Experts haven’t been shy about how they think COVID-19 will impact gender inequality in the workplace. Some claim remote work is better for women, optimistic the pandemic’s end will usher in a work from home (WFH) 2.0 era where inclusive, equitable workplaces become the norm. Others caution WFH 2.0 won’t help gender inequality in the workplace and might make it worse.
But forget the experts for a moment. What do workers have to say about their experience with working remotely during COVID-19? And what can business leaders learn about building inclusive cultures for their hybrid or even fully remote workplaces?
We asked 4,000 professionals about their experience working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. The results, published in our “Is remote work sustainable?” report, shed some light on how gender inequality in the workplace plays out when working remotely. The study found:
- Fewer women (48%) reported good or better mental health than men (58%).
- More women (46%) reported struggling with group work than men (37%).
Business and team leaders need to keep these findings in mind as they build hybrid remote workplaces. The WFH 2.0 era complicates some of the challenges women already face, but when leaders proactively address these issues, they build cultures that support all employees’ health and well-being.
1. Gender inequality in the workplace starts at home
For many women, coming home from work is not the end of the day but the start of a second shift, specifically, one where they carry the highest mental load and do the most emotional labor of anyone else in their households. Without the transition between office and home, boundaries blur, making women feel like they’re always on the clock.
“The escape of getting out of the place where, no matter what you do for a living, you’re the CEO 24/7… was a reprieve,” said Tara Furiani, CEO of people strategy consultancy Not the HR Lady. “But now, the screaming, banging, and otherwise lack of acceptance that you’re actually still working is unavoidable.”
A mom of seven, Furiani is among the approximately 66% of the United States’ 23.5 million women who work full-time while raising children younger than 18 years old. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that when women work from home while their children also learn from home, their workload expands rapidly.
The escape of getting out of the place where, no matter what you do for a living, you’re the CEO of 24/7, was a reprieve.
“Women working remotely face the added challenge of having to be constantly interrupted by their demanding and impatient ‘mini-bosses,’ aka children,” said Marissa Haddad, vice president of customer success as 321 Ignition, a website platform for car dealerships.
Those like Haddad have lots to juggle. “[Computer] technical difficulties, homework help, breakfast time, bathroom wipes, sibling fights, lunchtime, loads of laundry … all while preparing for meetings and remaining engaged and composed on calls,” she said.
But it’s not just women with children who face gender inequality in the workplace, whether at home or at the office. Gallup shows the distribution of household tasks has improved in the last 25 years, but day-to-day chores like laundry, meals, and cleaning still disproportionately fall on women. Men, meanwhile, largely take on duties with gaps between them, like yard work and auto maintenance.
This uneven distribution of labor continues to drive gender inequality. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that American women average 5.7 hours of unpaid household and care work per day. That’s 2.1 more hours than men, who average 3.6 hours per day. – Read more
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