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South African Journal of Science

On-line version ISSN 1996-7489
Print version ISSN 0038-2353


WALTERS, Cyrill; BAM, Armand  and  TUMUBWEINEE, Philippa. The precarity of women's academic work and careers during the COVID-19 pandemic: A South African case study. S. Afr. j. sci. [online]. 2022, vol.118, n.5-6, pp.1-8. ISSN 1996-7489.

The novel coronavirus set off a global pandemic of the COVID-19 disease that affected higher education institutions in profound ways. Drawing on the experiences of more than 2029 academic women, this article shows the precarity of academic women's work under pandemic conditions. We analysed seven persistent themes that emerged from the qualitative analysis of the open-ended responses to an online survey across South Africa's 26 higher education institutions. In short, these seven factors have rendered women's work precarious with serious implications for an already elusive gender inequality in the academy. Finally, we aim to provide insight for academic leaders and policymakers to accommodate support for women academics and families in higher education during this time and in the future. SIGNIFICANCE: • This study offers a detailed empirical analysis of the pandemic disruption of women's academic work, confirming the precarious nature of their employment within the academy. • The study shows that the variability in employment agreements for women contributes to the uncertainty that they already experience in terms of their careers and progression within the academy. • Suggestions are made for higher education institutions to remedy the negative consequences of the pandemic lockdown for women's academic work and their professional futures.

Keywords : higher education; gender inequality; female academics; gender in academia; gender gap.

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