How the COVID-19 Pandemic Disproportionately Impacted Women Teachers

A new study by researchers at the University at Albany of the State University of New York System found that female educators experienced the COVID-19 pandemic more negatively than their male counterparts. The study, which was conducted by NYKids, a research-practice partnership housed within the university’s School of Education, adds to emerging research that is finding the pandemic had a disproportionate impact on women in the workforce, who have dropped out at much higher rates than men.

The mixed-method study drew on survey responses from a large group of educators at 38 schools across New York. Respondents included instructional staff at P-12 schools, including teachers and teaching assistants, as well as support professionals such as social workers, school psychologists, and counselors. The survey sought to gauge whether female educators were experiencing greater challenges with work-life balance during the pandemic than their male counterparts, and if those challenges were largely attributable to differences in childcare responsibilities or differences in how they experienced work and COVID-related stress.

While other studies have pointed to the gendered division of domestic labor as a potential driving force behind women’s greater stress levels during the pandemic, this survey found otherwise — female educators with and without childcare responsibilities back home reported similar levels of stress throughout the pandemic. Rather, it was higher levels of stress associated with work and the pandemic itself that were the primary drivers of dissatisfaction.

The study authors note that women remain underrepresented in decision-making positions in schools, which could be a driver of work-related stress. “Lack of decision-making authority is interesting because there’s a clear connection there with people feeling a lack of control or like they’re in the dark,” said Kristen Wilcox, a co-author of the study and associate professor in the university’s department of educational policy and leadership. “And so that would kind of explain to us, a little bit, about why women, in particular, might have been feeling particularly stressed at work — because they either didn’t feel or in actuality didn’t have that empowerment.”

The full study, “Gendered Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Mixed-Method Study of Teacher Stress and Work-Life Balance,” was published on the website of the journal Community, Work & Family. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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