It has always been more common for women to raise the family and men to pursue their career. This family arrangement is what society typically calls its “traditional” structure.
Although both roles hold value, the business world sees a man as being more integral to their organization. That is why the wage gap in the United States continues to exist in several professions. In 2016, women were still making only 81.8% of what men earned in the same position.
That is why an increase in telecommuting, freelancing, and independent contracting appears to benefit women the most. If they are the parent that stays home most often, then logic would dictate that they should have more of these work-at-home opportunities.
That is not the case either. A 2015 survey indicates that 60% of workers who have the opportunity to telecommute are men.
Why Are Women Not Working Remotely?
There is a lack of flexibility in the workplace today. Pew Research Center analyzed research data from the U.S. Census in 2010 and combined their findings with survey results about women in the workplace. The results show that even though women have more education than men and produce results more consistently, they don’t receive the same opportunities because of the motherhood role that society still holds for them.
The survey results from the Pew Research Center show that 51% of women said that their status as a “working mother” made career advancement more challenging. Only 16% of “working fathers” encountered the same issue.
Women are also cutting back their hours more often to accommodate their families compared to men at a rate of 42% vs. 28%.
This structure causes almost 60% of women in the tech sector to leave their job mid-career because they have fewer opportunities available to them because of this societal perspective.
This lack of flexibility makes itself known in other ways too. Instead of expanding opportunities to work remotely, many employers now recall their telecommuters back to the office over concerns of productivity.
How Would Telecommuting Create More Flexibility?
Marissa Mayer, Chief Executive Officer of Yahoo, stopped the company’s work-from-home policy because she believed that people collaborate better when they work together.
If the goal is to increase productivity, then recalling workers is the incorrect approach – especially for women.
That is only one example of many. Reddit, Bank of America, Aetna, and IBM have all made changes to their telecommuting policies since 2014.
A survey of female professionals in the United Kingdom found that 3 out of 4 women say that the industry needs to give them a chance to work remotely if they want to retain long-term talent. Another 72% said that having career progression opportunities are a critical way to keep the best people under the same roof.
Women are finding that they have more pressure compared to men when being asked to choose between their family or career. Instead of forcing people to conform to rigid, outdated roles that don’t always apply as a majority to families anymore, companies could retain better talent by offering a healthier work-life balance.
The world is already shifting toward remote work. Some predictions say that 50% of Millennial workers could be freelancing by 2027. 36% of the labor force in the United States is already taking advantage of this structure.
Why are companies refusing to shift? It is because they see more disadvantages than advantages when giving this flexibility to their workers.
We Need to Change the Narrative
Whether a woman has a family or lives on her own, the conversation about remote work needs to shift from the “traditional” roles that society assigns to people.
Women who work remotely get to have conversations and work in places which are traditionally dominated by men. Instead of seeing flexibility to create a work-life balance as a cost, companies should start looking at this structure as an investment in the future.
Highly-educated, experienced women can work wherever they feel the most productive when telecommuting is available. It gives them a chance to be with their children as they grow up without creating a time gap in their career.
Companies benefit because the knowledge and experience that women provide lead to innovative approaches. Even if they are not meeting with each other face-to-face, they are still making time to collaborate on numerous projects.
Even though the gender gap is closing, the wage gap is not for women. If a modern company is willing to embrace the idea of flexibility to allow for remote work, then it does more than offer an equal playing field.
It shows the world that women deserve the same level of investment as men already receive.