Is It Time to Redesign Remote Work Specifically for Women in the Workforce?

At a fireside chat on remote working at the Web Summit, the CEO of Works, Glenn Tay, highlighted that conventional office cultures will struggle to remain competitive in comparison to remote-first cultures in the upcoming years, thus emphasizing the importance of effective remote working. Whilst remote working provides organizations with access to a broader array of talent and the ability to form stronger teams, there is still progress to be made to ensure it can properly support its employees, particularly its female members.

McKinsey & Company’s research revealed that 79% of males had a positive experience of remote working during the pandemic, compared to only 37% of females. What could be causing this disparity?

Kristin Luck, Co-Founder of Women in Research and Chief Executive Officer of ESOMAR – a global organization for data insights professionals – concurs with Jeremy’s assessment that a range of factors have an effect on women’s experiences.

An increase in the gender wage gap as a result of COVID-19 may have an effect on global GDP by the year 2030.

It is estimated that as many as 54 million women around the world left their jobs in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Kristin has pointed out that this has had a significant impact on the disadvantages women face when seeking employment. In 2022, it was reported that 90% of women who lost their employment had left the labour market entirely, compared to just 70% of men. This has had far-reaching consequences; McKinsey has predicted that, if no action is taken to address the current gender imbalance in unemployment, the world’s GDP could be reduced by $1 trillion by 2030.

Kristin commented that it is unsurprising that women have opted to depart in such cases. However, she believes that organisations can take various measures to improve upon this situation, such as granting employees more autonomy, introducing better parental leave policies (particularly in the US), and offering work-from-home solutions. Although these solutions are beneficial to women, Kristin highlighted that men also benefit from them, as they can take an active role in family life.

Women are disproportionately responsible for the care of children and the upkeep of the home, often necessitating a considerable amount of time in addition to their professional commitments.

Statistics indicate that, on average, approximately three quarters of the world’s unpaid care labour is completed by women. Kristin has highlighted that the heightened demand for such services is a direct consequence of the pandemic. Furthermore, studies show that fathers are less likely to be involved in home schooling and childcare than mothers, at 40% and 27% respectively.

Maintaining a professional appearance is another factor to consider. Home-schooling children, whilst also managing the home and other family commitments, can prove to be a challenging task for mothers. A research cited by Kristin, published in the Harvard Business Review under the title “Zoom Fatigue”, suggests that consistent media exposure could lead to feelings of sadness and anxiety. Furthermore, the “grooming gap”, which places unfair appearance standards on women in the workplace, has been shown to have a greater impact on women.

Organizations will need to take novel methods to grooming and other issues related to remote work if they are to succeed in overcoming them.

Kristin suggests that women limit the number of video meetings they take part in each week in order to help reduce the gender gap in the grooming industry. I personally choose to not participate in video calls on certain days, and I also no longer have my video feed automatically activated when I enter a conference on Zoom or Microsoft Teams. This way, I can check if anyone else has their camera on. Jeremy believes that the first step towards a better situation is to end the policy of recording everyone’s movements.

Kristin emphasized the importance of promoting fairness in hybrid settings. She stated, “We must make use of technology and processes to create meaningful connections with remote workers.” Additionally, a respondent noted, “I ensure that all team meetings are held online, so all employees remain on an equal footing.

Kristin highlights the need to consider the personalities of those who work in a business and suggests allowing individuals to decline participation in team-building exercises when possible. Additionally, we should assess our gender-neutral rules to ensure fairness and recognize the disproportionate amount of unpaid caregiving that falls on women. Finally, we need to examine our global recruiting methods to make changes and attract a more diverse and representative applicant pool from across the world. This will help us to attract and retain a more talented and varied workforce, ultimately resulting in the creation of innovative products and increased competitive ability.

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