A recent study in Inside Higher Ed suggests that working from home is affecting men and women differently when it comes to their academic research output. Dr. Lauren Hall, associate professor of political science at Rochester Institute of Technology, reflected on what some of the causes for this might be in a recent interview with the Institute for Humane Studies.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Hall has expressed that working from home can be a bit of a trap—particularly for women.
Time ends up being fractured. Women have two activities that require high levels attention competing for their time.
It’s very difficult to combine work that requires an enormous amount of focus with young children.–Dr. Lauren Hall
Dr. Hall argues that even when two partners in a household have similar types of work, women tend to be more inclined to organize their schedule to fit with their home life. This is because women are socialized to respond to children’s needs. Men, more often, will have jobs where they are required to be at a place at a specific time.
This arrangement is prevalent in families with school-age children. Mothers, Dr. Hall said, are more likely to be considered the experts in their child’s needs. As an example, they may already have established relationships with their teachers. It can prove to be difficult to effectively relay all of this information to a partner.
There’s a question with all of these trends. How much of it is biological? How much of it is socialization? How much of those things work together in really complicated ways? I think that there’s at least some evidence that shows that there is in fact a biological difference, particularly in terms of how women respond to stress.–Dr. Lauren Hall
Some psychological research has shown that men and women may respond to stress differently, Dr. Hall explained. Men are more likely to exhibit fight or flight behavior, while women engage in an affiliative or a nurturing role. When considering how this might impact a relationship during a crisis presented today, women might be more often seen to be focusing their attention on their children while men may disengage.
According to the Inside Higher Ed piece, women in the academy are experiencing a hit in their productivity within an ongoing work-from-home setting. The balance of work from employment and work from childcare has made it challenging for women to have dedicated time for research.