The sudden shift to working from home in March 2020 wrought profound changes in academics’ working practices. Initially assumed to be a short-term measure, working from home, teaching and meeting online, became a new norm, albeit in hybrid forms across institutions and roles as the pandemic evolved. This research has found that for female academics, the shift of paid labour into the domestic/household space blurred boundaries between work and home, impacted on an already unevenly distributed burden of care within the household and has implications for longer-term career progression.
An emerging literature (Boncori 2020; Fazackerly 2020; Kitchener 2020 inter alia) documents the disadvantages female academics have faced in sustaining academic research and writing for publication. Yet REF2021 continued with only minor modifications (REF2021, 2020) and the REF2027/28 cycle has already begun. Given that REF metrics of publication and impact drive career progression and success, there are longer-term implications for female academics’ careers. Against a backdrop of deeply uncertain times for the sector and the global economy, Kitchener (2020) argues: ‘the coronavirus is skewing a playing field that wasn’t ever level in the first place’. The damage done to female academic’s research productivity in 2020 and 2021 will start to show in the next few years.