The changing meaning of ‘home’ in the work of South African women academics during the pandemic-enforced lockdown

by Vanessa Davids

Published in the PLOS ONE, 25 January 2023


This article shows how the meaning of home and ‘working from home’ were fundamentally transformed by the pandemic-enforced lockdown for women academics. Drawing on the experiences of more than 2,000 women academics, we show how the enduring concept of home as a place of refuge from the outside world was replaced with a new and still unsettled notion of home as a gendered space that is a congested, competitive, and constrained setting for women’s academic work. In this emerging new place for living and working, home becomes a space that is claimed, conceded, and constantly negotiated between women academics and their partners as well as the children and other occupants under the same roof. Now, as before, home remains a deeply unequal place for women’s work, with dire consequences for academic careers. It is therefore incumbent upon women academics and higher education institutions to develop a deep understanding of the social meanings of home for academics, and the implications for the ‘new normal’ of working from home.

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