Hybrid work levels the playing field when it comes to gender equality in the workplace

Is hybrid work the equalizing factor that’s been missing from workplaces across the globe? And how do you make sure your turn to hybrid promotes equal opportunity in the workplace?

 

When we talk about the hybrid workplace, we always mention the flexibility it brings to employees, who can plan how and where they work from to better fit their lives, and the benefits it provides to organizations, such as increasing the talent pool when recruiting.

What we rarely talk about, is the positive impact both remote and hybrid work can have on society.

By moving work away from the office and to the places it fits us, hybrid work can provide a much greater level of equality between genders than what we’ve had previously.

 

The gender promotion gap

There’s plenty of historical evidence to suggest that women have fewer opportunities than men, but as equality rises (which compared to 1930 it has), it begs the question, has it risen enough?

Studies such as ‘Potential’ and the Gender Promotion Gap by Alan Benson and Danielle Li have even shown that there is a bias toward women.

Their study of nearly 30.000 workers found that women are 14% less likely to be promoted. This happens although women’s performances in the studied cases were rated higher than men’s. *

At the same time, a UK study found that women were significantly less likely to be promoted or even still be employed after having children. *

But why is that?

 

A bias for on-site workers

A UK study that ran from 2013 to 2020 found that employees who mainly worked from home were 38% less likely to have received a bonus, than employees who worked on site. *

Now, that’s a significant difference, but what does that have to do with equality or women in the workplace, you may ask.

The answer is that research shows, that women are more likely to work from home than men. *

This tendency was equalized during lockdowns when everyone worked from home, but it is something we need to consider, as offices re-open and employees start to return to the office.

 

How to make sure you turn hybrid in a way that promotes equal opportunity

It would be nice if the only thing it took to create gender equality in the workplace was switching to a remote or hybrid work model. Sadly, that is not the case.

However, with hybrid work, working from home or leaving the office early becomes part of the norm, and this will give organizations an opportunity to foster a higher degree of equality than what we’ve previously seen.

If you are going hybrid, we have five tips for you, which will help you maintain the democratizing effect remote work has had on the gender opportunity gap.

 

1. Give proper notice when you schedule your return to the office

One of the main differences between how men and women are perceived in the workplace is related to childcare, and that’s also one of the reasons why, during the pandemic, women’s labour force participation hit its lowest point since the 1980s. *

While childcare is still more readily available than it was a year ago, it can still affect how and even if parents (and let’s face it, moms more so than dads) are able to return to the office.

Because of that, we suggest you make sure to communicate your plans to return to the office as early as possible and give employees a minimum of 45 days’ notice before they are expected to step foot in the office in any way, shape, or form.

 

2. Notice that some may have a bigger need for remote than others

A lot of organizations implement hybrid work by allowing employees to work from home for a certain number of days, which is completely fine. But you need to consider the fact that not all employees are the same.

If you tailor the number of days an employee is expected to be in the office to each individual employee you will see a much better result than if you just treat it as one-size-fits-all, and at the same time, you avoid biased scheduling restrictions (gendered or otherwise).

 

3. Tailor your hybrid work policy for your organization

We’ve said it before, and we’ll most likely say it again. Before you make any decisions, start by asking your employees how they want to return to the office. No two organizations are the same, and what works for one may not work for another.

This isn’t just about asking how many days employees want to spend in the office or what scheduling strategy they would prefer. The most important part is finding out why they prefer things a certain way.

 

4. Avoid on-site bias

On-site favouritism may be the single biggest contributor to your hybrid strategy failing, especially when it comes to gender bias. This is because women are statistically more likely to take advantage of the option to work from home than men. *

And it’s not just the number of promotions or the size of bonuses you need to keep in mind if you want to combat on-site bias. You also need to consider how tasks are assigned to on-site and remote employees.

In studies on the matter, 85-90% of white men report access to career-enhancing assignments, while the same is only true for 42-50% of black women (other women and people of colour fall in between the two extremes). *

 

5. Rethink your meetings to fit how your employees work

Making sure that hybrid meetings run smoothly is a challenge in and of itself, but there’s also the question of availability when you start scheduling meetings.

The sad truth is, that meetings scheduled in the evenings or during school drop-off or pick-up hours will often favour male attendants.

To help alleviate the issue of excluding parents (and especially mothers) from certain meetings, consider implementing “core hours” where all team members are expected to be available for meetings, as this sends a clear message, while also giving you the opportunity to foster greater gender equality.

 

References

https://insights.som.yale.edu/insights/women-arent-promoted-because-managers-underestimate-their-potential

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/gender-equality-at-work-research-on-the-barriers-to-womens-progression

https://techinformed.com/iwd2022-special-report-does-hybrid-work-help-or-hinder-womens-tech-careers/

https://www.theguardian.com/money/2021/nov/12/women-working-from-home-risk-being-caught-in-a-she-cession

https://whattobecome.com/blog/women-in-the-workplace-statistics/

https://hbr.org/2021/08/dont-lose-the-democratizing-effect-of-remote-work

https://futureforum.com/2022/01/25/leveling-the-playing-field-in-the-new-hybrid-workplace/

https://www.cnbc.com/2021/02/08/womens-labor-force-participation-rate-hit-33-year-low-in-january-2021.html

https://worklifelaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/Climate-Control-Gender-and-Racial-Bias-in-Engineering_Update.pdf

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