May 15, 2020 blog in Times Higher Education.

They wrote that media outlets are biased toward quoting male scientists, rather than women and, in particular, women of color; that women are more likely to be doing operational work and supporting decision-makers, rather than writing scientific papers or grants; and that many men—management consultants, tech sector data scientists, and others—with little relevant experience in areas such as public health, biology, disease control, or modeling, are making key decisions regarding the pandemic.

Further, women faculty are spending more time than ever on domestic responsibilities, which cuts into their academic productivity, the authors wrote.

“As women who are deeply involved in COVID-19 science, it has become clear to us that our expertise means little when it comes to real decision-making in this public health emergency,” they wrote, adding that they fear there will be a “hemorrhaging of women from academia in the aftermath of the pandemic.” They stressed the need “to deeply examine these issues, and to reflect seriously on the cultural and institutional toxicities they expose.”

Harvard Chan School co-authors of the blog included Caroline Buckee, associate professor of epidemiology; Bethany Hedt-Gauthier, associate professor in the Department of Biostatistics; Megan Murray, professor in the Department of Epidemiology; Pamela Martinez, postdoctoral research fellow; epidemiology graduate students Christine Tedijanto, Rebecca Khan, and Tigist Menkir; and Ruoran Li, postdoctoral researcher.

Read the blog: Women in science are battling both COVID-19 and the patriarchy