Hybrid work could be holding back women’s careers, managers say | Work at home
The transition to hybrid working could hamper women’s career progress, as research suggests employers are neglecting people who spend more time working from home.
Experts have raised concerns that the post-Covid return to work is entrenching the gender pay and promotion gap, with employers not monitoring its impact or properly designing jobs for hybrid working and remotely.
This particularly affects women, who are more likely to choose flexible hours or work from home for childcare reasons. Male managers are significantly more likely to work mostly or completely from the office (48% vs. 38%), according to a survey of 1,300 managers from the Chartered Management Institute (CMI).
Two in five managers (40%) surveyed say they have observed opinions or behaviors suggesting inequality between those who work flexibly and those who do not. Female executives were more likely than their male counterparts to believe that hybrid working could have a negative impact on career progression.
Anthony Painter, policy director at CMI, said: “Women could find themselves in a losing strait if employers are not careful, need to balance work and family life through flexible working, but miss out on many opportunities that introduce themselves through in-person office interaction. This is intolerable and harmful for women and employers alike.
The CMI findings were echoed in a recent Deloitte report on women in the workplace, which found that 60% of female hybrid workers felt they had been left out of meetings, while almost half feared they had not been exposed to leaders. necessary for career advancement.
Hybrid workers reported more instances of being excluded from informal but important interactions and conversations, opportunities to speak up in meetings, and having co-workers take credit for their ideas.
Professor Rosie Campbell, director of the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College London, said the impact of hybrid working on women’s career advancement was something she was concerned about and needed more research.
She said hybrid working could worsen the existing ‘split-tier workforce’ for those who work flexibly and remain ‘stuck in the mum lane’, unable to progress in their careers, creating a “three-tiered workforce” of people who are in the office all the time, those who are hybrid, and those who are totally distant.
She said there was huge variability between employers in terms of the impact of visibility, “presenteeism” and burnout on promotion opportunities. “Anecdotally, it seems that in male-dominated, high-prestige industries like financial services, there’s a real push to get into the office as many days as possible, and I think that’s deliberately exclusive” , she said.
The solution, she suggested, was for hybrid jobs to be carefully designed rather than left to develop on their own, “because existing inequalities might be reinforced”.
Sarah Forbes, senior lecturer at the University of York and co-director of the Equal Parenting Project, said flexible working was in danger of returning to pre-pandemic levels unless more men were persuaded to work from home.
“Even before Covid-19, flexible working had negative impacts on women’s careers. Until men and women are equally likely to use all forms of flexible working, women will be stigmatized,” she said.
There’s also a “real class divide” between those who can access flexible working, said Nikki Pound, a women’s officer at the Trades Union Congress. Office workers, who typically work in higher-paying professional positions, have gained flexibility since the pandemic, while shift workers, for example in healthcare, retail and hospitality, are increasingly forced to accept work schedules that benefit their employer’s needs rather than own them.
“We want to make this the norm for everyone, whether you have family responsibilities or are managing an illness or disability,” Pound said.