Can mixed, post-pandemic workplaces promote gender equality?

As the world enters its third year of dealing with COVID-19, the landscape for office workers is virtually unrecognizable. And as flexible work schedules become the new normal, for many workers, daily commutes, office kitchen chats and noisy co-workers are a thing of the past.

Even as the world celebrates International Women’s Day Today, however, some things have not changed when it comes to the workplace experiences faced by women working in the tech industry. While flexible work and the emerging hybrid office have opened a new perspective on both where and how people work, early research indicates that women now face major barriers. more than ever.

The global status of women in the workforce

Worldwide, women make up about 39% of the workforce. But research published by McKinsey in 2020, found that during the COVID-19 pandemic, their jobs are 1.8 times more likely to be disrupted and will account for 54% of total job losses.

According to McKinsey, one reason for the disparity is that women are increasingly shouldering unpaid care. Monitor McKinsey Report 2021 shows that while all women have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, three groups face some of the biggest challenges: working mothers, women in management positions seniors and black women. That’s especially true for parents with children under the age of 10; Women in this group consider leaving the labor force 10 percentage points higher than men.

Amy Loomis, research director, Future of Work at IDC, said: “While the pandemic has normalized work-from-home work, greater expectations of care have not been spared for women.

Loomis also notes that just because everyone is working from home, that doesn’t mean everyone is suddenly on par with each other. “If both halves of a couple are working from home, who will come to the office and who cleans the kitchen table?” she speaks. “Yes, entering the tech sector makes it easier for people to work remotely or work a hybrid, but it’s the ‘and’ that’s what makes the women’s experience different.”

While the tech sector is not immune to pandemic pressures, Deloitte in December reported The inherent flexibility of the industry and the ability to quickly pivot to remote work have helped reduce women’s job losses. That, along with the tech industry’s recovery that started earlier than other industries, has helped many companies maintain progress on gender equality – especially those with a diverse commitment to the workforce. labor and a prior commitment to diversity.

However, according to Skillsoft’s Women in Technology Report 2021, there is still a gap between the workplace benefits that tech women aspire to and what companies offer. When asked about career development and training opportunities, 86% of respondents said they are extremely or very important to them. But only 42% said their employer currently offers that benefit. (And when asked about the top challenges they face in their tech-related careers, nearly a third of the women cited a lack of training.)

Skillsoft also found that 70% of women said men outnumber them in the workplace by a ratio of two to one or more.

Can hybrid work provide long-term benefits for women in tech?

Traditionally, one of the biggest barriers to women entering the labor market has been balancing the burden of caregiving with being in the office five days a week. The rise of hybrid and remote working models has changed that equation, opening up the workforce to people who were once excluded because they couldn’t be in the office.

Research has shown that most workers want to be able to work from home with some possibility in the future, with some even saying they will quit their current job or reduce salary to do so.

Word study Cities & Guilds shows that when looking for a new job, 53% of working-age women in the UK prioritize flexibility, compared with just 38% of men. And 65% of women said a good work-life balance is important, compared with 57% of men who felt the same.

While offering flexible work options helps companies access a more diverse pool of talent, doing so without clear boundaries can have a negative impact on female employees. In short, it can turn flexible work into “always on” work. McKinsey’s Women in the workplace 2021 Research shows that more than a third of employees feel they need to be available to work 24/7 and almost half believe they need to work long hours to get ahead.

The problem is particularly heightened among working mothers, who always work what is known as a “double shift” – a full day of work followed by hours of stay-at-home care and family labor.

McKinsey also found that during a pandemic, women suffer from burnout at a higher rate than men, with the burnout gap between the two groups almost doubling. In the past year, one in three women considered leaving the workforce or changing their careers.

There are a few things employers can do to help women avoid burnout, Loomis said, such as focusing on results rather than specific work schedules and encouraging women to support each other by How to share life tips, resources, and guidance. Organizations can also offer collaboration tools to support asynchronous and synchronous mobile work and ways to meet “work in motion” – do tasks from your waiting room doctor or another remote or home office location.

Neighborhood bias handling

Besides burnout, another major challenge facing underrepresented groups is the threat of proximity bias (where being in the office is seen as a better move). in career). Slack’s Future Forum Report, published in January, found that 84% of men work in offices all or some of the time, compared with 79% of women. For working parents, 75% work remotely or hybridly, compared with 63% of non-parents.

Loomis says there are a variety of initiatives that companies can use to turn “mad, insane” habits. Ensuring that all employees feel like they have an equal opportunity to socialize and engage with co-workers can help reduce stigma from remote workers.

“We call this ‘experience parity’, and many tech companies are focusing on building the hardware and software tools to do that,” she said.

Technology that relies on artificial intelligence to find bias is getting better and better at ensuring more applicants for jobs. And it can help ensure policies don’t exclude individuals or disproportionately impact them.

“Expectations to enhance employee experience in general and the experience of underrepresented women and minorities in particular are very high right now,” says Loomis. “The ball is in the courts of employers to address these systemic problems by using the technologies at their disposal to mitigate the larger challenges we are seeing in this era. chaotic.”

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc. Can mixed, post-pandemic workplaces promote gender equality?

Fry Electronics Team

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