This article was originally published on Milwaukee Community Journal
Gender bias in the workplace is a well-documented issue, with research showing women earn consistently less money than men and get fewer of the top leadership jobs.
And now the new wave of remote working is magnifying gender gaps, a study shows. As companies continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and weigh the pros and cons of working from home versus returning to the office, they will need to be more cognizant of gender bias and find ways to address it, says Christena Garduno (www.mediaculture.com), chief executive officer of Media Culture.
“Remote work has amplified gender bias over women,” Garduno says. “It’s caused the dissolution of the boundary between home and work, and this has affected women more than men. Women are more likely to feel they have no workspace in the house because they are always needed to attend to other things.
“Some employers had given their employees the choice to report back to the office or continuously work from home. Women, having more obligations at home, are more likely to continue to work remotely. And it cannot be helped that those who choose to work from home will look like they’re less committed to their job. This could affect a woman’s promotion or pay raise.”
For employers, Garduno says, it is more challenging than ever to notice and rectify behaviors promoting gender inequality among employees working remotely.
“They need to come up with new work principles and regulations to address the issue,” she says.
Garduno offers these tips to company leaders on how they can address gender bias toward women working remotely:
Educate employees. Leaders should always be proactive in breaking down stereotypes and take the chance to influence the team in this regard, Garduno says. “Employers need to educate employees about stereotypes and how to avoid gender bias in the remote workplace,” she says. “Decision-makers should be hypersensitive to avoid falling to stereotypes in deliberating employees’ performance issues.”
Create a clear work-from-home policy. Making expectations as clear as possible helps work teams shift from a time-spent mindset to a results-based mindset, Garduno says. That way those who work from home shouldn’t have a lack of in-person office facetime held against them. “Management should establish a clear criteria for work evaluation to avoid making assumptions and creating wrong impressions,” Garduno says. “When leaders clearly define a work-from-home policy with goals and communication protocols, the more they can undo gender inequality in the workplace. This is especially important for women, whose responsibilities at home are often more than men’s and bring more distractions.”
Give women a voice in leadership meetings. “Correcting gender inequality in the workplace requires intentional effort, which needs to be visible from the top down,” Garduno says. “Women bring a fresh perspective to the table. Leaders including women’s voices more when direction and strategy are being discussed is a tangible step toward putting them on equal footing with men.”
Provide opportunities for upskilling and professional development. “This goes also for women who have left the workforce and want to come back to their company,” Garduno says. “Leaders would be smart to implement more programs that allow women to grow their career and prepare for promotions while working from home. Giving them new opportunities in their current role also puts them on the path to career advancement.”
Check in to discuss issues. Without trust in leaders to listen to their concerns, women working from home face an uphill battle, Garduno says. “A leader’s process should give all team members confidence that their concerns will be handled fairly and anonymously,” Garduno says. “Leaders should always check in regularly with their team, both as a group and individually.”
“The challenges women face in the workplace, both remote and at the office, require intention and effort to solve,” Garduno says. “Steps can be taken to help progress in gender equity, and it should be non-negotiable in your work culture.”