Skip to main content

Women in math and the COVID-19 crisis

The page starts with links to various texts related to the COVID-19 crisis and its consequences for women in mathematics or more generally in science.

The European Women in Mathematics (EWM) Open Letter on the COVID-19 pandemy  and its impact on junior and women mathematicians. EWM is collecting signatures of people supporting the text.

The survey  Gender, race and parenthood impact academic productivity during the COVID-19 pandemic: from survey to action written by  scientists in Brasil. Their conclusion is that the productivity of black people and women is the most affected. Their work is not specific to mathematics.

The blog from  CIRST in Canada entitled Monitoring women's scholarly production during the COVID-19 pandemic. The current pandemic has made manifest many social distinctions, including the fact that women do more parenting in the family and are more likely to be single parents. As a consequence, there is a reduction of women 's scientific production.

The impact of COVID-19 on women in the STEM workforce , a report from Ausralia to which the chair of WIMSIG, the women in maths group of Australia contributed.

No Tickets for Women in the COVID-19 Race? A Study on Manuscript Submissions and Reviews in 2347 Elsevier Journals during the Pandemic, a paper whose findings indicate that the pandemic has already created cumulative advantages for men.

The decline of women's research production during the coronavirus pandemic, a paper wheret hey observe lower rates of submissions from women for March and April 2020, compared with both the preceding two months in 2020 and the same two months of 2019.

Are women publishing less during the pandemic? Here’s what the data say, a paper with early analyses suggesting that female academics are posting fewer preprints and starting fewer research projects than their male peers.

COVID-19’s gendered impact on academic productivity, a blog analyzing data on preprint submissions to arXiv and bioRxiv, two preprint servers that together cover many STEM fields

Unequal effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on scientists,a survey of principal investigators indicating that female scientists,  and, especially, scientists with young children experienced a substantial decline in time devoted to research.

These links are followed by brief contributions written during the second half of April 2020 by CWM members and CWM ambassodors from different countries all over the world on what the COVID-19 crisis has meant for their lives as women in mathematics.

Pakistan

Rashida Adeeb

In Pakistan I went on 12th of March to my university, the university of Peshawar, in Pakistan, after that we were told to stay homes, all the universities,schools and college were closed because of Covid-19. Though the situation in Pakistan is not that worse like other countries in the world, even then due to our safety, we are locked in our houses. I did many things at home, I tried new recipes, read new research articles in my area, did home work with my two kids, a twelve year boy and a five years old daughter, playing games with kids, offering daily prayers with my husband and kids, watching TV along with my husband. Some times we feel bore at home my kids ask, when will we be able to go to parks and restaurants, we don't know the true answers. I tell them we will go soon, hope fully.

Brasil

Carolina Araujo

The situation in Brazil is very delicate and worrisome. While Covid-19 cases and deaths soar, to this moment, the government has dismissed the severity of the disease, and seems more worried about the stock market than human lives, putting those most vulnerable at high risk. Personally, I am grateful that my family and I are healthy and safe, and that we have the privilege to be able to work from home. But I am also exhausted. Schools have been closed for 4 weeks now, and my family and I have been in self-isolation since then. I feel overwhelmed and pressured by the multiple tasks for which I am responsible: entertaining my 4 year old child, who does not fully understand why he suddenly can no longer go play outside with other children, taking care of our home, cooking every meal, and still having to be productive at work. From the professional point of view, this is an opportunity to learn new tools to collaborate and stay connected. From the social point of view, it causes me great anxiety to think about the great depression and grieving that is bound to afflict the whole of human society after this first wave. I just hope that we will take this opportunity to change for the better, and embrace more sympathetic and cooperative behaviors.

Chile

M. Isabel Cortez

In Chile we had our routines altered since October, when, all of a sudden, people began to protest againstthe inequalities that are prevalent in our country. In the universities, we were preparing ourselves against the possibility that the protests would flare up in March,during the school return. We expected student strikes, police violence, and everything that was customary until January. However, we went from being on the streets to being locked up in our houses, readapting ourselves, and trying to follow the instructions from a government that has almost no credibility. I live this process more and less in calm, I try to work, attend online seminars, do a little exercise, I have cooked like never before, but I miss the human contact, and I worry about what might happen.These are moments when I wonder if I will continue living as I have done until now.

Nepal

Jyoti U. Devkota

I have been working from home since 18 March 2020. It is when our university cancelled all the lecture classes and also postponed the end semester exam scheduled for the end of March. Nepa will complete 21 days of lockdown on 15 April 2020. So for nearly three weeks I have been in self isolation with my husband and my son. We are very thankful that nobody from our family and near acquaintances has been taken ill from coronavirus. I am conducting my research and enhancing my research endeavors through various materials.I conducted a two hour online revision class with my students on SKYPE, the day before yesterday. Out of a total of 56 students, 47 students took part in this online course. I was very much impressed by the success of this online class.The reasons for my pleasure are the following. Because of closure of the university the students are scattered across Nepal and every student does not have access to internet facilities. But I would like everything to be normal so that I can visit the university and have direct interaction& with my colleagues and students.

Kenya

Josephine Kagunda

In Nairobi, Kenya, we are locked in our estates. We cannot travel out or into the city, luckily I live near key services locations, and so we have access to food and essential services. The University was closed three weeks ago, when we were almost completing the semester. Having come back from the US for a research visit, I had a heavy workload of four units each with about 200 students and one with 350 students. I had almos completed the course work, which I am doing online, awaiting the reopeninig to proctor final assessments and exams. The University is training us online how to use online teaching platforms, so that learning can continue during the lockdown. Our main challenge is availability of data bundles for the long connection periods,the poor connections, that sometimes frustrate any video calls, and lack of smartphones and laptops for our students. Our hope is that a solution will be found soon to faciliatate online teaching.

At home things are tough, I have my daughter doing her final high school exams in Dec-(If possible), so I am doing home schooling. I have a second year high schooler also who needs my attention to concentrate, and a husband to love. My mum is in hospital with a head surgery and we see her in shifts to feed and encourage, and I have an online course I am doing for the two months April and May.

My hands are full, but house chores are shared well,and I only do the cooking. For safety, we are restricting our outdoor visits to only essential errands and hospital visits to reduce the risk of infection.

>My research work is affected seriously, I can hardly get an hour to concentrate with all this things calling for my attention, but I am finding the period so productive familywise and teaching wise, I am not complaining. I am able to update my notes to soft copies and answer students query from the comfort of my home as quickly as the need help.

I appreciate this forum to share our experiences, let us keep safe, love you all. Read Psalms 91 in the Bible.

Poland

Stanisława Kanas

In Poland, very early the government introduced many restrictions. Schools of all levels were closed from March 12, then slowly other institutions and shopping malls. At the moment only grocery stores or stores with building and renovation materials are open. We work remotely, which is quite a challenge, because I have always valued direct contact with students and followed their reaction to the presented content. This semester I am teaching a Discrete Mathematics, which is salutary for me, because for the last 3 years I have been working on a textbook in this subject so I and my students can use it. Contact with MSc students seems to be the simplest, the more that the progress of diploma theses was already quite advanced. Now we are introducing smaller or larger corrections that do not require personal contact, although it is often quite difficult to explain mathematical reasoning in an ordinary email. Unfortunately, functioning in confinement even for me, who I like to work in peace and alone, is not comfortable.  I have started several serious scientific projects, but I really don't find the time, or strength to work on them at night.

Homework is not a problem for me, but I need to help my children who work and have preschool children. From here I run games through a messenger with a 4-year-old granddaughter, or entertain a 3-year-old grandson in person, and I do my work late in the evening or at night. We suffer from a lack of family meeting, especially now atEaster, which is special time for family gatherings.

The serious fears arouse the future after a pandemic. Many people lose their jobs, many business are closed and others are firing people. The anti-crisis measures taken are insufficient and we are all afraid of how our lives may look like after a pandemic. Only one thing is certain - the economic crisis will occur, but we do not know its scale.

Nifzei

Fadipe-Joseph Olubunmi A.

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in Nigeria which I belong is facing economic hardship because salary was stopped since February 2020. ASUU refused to enrol in the federal government’s centralised payment platform. ASUU believed that the platform can not take care of the peculiarities of universities academics.

The first case of Corona Virus Diseases(COVID-19) was confirmed in Nigeria on 27 of February 2020. The government shut down all schools in the country on 23 of March 2020 to curtail the spread of the disease. States are under total lockdown till further notice due to the report from Nigeria Centre for Disease Control(NCDC). It is not easy coping without salary at this period of lockdown.

I research in Geometric Function Theory. I struggled to complete two articles which I started before the lockdown. For example, an article titled “ Introductory Geometric Function Theory” was written for publication in Notices of the American Mathematical Society. It is not convenient for me doing academic work at home for lack of facilities which may be available in the office. I do research under a Cashew tree in my compound to get fresh air because of lack of constant electricity. I use the hotspot on my phone to get internet for my laptop. I research with my students online.

I am a member of the executive of Nigerian Women in Mathematics(NWM). Online meetings were held during the lockdown. WhatsApp was used in the first meeting and Zoom was used in the second meeting.

Staying at home is not easy but my husband and the children engaged themselves in making vegetable garden in the compound. Before this period, I take pleasure in rearing goats and chicken for the consumption of the family. Also, my son who is an Agriculturist rears rabbits. We feed on vegetables and the animals we rear during this lockdown. Life is very difficult but every member of my family is busy at home in keeping life going.

Many people are suffering from hunger because staying at home disengaged us from the daily activities. I learnt that one should invest, save for the future and everybody should be able to use Information and Communication Technologies irrespective of country and location.

Burkina Faso

Marie Francoise Ouedraogo

The first cases of Covid-19 appeared in Burkina Faso on March 09, 2020. The following week, the government, to stop the spread of the virus, closed schools and universities. Other series of measures followed, such as the ban on the assembly of more than 50 people, the curfew from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m., the closure of markets, restaurants and bars, the closure of borders and airports, the quarantine of the affected cities, and the last measure will be the obligatory wearing of a mask. All religions have decided to suspend gatherings in places of worship. The Easter Vigil Mass 2020 was broadcast live on national radio and television. I was struck by the empty church, with only a few nuns to perform the chorus. Economically, a large part of economic activity in Burkina comes from the informal sector. The actors of this sector, although understanding and approving all the measures taken within the framework of Covid-19, ask for a reduction of these measures and a support of the government to continue to practise their economic activity which supports families from day to day. As part of the mobilization of funding to fight against Covid-19, a "coronathon" was organized on April 18, 2020. I'm happy to be in good health as well as my family. For the pursuit of educational activities, some private television stations broadcast exam class lessons, led by secondary school teachers. We are experimenting with the dissemination of course materials on platforms accessible to students, the use of WhatsApp or tools like Zoom. I take advantage of confinement to advance in research activities, discussion with fellow researchers or doctoral students by email, WhatsApp, skype and other possibilities. I hope that we will see the end of the tunnel soon with this Covid-19 and that the lessons learned from this pandemic will allow us to improve our lifestyle in the future.

Turkey

Ekin Ozman

This semester was really busy for me. I had several work trips planned, a few collaborators were planning to visit me and I am teaching a huge class (calculus) which has 1000 students together with 2 other professors. In total there are 500 students in my sections. Therefore the Covid-19 restrictions have affected me drastically but I am grateful that I and my family are healthy and we can stay home and continue work from home. Workwise, I am still very busy: different kinds of occupations with their own challenges. My husband and I are both teaching and conducting meetings online while our son is also attending some classes every day. The whole house looks like a school with each room turned into a classroom sometimes, functioning well as long as  the internet is stable.

In Istanbul, many people have lost their jobs too and the number of cases is still increasing. Social distancing is strongly advised and people are trying to observe this as much as they can but there are still many people who have to commute to work every day. I hope that the situation improves in the near future.

Australia

Cheryl Praeger

The COVID-19 emergency and restrictions came during my two month participation in the program “Groups, representations and applications: new perspectives” at the Isaac Newton Mathematics Research Institute (INI) in Cambridge UK. I cut my visit short by one week and returned to my home in Perth while the planes were still flying – the INI closed and the program was suspended. After 14 days self-isolation at home, I am now allowed to go for a short walk for exercise, and to buy food and medical needs. My research group meets each lunchtime Monday-Friday for 30 minutes by Zoom, and I have even given a research seminar by zoom. We are all still learning how to use this new technology properly – both for teaching and research. We are reliant on the internet working properly.

In Australia we rely also on “social distancing” to bring down the number of new corona cases: it means that millions of people have lost their jobs, but there is still food available.

France

Marie-Francoise Roy

I am an emeritus professor and so am not involved in trying to organize teaching activities without a class room. I am in France, at home, confined with my husband for over six weeks already. Our life is comfortable but we suffer from not seeing family and friends or taking long walks. I feel both privileged and disconnected. I was involved with many projects (finishing math papers, writing proposals related to sustainable development in Niger) for which I needed to have time that I was never finding, and now I am taking care of them. I decided to read more books from Margaret Atwood during this period, and we also watched the three Westworld seasons, following a recommendation from our daughter.

I am part of the May 12 initiative group and we realized that lectures or roundtables are not going to be possible this year.  So we made an agreement with zalafilms and we offered free screening of Secrets of the Surface for people who register on the May 12 website. Within six weeks we have already received over 11000 requests, from 119 countries all over the world.

Many of the meetings I was invited to have been cancelled and now I wonder "were they really necessary ?". I anticipate that meetings in person will be more and more difficult in the future and hope the CWM ambassador network can find new ways of communicating their experience.

Indonesia

Budi Nurani Ruchjana

The even semester 2019/2020 was a shocking activity for me with the emergence of coronavirus or COVID-19 from Wuhan China. COVID-19 has changed the academic and non-academic activities of all citizens in the world. As a lecturer at the Mathematics Department of Padjadjaran University, I have to carry out together with the lecturers, administrative staff and students to work from home (WFH) until the end of the semester. Learning activities including examinations, online seminars can be carried out with the support of information technology. For lecturers and students in Indonesia as a developing country, there are obstacles, especially the limitations of the internet network, because not all can subscribe to WiFi However, we are grateful that God still gave us health so that we could carry out learning activities, guidance and communication from home even from a distance. The stochastic modeling research group conducts COVID-19 modeling activities through time series analysis, spatial analysis and temporal analysis approaches according to lecture material and the topic of research of students and lecturers.

I am grateful that our family has been given a healthy life, we pray that our daughter, who is a doctor, is always given a strong and enthusiastic spirit to work in the hospital. Also for our son as a film editor who works in the capital city of Jakarta, he has not been able to go home because of the quarantine of the region, hopefully always healthy and patient. For all mathematician colleagues in the world, let's pray and keep working enthusiastically. May the coronavirus can disappear soon and we can live a better life.

Panama

Jeanette Shakalli

The first official case of COVID-19 in Panama was reported on Tuesday, March 10th. Since then, the situation has escalated rapidly. As of Monday, March 23rd, all the international flights in and out of Panama were suspended. As of Wednesday, March 25th, the President of the Republic of Panama declared the entire nation in quarantine. All Panamanians have to stay at home and we could only leave one hour per day depending on the last digit of our ID number. As of Wednesday, April 1st, an additional restriction was implemented: women are allowed to leave their homes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and men on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. No one is allowed to leave their homes on Sundays.

Due to the current situation, I’ve had to become more creative. As the Executive Director of the Panamanian Foundation for the Promotion of Mathematics (FUNDAPROMAT), I have been collaborating with the Julia Robinson Mathematics Festival (JRMF) to organize Webinars on fun math activities. I have organized Webinars on COVID-19 with the Panama Pod of 500 Women Scientists and the Panamanian Association for the Advancement of Science (APANAC). These Webinars feature Panamanian experts who can share scientific facts about COVID-19 with the general audience. I have ran Rubik’s Cube Webinars with the professional speedcuber Sydney Weaver, as well as Virtual Origami Classes with the origami artist Deanna Kwan. Therefore, I am still working to fulfill FUNDAPROMAT’s mission by using online platforms and by posting math campaigns on our social media accounts.

Italy

Elisabetta Strickland

Our nightmare due to Covid-19 started on March 8, the International Women’s Day. All Italians were asked to remain in their houses and ,stop going to work, unless strictly necessary. In any case all universities and schools have been closed and lessons had to go on via various platforms. I am now Honorary Professor in my University “Tor Vergata” in Rome, which means that I don’t teach anymore, as technically I am retired. But I am still part of the Committee for Equal opportunities, enhancement of worker’s health and against discrimination as Honorary President. Moreover I still organize many things and help with the students. All seminars are kept alive using the web, by now we are getting used to see our faces on the screen of our computers in a little stamp on the top. But it’s not the same as been there, in front of the speaker, enjoying the talks together. So even if it’s true that thanks to on line connections we managed to save a great part of our work, the idea of hundreds and then thousands of people dying in hospitals because of the virus keeps us in a permanent state of grief, which of course doesn’t help while working in abstract fields. All meetings have been cancelled, no gatherings whatsoever, and after being more or less liberated by domestic cores, all of a sudden we found ourselves back to the traditional role of women, i.e. taking care of the house, preparing food for everybody, going to the supermarkets. The domestic help has, as a matter of fact, almost disappeared and I obeyed to the general rule, the danger of contagion has been and is still enormous. So after years of working without domestic duties, we women mathematicians went back to the past of at least fifty years. Much of the time that in our minds would be intended for research, teaching, exchanging ideas with other mathematicians, has to be used for other duties. Personally, even if I believe things will never be the same, I sincerely wish we survive to this pandemic, mathematics has been such a panacea in our lives, that restoring our habits would be really great!

Nepal

Dhana Thapa

Corona infection has not spread in Nepal though it is closed to China. First case of COVID-19 in Nepal identified in January 24 in a person travelling from China other imported cases began to appear slowly in March among persons who had recently returned from abroad including India. Nationwide lockdown to prevent corona transmission and epidemic had been imposed in Nepal since 24 March. I am staying home with my two teenage daughters, my husband and 90 years old mother in-law maintaining social distancing guideline. As I learned from media, COVID-19 makes severe ill those who have a weakened immune system due to health problems and medication. I am taking extra care of my health as I am under medication of immune modulation and muscular pain. Not a single person died of corona infection in Nepal till now, people are under fear and panic from misinformation about corona pandemic flooded on media. Schools, colleges, factories, hotel, restaurant, shopping mall and markets have remained closed since the lockdown. Many villagers and workers who have been stranded in urban areas are walking on feet for several days to reach their village home. There is uncertainty over the rules of the lockdown and resuming normal life.

>Despite this critical situation I am connecting with my family, friend circles and colleague via Facebook, messenger, viber, whatsapp and phone call. We share our feeling and views about to overcome this adversity. Professionally I am supervising my students to their thesis writing, which is also a part of a small research project on girls and women in science and mathematics in Higher education in Nepal with the support of University Grant Commission. As a Secretary of WoNiMS, I have initiated discussion about the activities to be done by November 2020 especially proposed Mathematical school for undergrad girls and women. If not possible this year perhaps we will do similar activities in the next year. These days our activities are limited to cooking, eating, reading and watching TV. This week, I enjoyed watching a documentary “Secret of Surface”. Thanks to Zalafilms and May 12 Initiative for the nice documentary devoted to Maryam Mirzakhani and providing such opportunity to distribute message to my colleagues and mathematical community for register themselves for free screen. Let us hope this pandemic shall end soon. This is an opportunity to learn how science, technology, nature and human beings are interrelated to the development of the nation. Better days will come for all women in mathematics around the world. We are all in this together

USA

Aissa Wade

I’m in Pennsylvania where all schools have moved to remote learning for the remainder of the spring semester. Like many colleagues, I have to take care of my kids who would otherwise be at school and I work from home. I’m grateful that family and I are healthy.>

The Covid-19 restrictions have much perturbed my academic activities. I planned to visit the institute “Institut de Mathématiques et de Sciences Physiques” in Benin and teach a graduate course in March 2020 but I had to postpone this visit and cancel my participation to a CIMPA School in Saida (Algeria) as well as planned workshops in North America. Fortunately, I have been discussing with my collaborators via Skype and I have been participating to research seminar through Zoom.