During the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the submission rate to scholarly journals increased abnormally. Given that most academics were forced to work from home, the competing demands for familial duties might have penalised the scientific productivity of women. To test this hypothesis, we looked at submitted manuscripts and peer review activities for all Elsevier journals between February and May 2018-2020, including data on over 5 million authors and referees. Results showed that during the first wave of the pandemic, women submitted proportionally fewer manuscripts than men. This deficit was especially pronounced among younger cohorts of women academics. The rate of the peer-review invitation acceptance showed a less pronounced gender pattern. Our findings suggest that the first wave of the pandemic has created potentially cumulative advantages for men.