Survey reveals women and caregivers disproportionately affected by pandemic

May 24, 2021, 7:51 p.m.

This article is a part of a two-part series investigating the effects of the pandemic on lecturers at Stanford. Read about individual lecturers’ experiences on caregiving, institutional support and teaching here.

The following survey was conducted independently by The Daily in April 2021, based on the Faculty Women’s Forum (FWF) survey, by reaching out to lecturers at Stanford.

The Daily collected 93 responses from individuals with “lecturers” in their titles, including advanced lecturer, senior lecturer, core lecturer and lecturer, the last of which comprised the majority of respondents. Individuals who felt more strongly about issues at Stanford may have felt more compelled to respond to this survey. The results are intended to provide a snapshot of the situations and obstacles that some instructors are facing.

Two-thirds of respondents identified as women.

The respondents’ ages were distributed fairly evenly, with around 29% of respondents identifying as under 40 and between 40 and 49 each. Slightly less than a quarter were between the ages of 50 and 59, and 17.58% were older than 60.

Overall, over 80% of respondents experienced “a lot more” or “a little more” stress since the pandemic began.

Women were more likely than men to report experiencing “a lot more” stress; while over half of women said they have experienced “a lot more” stress, 30% of men said the same. On the other hand, men were more likely than women to report feeling “a little more” stressed. 

The University has offered programs and resources to assist eligible faculty and staff, including COVID flex hours, quarantine pay, the Child Care Subsidy Grant Program and Employee Emergency Assistance Programs, according to University spokesperson E.J. Miranda. “We realize that the pandemic has placed unprecedented personal and professional stress on every member of the university community,” Miranda wrote.

Some respondents wrote that they have faced an additional emotional burden to support stressed students, and worry about those who may be in environments that pose challenges to learning.

“No one has asked me how I’m doing, whether I’m okay or if I need additional help with anything,” one person wrote. 

Another highlighted the difficulties in balancing responsibilities: “What has been stressful is to teach every day, prepare teaching materials every day, every night, create assessments and grade them weekdays and weekends while taking care of your students’ mental health, your own family and, lastly, yourself.”

65% of respondents who reported taking care of children feel “a lot more stressed,” compared to 30.77% of those who don’t have childcare responsibilities. One-quarter of people without childcare responsibilities experienced less or the same amounts of stress, compared to 5% of guardians with childcare responsibilities who said the same.

Some guardians wrote about the difficulties in managing professional responsibilities with the need to look after children — particularly young kids — who may not be able to independently navigate their own virtual classes. 

One lecturer shared that both teaching online and taking care of their young son have been stressful: “I often feel that I am failing everyone.”

Over 70% of respondents reported spending more time on teaching. Respondents wrote that curricular adjustments and preparing course material to translate to an online format have taken time, such as recording and editing videos to provide to students.

“I redesigned every lesson plan and assignment in my course,” one person wrote. “I also spend more time grading smaller formative assessments to guide students learning.”

Some also highlighted that the elimination of commutes has been a positive change since the pandemic began.

Respondents were split on Stanford’s response to COVID. Approximately one-quarter reported being “dissatisfied,” while equal numbers of respondents reported feeling “satisfied” and “neutral.”

Some praised the University’s cautious response to the pandemic, while others critiqued its treatment of students and workers over the past year.

“Stanford could have done so much more for parents,” one respondent wrote. “Non-parents were given the gift of time. Parents were given [headaches].”

Some wrote about how the institutional structure at the University has resulted in lecturers being left out at times.

“I do think that academic staff have fallen through the cracks in a lot of the support because we are neither faculty nor staff,” one wrote, “and thus we don’t qualify for some of the accommodations that have been provided for faculty and/or staff.”

“Without that institutional recognition, lecturers will continue to be overlooked and marginalized,” another added.

The University is “profoundly grateful” to all faculty and academic staff members for their hard work, flexibility and understanding as they continue to support students, Miranda wrote. “There is more to do, and we continue to develop ways to support our faculty, instructional staff and all members of our community through the short- and long-term impacts of the pandemic.”

Over 40% of respondents were “a lot more” or “a little more” likely to leave Stanford than they were before the pandemic. Respondents who were dissatisfied by Stanford’s response reported higher likelihoods of leaving — a trend that mirrors findings from the FWF survey.

Looking to the future, one respondent wrote that they hope that increased support can lead to long-term changes: “It would be nice post-COVID to actually be better off than before.”

Lecturers also expressed hope for a return to normalcy and ability to have in-person interactions with students. 

“I hope vaccination and careful reopening will allow for a safe return to campus and to the classroom, as nothing can really replace the residential education experience,” one wrote.

Sophie Andrews contributed reporting.

Anna Milstein ’23 is a desk editor for Vol. 259 Academic News and a Staff Writer. Contact her at amilstein ‘at’

Login or create an account