Telecommuting has been praised with many tips, such as increased productivity, reduced employee fatigue, and improved work-life balance. However, there is one aspect of telecommuting whose positive impact on practical life is largely debatable, and that concerns gender equality.
Despite global efforts, the gender gap is closing very slowly. Women continue to be promoted less, are underrepresented in leadership positions, are paid less and are disadvantaged after having children.
In a Pew Research Centre study, 51% of mothers said they had a harder time advancing their mothering careers — compared to just 16% of working fathers. The same study also found that women were much more likely to experience family career interruptions than men.
News headlines such as “Women face a double disadvantage” or “Experts fear telecommuting may hinder women’s career development” make it clear that the relationship between telecommuting and gender equality needs to be critically evaluated.
But what is the real impact of telecommuting on women? And what does this mean for HR and business leaders?
Several studies show a clear gender difference in telecommuting. This is why women are more likely than men to choose telecommuting or hybrid models. For example, the Flexjobs preferences survey found that 68% of women simply wanted to only work remotely, compared to only 57% of their male counterparts.
The ability of women to consider telecommuting as the top job benefit is also much better than that of men – 80 (women) vs 69 (men). Furthermore, when looking at the perceived benefits of telecommuting, women rated the benefits of telecommuting higher than men in almost all of the selected orders.
A LinkedIn survey (2021) found similar results regarding telecommuting practices. LinkedIn data shows that women are 26 times more likely than men to apply for remote jobs. Interestingly, the epidemic has shown that the availability of telecommuting does not prevent women from leaving the workforce.
Well, the impact of increased childcare responsibilities on female teleworkers during epidemics showed that, despite telework opportunities, a large number of women left work during the epidemic. The main reason is the new workload associated with childcare.
Telecommuting is often seen as a game changer for women. The main argument is that working from home increases flexibility and allows workers to combine their work with the duties of a career.
This is not only seen as a possible way to improve work-life balance but is also seen as a way for women to avoid career breaks after childbirth. In the same way, telecommuting probably creates the basis for a still indifferent distribution of domestic and childcare work.
With flexible work arrangements, fathers might eventually be better suited to participate in childcare and household chores. Another argument to support this claim is based on the values represented by remote companies.
Their values are generally considered to be in line with ultramodern ideas and generalizations, leading the way to an inclusive workplace where gender demarcations now have no place.