The Experiences of Postdoctoral Women During the COVID-19 Pandemic – National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

In collaboration with L’Oréal USA, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine will host a virtual gathering focused on the experiences of postdoctoral women in science during the COVID-19 pandemic, The event will feature a presentation on our current understanding of the many ways that COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the lives and careers of postdoctoral women in science followed by a moderated discussion with the 2020 L’Oréal For Women in Science Fellows about their experiences as postdocs during these unprecedented times.

Background: Though the representation of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields has increased over the years, there remains significant drop-off at every stage, particularly during the years between postdoctoral and tenure-track positions. The COVID-19 pandemic is now magnifying the many factors that contribute to the underrepresentation of women in scientific fields and there is good reason to believe that postdoctoral women will be particularly affected.

The postdoctoral stage is a critical time in a scientific career when early career researchers are under tremendous pressure to demonstrate their creativity and productivity as they compete for a small number of jobs in the professoriate. It is also a time in life for many researchers when they choose to expand their families and so have caregiving responsibilities for young children—responsibilities that the research shows are born more heavily by women than men. With the pandemic driving the closure of schools and daycares and with virtual working environments reducing research productivity and professional opportunities, there is great reason for concern that many postdocs may leave scientific careers.

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