Researchers say working from home after the pandemic may have mixed results for women

After the parental leave ended two years ago, Victorian resident Zahida Machan had to make some difficult choices when she returned to work.

“As a parent, you have to weigh your desire to succeed in your career against… being there for your children,” she said.

Machan, 40, previously held a managerial position in the international education department, and now chooses to take on a more junior position so that she can work from home flexibly so she can spend time with her daughter.

But during the COVID-19 pandemic, as a wave of Canadians turned to work from home, Machan noticed a change: Potential employers with better jobs said she could work remotely.

“I saw different doors opened,” she said.

Zahida Machan and her three-year-old daughter. Machan chose a more junior position that allowed her to work from home after taking parental leave. (Submitted by Zahida Macan)

According to Statistics CanadaBy the beginning of 2021, nearly one-third of Canadians are working from home, up from 4% in 1996. Angus Reid survey conducted in 2020 It is indicated that two-thirds of Canadians who work from home expect this situation to continue after the pandemic.

Both surveys show that most employees prefer a hybrid model, allowing them to work remotely but occasionally appear in the office.

With the decline in the number of daily COVID-19 cases across Canada and the return of a more normal working life, some people wonder what impact mixed workplaces might have on employees — especially for women who have traditionally sought more flexibility Choice to help them take care of working with family responsibilities.

As of 2015, Canadian women spent an average of 3.9 hours a day doing unpaid work such as housework and childcare—1.5 hours more than men. According to Statistics Canada.

Researchers studying gender inequality in the workplace say that the increase in remote work may benefit female employees, but many warn that it may also hinder potential job promotion and exacerbate existing gender gaps.

The shame of remote work

Elizabeth Hirsh, chair of the Canadian Law and Inequality Studies at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, said that before the pandemic, remote work was often seen as a type of accommodation for employees who needed flexibility.

“This is related to some stigma, mainly for women with children or care needs,” Hersh said. “So I think it might return to that stigmatized frame.”

Some researchers worry that employees who appear in the office in person may have more opportunities for promotion than employees who work from home. (Shutterstock)

Many researchers agree that the key to avoiding this stigma is to provide all employees with the opportunity to work from home, not just those who need accommodation.

Surveys by Statistics Canada and Angus Reid have shown that men and women like mixed work patterns. Hersh said that making remote work a benefit for all employees would help eliminate their traditional connection with gender.

Increase inequality

Marina Adshade, author The Dollar and Sex: How Economics Affects Sex and Love And UBC economics professors have similar concerns about the potential impact of working from home on women.

Adshade said: “I think this will almost certainly increase the pre-existing inequality in promotion.” “I think individual companies have a way to solve this problem. But I think it will be very, very difficult as a society and as a culture. .”

The survey shows that at some point after the pandemic, men and women want to be able to work from home. (Source: iStock/Getty Images)

Adshade warns that female employees working from home may miss opportunities to build relationships with colleagues and supervisors through casual social interactions such as coffee or lunch — relationships that can ultimately help them get better jobs.

She also worries that using remote work as a form of accommodation rather than a benefit might reinforce the duty of care as a woman.

“You haven’t corrected any of these structural problems we are facing right now,” she said, adding that better access to affordable child care services may be more beneficial.

Benefits of working remotely

But some researchers say that remote work is more likely to benefit female employees.

Soo Min Toh, director of the Institute of Management and Innovation at the University of Toronto, said that remote work provides more employment opportunities for women.

“The inability to work from home or flexible working hours is why women can only work part-time,” Toh said in an email. “In general, this is even more detrimental to career development.”

Toh said that research on communication technology in an organization shows that it can help balance the competitive environment among employees because they can more easily contact colleagues across the organization.

The beauty of zoom

Judith Taylor, a professor of sociology at the University of Toronto, said that meetings on platforms such as Zoom are usually more professional, more focused, and can bring better opportunities for promotion than going out to drink beer after get off work.

“Zoom has some beauty, and the attention it provides makes people more serious,” she said.

Taylor pointed out that managers, like employees, may use remote work to reduce the advantages of being in the office.

“I’m just not sure if entering the office is really a panacea,” she said.

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