This month we will reach a significant milestone – one year since we fundamentally altered our personal and professional lives due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There is a lot to process and it is completely reasonable to feel a wide range of emotions as we navigate the rest of the semester. Additionally, there is a spectrum of important information to note about equity and inclusion right now, including the U.S. House of Representative passing the Equality Act (a bill that would ban discrimination against people based on sexual orientation and gender identity) as well as a continued rise in attacks on Asian Americans in the U.S. since the pandemic began. I hope we can all continue to show grace to ourselves and others while we persevere through the ongoing stress and uncertainty.

March is also Women’s History Month and as we encounter celebratory messages and virtual events, it is important to remember the disparate impact the last year has had on women* specifically. Existing gender inequity has led to COVID-19 having a more detrimental effect on women. Before 2020, McKinsey & Company determined that women’s jobs were almost twice as vulnerable to crisis as men’s. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, 53-68 percent of family or informal caregivers are women. Additionally, they report women spend more time providing care than men who are caregivers. In December of 2020, U.S. women lost 156,000 jobs while men gained 16,000. For women of color, the unemployment rate is almost two thirds higher than that of white women. These statistics might be in the national landscape and across industries, but colleges and universities are similarly situated.  In higher education many scholars have been tracking the impact on women faculty, like this study looking at manuscript submissions and reviews. Academia is just one context where the motherhood penalty has been exacerbated by the non-family friendly practices and structures in the U.S. workplace. As vaccines become more readily available and life begins to take on the appearance of a pandemic free past, it will be critical to keep this information in mind to adjust policy, procedure and expectations through an equity lens. The best way to celebrate historical contributions from minoritized groups is to create a different future by changing the systems that do not make equity possible.

*Regrettably most data still report gender in binary terms (i.e., women and men) and thus this summary does as well. There are many resources about making data collection more inclusive, but this quick guide from Jennifer Frederick is a great place to start.


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This article was written by Jennifer Sandoval, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Assistant Director of Inclusive Culture. She can be contacted at

This article was published to Nicholson News on March 1, 2021.