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

During a Web Summit fireside chat on remote working, Works CEO, Glenn Tay, emphasised that traditional office cultures will face challenges in their competitiveness compared to remote-first cultures in the near future. Tay underscored the significance of effective remote working. While remote working allows companies to access a wider pool of talents and foster stronger teams, there is still scope to enhance its capacity in supporting its workforce, particularly its female members.

According to McKinsey & Company’s study, 79% of men had a favorable remote working experience during the pandemic, whereas only 37% of women shared the same sentiment. What factors may contribute to this inequality?

Kristin Luck, Chief Executive Officer of ESOMAR – an international association for data insights professionals – and Co-Founder of Women in Research, agrees with Jeremy’s evaluation that various factors can impact women’s encounters.

The gender pay gap rise caused by COVID-19 may influence the global GDP by 2030.

Around 54 million women left their jobs in the initial year of the COVID-19 pandemic, which had a significant impact on their employability, as per estimates. Kristin highlighted that this has resulted in a major setback for women’s employment opportunities. A survey conducted in 2022 showed that 90% of women who lost their jobs had withdrawn from the workforce entirely, compared to only 70% of men. It has had profound implications for the economy. McKinsey predicts that if there is no action taken to address the existing gender disparity in unemployment, the global GDP may decrease by $1 trillion by 2030.

Kristin observed that it is not unexpected for women to choose to leave their jobs in these circumstances. Nevertheless, she is of the view that organizations can take several measures to remediate this problem, such as providing staff with greater independence, implementing enhanced parental leave policies (especially in the US), and providing work-from-home options. Although these solutions are advantageous to women, Kristin emphasised that men can also benefit from them as they play an active role in family responsibilities.

Women are predominantly responsible for caring for children and maintaining their homes, frequently requiring an extensive amount of time outside their professional obligations.

On average, around three-quarters of the world’s unpaid caregiving duties are performed by women, as per data. Kristin indicated that the pandemic has directly caused an increase in demand for such services. Additionally, research reveals that fathers are less involved in home-based education and childcare than mothers, at 40% and 27%, respectively.

Another aspect to consider is upholding a professional image. Juggling both homeschooling and family obligations can be a daunting prospect for mothers to achieve alongside their professional work. A research study mentioned by Kristin and published in the Harvard Business Review called “Zoom Fatigue” stated that frequent media exposure could result in feelings of depression and anxiety. Moreover, the “grooming gap”, which imposes unfair appearance expectations on women in the workplace, has been shown to impact women more significantly.

To surmount challenges related to remote work such as grooming and others, organizations will need to devise innovative solutions.

Kristin recommends that women limit their weekly participation in video meetings to help reduce the grooming gender gap. Personally, I choose not to join video calls on certain days, and I also disable my video feed automatically when I enter a conference on platforms like Zoom or Microsoft Teams. This allows me to check if anyone else has activated their camera. According to Jeremy, the initial action to improve the situation should be to discontinue recording everyone’s movements.

Kristin highlighted the significance of equitable treatment in hybrid settings. She stressed the need to employ technology and procedures that foster meaningful connections with remote workers. Moreover, a respondent remarked, “I ensure that team meetings are conducted online, so that all workers have equal opportunities.”

Kristin notes the need to consider the personalities of employees and advises providing individuals with the option to opt-out of team-building activities where feasible. Furthermore, it’s necessary to review gender-neutral policies to ensure fairness and acknowledge the disproportionate amount of unpaid caregiving work undertaken by women. Lastly, we need to scrutinize our global hiring procedures to effect positive change and attract a diverse pool of applicants from around the globe. By doing so, we can recruit and retain a more talented and varied workforce, resulting in the development of innovative products and increased competitiveness.

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