Date Posted: 12/15/2021

Writing in Forbes, Taarini Kaur Dang, founder and managing partner of Brave14 Capital, spoke with several eminent female leaders about the impact of Covid-19 on women and how policies and artificial intelligence can help. Among those Dang spoke with was Kavita Bala, Dean of the Ann S. Bowers College of Computing and Information Science and Professor of Computer Science. As Dang tells it:

Global pandemics have reshaped mankind throughout history via job loss, mortality, and poverty. Around 9.6 million U.S. workers lost their jobs due to Covid-19 but the impact across genders is uneven.

According to Reshma Saujani, Founder of Girls Who Code, 30 years of progress was erased overnight. About 2.3 million women left the workforce in the last year, with women of color leaving at a rate twice that of white women. “America’s moms, especially moms of color, have borne the brunt of the pandemic. The crisis ending doesn’t mean back to normal. For moms, 'normal' wasn’t working in the first place”.

To dig deeper into this societal impasse, I interviewed five women renowned in their fields: Kavita Bala (Dean of the Cornell Ann S. Bowers College of Computing and Information Science at Cornell University), Rebecca Lester (Associate Professor of Accounting at Stanford Graduate School of Business), Linda Lu (Director of Ecosystem at Oasis Labs), Victoria Pettibone (Managing Partner of Astia Fund), and Navrina Singh (Founder & CEO of Credo AI, Board Member at Mozilla Foundation). I reached out to these eminent women because they are thought leaders across industry and academia since I was curious if the impact on women is equally pervasive across all walks of life.

Dean Bala defined the problem by saying, “during Covid-19, a lot of researchers, especially young professors with children, were negatively impacted because they could not access their labs or had to provide more family care when all the schools and daycares closed down. In this group female researchers were disproportionately affected by familial expectations. This is impacting academia’s ability to maintain a strong pipeline of women excelling in research. The same has been felt across the professional workforce.” These comments made me wonder about the limiting factors driving the drop in female researchers. Dean Bala correctly outlined, “this is primarily due to a lack of childcare and eldercare. There is a dearth of alternative educational opportunities for children of young female faculty members. So the faculty have to take care of the children themselves. Women have to provide all hands-on care and have been unable to write as many papers or do as much research during the pandemic.” Dean Bala alluded to a more significant issue that going remote was not designed for all children. Due to this, a greater burden is placed on mothers to ensure learning continuity for children. [...] 

Can technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) be developed to help women? Robots can partially replace the household cleaning done by women, but it is a lot harder to replace child care or elder care with AI, as Dean Bala explained. Despite automation or camera-based solutions, it is hard to replace a human being for family care. In addition, families with a lower economic status probably can’t even afford these solutions. [...]

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