How are women who work at community colleges faring during Covid?

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Since Covid-19 abruptly changed how community college leaders live and work, the American Association for Women in Community Colleges (AAWCC) conducted a study that focused on the new and unique challenges of women working at community colleges during the pandemic. Specifically, AAWCC explored how members were coping with these unprecedented changes and sought their feedback to the following research question that guided this study: “How are working women in community colleges faring during Covid-19?”

Using this question as a guiding framework, AAWCC surveyed its members to understand the challenges they faced during Covid-19 and the courage, strength and resilience that they drew upon to overcome them. The research was conducted to inform future AAWCC programming and determine the resources needed to support our members in their respective roles and local organizations. We hope that community colleges will use these findings and recommendations to create, implement or scale up effective practices for faculty, staff and administrators, specifically for women.

This article is provided by the American Association for Women in Community Colleges, an affiliated council of the American Association of Community Colleges.

The research, conducted in spring 2020, included 338 community college women from urban, suburban and rural institutions in eight AAWCC regions from across the nation. Participants were representative of AAWCC’s broader membership composition:

  • 94.67% were full-time
  • 47.34% were staff, 27.22% were administrators, 14.79% were faculty, 0.89% were adjuct faculty and 9.76% served as adjunct faculty in addition to their role as staff or administrator
  • 24.11% were pursuing a degree or certification
  • 64.20% were married, 21.30% were single, 12.13% divorced and 2.37% widowed
  • 60% have children, many of whom are in the home
  • 18.69% were caregivers of parents 

The participants responded to a 17-question online survey with open and closed-ended questions to capture quantitative and qualitative data. Analysis of the data revealed the following results:

  • Women working remotely during the pandemic averaged more than 40 hours each week.
  • Self-care, such as sufficient sleep, daily exercise, healthy eating, limiting stress and taking leave from work was essential to maintaining work-life balance.
  • Creating a conducive workspace with appropriate technology and adequate supplies were necessary.
  • Having flexibility in the workplace and understanding from the supervisor were necessary supports and practices.
  • Caring for children or other loved ones while working from home was a constant challenge.

Based on these findings, AAWCC makes the following recommendations:

  1. Community colleges should have an emergency preparedness plan, with a section specifically on employee preparedness and teleworking, to include technology, supplies, employee assistance programs and other necessities for a conducive work environment. 
  2. AAWCC, as well as other organizations, should provide resources for best self-care practices and wellness programming to support members’ (and employees’) emotional, mental and physical well-being.
  3. For future research, a comparison study of women in the various categories (i.e., married without/with children, single without/with children and their varying ages, caregivers, and other) could be explored to determine if there are differences in the obtainment of work-life balance based on their routines, practices in place.

About the Author

Tyjuan A. Lee, Yolanda Wilson and Carmen Poston Travis
Tyjuan A. Lee is president of AAWCC and president of Metropolitan Community College – Penn Valley Campus (Missouri). Yolanda Wilson is AAWCC board secretary and vice president of instruction at Wilkes Community College (North Carolina). Carmen Poston Travis is AAWCC executive director and director of student affairs at Montgomery College (Maryland).