Aslı Ermiş-Mert

Covid-19 might not be the most mentioned topic globally regarding its expansion or restrictions to prevent the infection risk anymore, yet sociologically we expect there to be long-term and lingering effects for various groups. At the same time, solutions generated in relation to this process in different aspects could help to formulate sustainable outcomes. One of the groups affected by the pandemic was women academics, majorly in relation to the difficulties surrounding research productivity they experienced during this process alongside the decrease in their subjective well-being. It was frequently expressed in the international literature that the pandemic in general and periods of lockdown in particular have limited both paid and unpaid care support mechanisms, making it difficult for women in academia to fulfil the continuing expectations for research performance (Kasymova et al., 2020; Minello et al., 2020; Nash and Churchill, 2020). Similarly, our research[i] showed that intensified unpaid care responsibilities that are not limited to childcare alongside extended pressure felt regarding research performance impacted women’s perceived productivity in the negative direction in the Turkish context.[ii] It is important to recognize that under the pressure of both paid and unpaid responsibilities, sustaining the same performance as well as creativity and productivity was not always possible during the pandemic -at least without burning out.

The rate of women academics who reported a pre-pandemic happiness level of 81 and above out of 100 was 78,9% in our study, as the rate was 46,3% for post-pandemic happiness levels, demonstrating a dramatic decrease. Although the reported happiness levels of women academics in Türkiye were not affected by the increased time spent on care responsibilities at a statistically significant level, as indicated above, expanded unpaid care work had an obvious diminishing effect on reported research productivity. Furthermore, when used as a single indicator in a multilevel model, decreased research productivity was found to be negatively impacting the post-pandemic happiness levels of women in academia. In addition, reported happiness levels of women academics were also adversely affected by the worries for their prospective careers in relation to the pandemic and the negative reactions received from their institutions concerning decreased research productivity, whereas extended with institutional support during Covid-19. While 34,8% of the respondents in our study reported that they are anxious in terms of their future careers connected to the pandemic, only approximately a quarter (26,2%) of them argued (gave a score of 81 and above out of 100) that they received support from their institution throughout these turbulent times.[iii] These findings show the importance of higher education institutions’ continuous support for female faculty, considering that the barriers and problems they encountered were already present in relation to the wider gendered structures in academia and society, and were exacerbated and worsened during the pandemic as well as still do exist.

Based on the findings of our research, to move past the pandemic with its consequences for women academics in mind, it could be highlighted that support mechanisms at the institutional level are expected to be provided based on the lessons taken from these difficult times and findings of related research implemented on these issues. Firstly, institutional care support should include but not be limited to adequate maternity leave, regulations regarding annual evaluations, contract renewal, and promotion during times of crises for women and men with (any type of) care responsibilities, and quality day care opportunities at the workplace. Secondly, extended pressure and unrealistic expectations for productivity -especially when quantity is prioritized over quality- need to be challenged by recognizing its impact on scientific novelty, acknowledging the variation in publication patterns and conditions in different disciplines, and adopting a gender-sensitive performance evaluation system. Thirdly, it should be acknowledged that subjective well-being in academia for women, as found in our research, is strongly related to the support provided by one’s institution as well as job satisfaction and financial satisfaction. Scientific excellence and wellness could potentially co-exist for women academics when these issues are thoroughly taken into consideration now and in the future.


Kasymova, S., Place, J. M. S., Billings, D. L., & Aldape, J. D. (2021). Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the productivity of academics who mother. Gender, Work & Organization, 28, 419-433.

Minello, A., Martucci, S., & Manzo, L. K. (2021). The pandemic and the academic mothers: present hardships and future perspectives. European Societies, 23(sup1), S82-S94.

Nash, M., & Churchill, B. (2020). Caring during COVID-19: A gendered analysis of Australian university responses to managing remote working and caring responsibilities. Gender, Work & Organization, 27(5), 833-846.

[i] This research titled “The Impact of COVID-19 on Women in Academia: Subjective Well-being, Family Responsibilities, and Research Productivity” was funded by The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK) (Project no. 220K276). For questions related to the project, please contact the Project PI Dr. Aslı Ermiş-Mert (

[ii] Please refer to my article for further information: Ermiş-Mert, A. 2023. Perceived Research Productivity of Women in Higher Education: An Investigation of the Impact of COVID-19. The British Journal of Sociology, 1-8.

[iii] For further information on the findings highlighted in this paragraph, please refer to our book chapter: Ermiş-Mert, A., Yılmaz, E., & Karayel, B. 2023. Women, Academia, and Happiness: The Impact of the Pandemic. In E. Meletiadou (Ed.), Handbook of Research on Exploring Gender Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Through an Intersectional Lens (pp. 264-281). IGI Global. Doi: 10.4018/978-1-6684-8412-8.ch013