Using Privilege and Power to Create Space for those without Privilege or Power

Women and those in care-giving roles are disproportionately impacted by the pandemic[1].  How can you help? If you are in a position of power (e.g. tenured, hold a leadership or supervisory role, or even simply the chair of a committee), you can lead by example.


  1. Rethink that meeting:

    Cancel nonessential meetings and conduct business in an asynchronous mode such as email or Google docs.
  2. Honor people’s time:

    We often schedule meetings to be one hour long or 30 minutes long by default. Can you cut that in half? Shorten the duration of meetings to cover only those topics that require group discussion and decision-making.
  3. It can wait:

    Identify which tasks can go on the back-burner for the time being.  Adjust deadlines and tenure clocks when feasible.
  4. Raise awareness:

    Be explicit about why you are making these changes; acknowledge in a way that broadens understanding that caregivers often have less time, focus, and energy to devote to their work.
  5. Ask for grace on your own behalf: Use your position of power to vocalize your own concerns, which will give strength to the concerns of those who cannot voice them.  “I cannot complete deliverable X on time because of my own family obligations right now.”


These are not “business-as-usual” times. Explicit acknowledgement of this fact by leadership can go a long way towards alleviating work-related stress in this pandemic.

[1] “Women And The Frontlines Of COVID-19” by Naomi Cahn, Forbes, April 5, 2020.

“The pandemic and the female academic” by Alessandra Minello, Nature, April 17, 2020.

“Working toward generous scholarship – during and after COVID-19” by Andrea MacLeod, The Research Whisperer, April 21, 2020.

“No Room of One's Own: Early journal submission data suggest COVID-19 is tanking women's research productivity.” By Colleen Flaherty, Inside Higher Ed, April 21, 2020.