This article has been written by Soraya Alonso, one of the GE Academy DOCC’s trainees as assignment for the lesson by Mieke Verloo “Picking your battles, picking your rides: how to choose wisely between opportunities and threats in changing your university towards gender equality”
If framing and societal changes are connected, ‘Corona times’ became the best example on how important strategic framing is for gender equality. There are multiple and diverse framings emerging on how a new reality is understood, and all of them give us hints about how those changes are going to influence our lives.
Most approaches focus on “first things first”, and gender equality in research organizations is postponed as a non-essential or urgent need. Those framings that postpone the attention for gender equality until “everything will be normal again” are omitting the reality of inequalities affecting many women even before the Covid crisis. As an example, before the pandemic changed our lives many women faced difficulties finding a balance between work and a private life that most of the times included housework, child or elderly care, tasks that usually fall on women’s shoulders.
Remote working has worsened this condition. The lockdown and working from home has changed the way many people work and it has had a negative influence especially for working women. Women who work outside their houses have had to continue working and at the same time dealing with those tasks that involve looking after the children or house chores. As a result of the inability to achieve reconciliation between work and private life, many have left behind their professions.
Just to illustrate this, it is starting to be well documented that most of the scientific submissions to journals in lockdown periods are written by men, what hints that women could not continue carrying out their researches while taking care of the children or the house. All this, shows that a balance between work and private life for women is still not close in many cases.
The barriers that women encounter to balance work and private life existed in pre-Covid times, but the outcomes of this crisis are representative of the need for mainstreaming gender equality in the actions to address the crisis. A gender equality perspective should be incorporated in all policies and at all levels and stages. The crisis is a major change in the structure of discursive opportunities, and organizations (e.g. universities) have to change the way they operate in order to avoid worsening of gender bias and inequalities that affect career development of women scientists. Furthermore, already existing anti-gender discourses could end up being strengthened in the current situation.
The Covid will bring radical changes to all aspects of our lives, so radical demands will also need to be addressed. In times of crisis as these we are living in, it is therefore crucial that we learn how to frame gender equality strategically.