This is likely going to be a trend in the workforce, according to many studies. According to the Global Workplace Analytics president, Katie Lister, they predict 25 to 30 percent of the workforce will be remote at the end of 2021.
This is a concern for many employees, as remote work comes with many misconceptions. However, it is an even bigger concern for women, who already feel advancing in their career is difficult to achieve. Will working remotely hinder their efforts to advance in their company?
In this blog post, we are going to discuss the reasons working remotely may or may not hinder the career advancement of women.
It’s widely known there is a glass ceiling on career advancement for women in many workplaces, even today. This glass ceiling is why women only take up about a third of all management roles. So, when working from home became an everyday norm for companies, many women feared being recognized for their work would be even more difficult. Considering 31 percent of remote workers report feeling forgotten, it’s clear why career advancement seems nearly impossible for women when they go remote.
There are some clear indicators as to why women feel it’s nearly impossible to advance their careers when working remotely. However, it can change for every industry and every company depending on the culture. This is why feedback is so important in the workplace. And, thankfully, there are plenty of action steps senior-level managers and C-suite executives can do to help them.
Networking is a critical component for every woman’s plan to advance in their careers. According to Nancy Ham, the CEO of WebPT, networking is the single most important thing a woman can do for her career. Working from home can make it incredibly difficult for any employee to network, not just women. The only workplace interaction remote workers get is through conference calls, team video calls, and emails. So, meeting new people who can potentially help advance their career can be quite a challenge.
To resolve the issue of networking for women, an excellent idea for C-suite executives is to set up virtual networking events. Thanks to Zoom, Google Meet, and other video call platforms, remote workers can meet virtually and network. C-suite executives or senior-level managers can set up a women’s networking event where employees discuss their career goals and give each other advice. Or, for a more personal form of networking, lower-level employees can sign up for mentoring with someone in a superior role. Setting up these networking events can help women in an organization feel empowered to advance their careers and apply for upper-level roles.
Another reason working from home can hinder career advancements for women is because finding new opportunities is difficult. In an office environment, talking about new roles is very common. But, when working remotely, it’s difficult to hear about these opportunities. Typically, remote workers only talk with other teammates during a structured meeting. There aren’t “watercooler conversations” where people spread information. So, hearing about a new role and deciding to apply for it is much less common. This, of course, is a problem impacting all employees, not just women.
A specific issue for women is feeling as though they are worthy of a new career opportunity. Being well aware of the glass ceiling and not feeling 100% worthy is a common reason women don’t seek out a career advancement. They don’t feel as though they have proven themselves worthy of a position. This feeling can be heightened when working remotely, as your superiors haven’t been looking over your shoulder monitoring your performance. So, C-suite leaders must take action to make all employees feel as though their productivity is recognized while working from home. This can be done through instructing managers to provide more feedback, or through investing in programs that track productivity.
Working remotely can lead to a lack of high-profile assignments. In general, men do get more high-profile assignments than women that lead to career advancements according to the Harvard Business Review. Additionally, working in person can remind leaders certain employees deserve a high-profile assignment based on their performance. So, working remotely for women can lead to minimal high-profile assignments for women. This leads to a lack of recognition by C-suite leaders for their performance.
While it is best to allow managers to assign work to employees at their discretion, consider encouraging them to give chances to other employees. Giving employees more responsibility through high-profile assignments can enable them to show their capabilities. Then, it’s easier to know who to rely on for larger assignments. Following this, the best employees will stand out for their work, no matter their gender or if they’re working remotely.
A common issue many women who are working remotely are facing is work-life balance. According to BBC, women spend on average 15 hours more on household duties than men do. So, women are spending more time cleaning and taking care of children because they work from home. The same article shares that many women, even those in senior-level roles, are leaving because they cannot handle the stress of juggling their work life and personal life. With many public schools closed or only attending every other day, many women feel as though being a mom eliminates the chance of a successful career. So, they simply quit their jobs altogether.
This level of stress doesn’t need to be the case for women. It’s completely understandable that helping their kids is a top priority for working moms, but it doesn’t need to require them to quit their jobs. An easy solution to this is offering flexible work hours, in which people can work at any time of the day. Many organizations require their employees to track their hours through software to ensure they are truly working when they are supposed to. However, extending trust to employees and enabling them to work whenever, as long as they get their assignments done on time, can eliminate a significant amount of stress. Not to mention, it can decrease employee turnover drastically.
Another concern for women in the workplace is a lack of meetings that lead to advancement. In the same BBC article mentioned above, the writer reports many moms are losing career advancement opportunities due to meetings getting canceled. For example, a major sales pitch to on-board a large client may get canceled. The reason for the cancellation could be a lack of childcare, a lack of funds due to the recession, or the client’s incapability to meet remotely. No matter what the reason, the cancellation of meetings can prevent employees from achievements, and thus advancements.
Unfortunately, there is little C-suite leaders can do to improve this situation, other than being understanding. Encouraging a company culture of determination can help boost the morale of employees who are losing clients or who aren’t seeing growth in their departments. Also, measuring the success of employees outside of their achievements with external figures can show you who is truly an employee deserving a promotion. Measurements such as productivity, new ideas, and determination are all great indicators of a great employee. Also, it can weed out any biases against women as you look at them objectively.
While there are certainly many factors that can prevent career advancement for women working remotely, there are some that can benefit them. C-suite executives should focus on these benefits to create a better work environment for everyone who has to work remotely. When the benefits of working remotely are prioritized, it may outweigh the negatives for career advancement for women.
A primary concern for senior-level executives when letting their employees work remotely is their productivity. Being at home can come with plenty of distractions, so it must decrease the productivity of employees. However, this isn’t the case at all, according to a two-year study by Stanford. According to the study, employees work a true workday, rather than stopping to talk with coworkers or leaving early to beat traffic. The study also found employees are more effective by 50 percent thanks to taking fewer sick days, vacations, and fewer breaks.
With this increased productivity, it’s a safe assumption that women can use their increased productivity to advance their careers. Whether it be pulling reports to show their effectiveness or spending some extra time to improve a big project, it is possible to use this productivity to their advantage. But, doing more with this productivity will come down to the woman’s determination. Just like with men, some will naturally be more determined to be set apart from the crowd. So, ensuring their manager provides recognition to the most determined employees is critical.
With the increase in productivity thanks to working remotely, organizations can use this to offer additional training. According to studies, men are 18 percent more likely to get on-the-job training than women. So, with this in mind, prioritizing learning and development programs can help their employees, specifically women, excel. Consider working with third-party training programs that offer online courses to increase the knowledge of employees. Or, take this time to revamp the human resources department and their organizational learning programs. When organizations use the added time from productivity for learning, they can ensure men and women feel they get the same level of training.
Another benefit of remote work for women is the ability to communicate virtually. Communicating through email, messaging programs, and instant messenger can keep coworkers in the loop about progress and achievements. Only 42% of women feel comfortable advocating for themselves, likely because it feels like bragging. However, women working remotely need to advocate for themselves so they have a better chance of getting promoted. It’s incredibly difficult getting recognition as an employee working remotely. So, doing some humble and respectful bragging about successes is a critical component of getting a promotion.
Organizations should consider asking managers to ask their employees about their accomplishments for the week. Something as simple as “What did you accomplish this week that you’re proud of?” in a messaging platform can enable women to advocate for themselves. Also, suggesting managers publicly recognize employee successes can encourage a culture of advocacy and self-celebration.
Lastly, another benefit of remote work for women is how easy it is to get feedback from superiors. It’s very easy to send over a quick “What did you think about the project?” in an instant messenger. According to a study by McKinsey & Company, women receive less feedback than men, despite asking for it just as often. It’s much easier to give feedback behind a screen than it is in person, so perhaps this can eliminate this discrepancy. If this is the case, women can benefit from working remotely by receiving performance-improving feedback.
Working remotely may or may not hinder career advancements for women. At the end of the day, women who are at ethical organizations and who work to be set apart from the crowd will likely experience minimal effects. However, this doesn’t mean C-suite leaders should ignore the potential hardship of women seeking career advancements. Using the solutions listed in this blog post will minimize these hardships and will lead to a more ethical work environment.