The Glass Ceiling of Working From Home

Written by Justin Moran

11th Mar 2021

In 2019, working remotely held a lot of potential for women to shatter the glass ceiling. According to Ultimate Software’s 2019 State of Remote Work Survey, 57 % of women who worked remotely reported they received a promotion compared to 37% of their traditional office counterparts. Sounds optimistic until a pandemic hits. COVID-19 sent professionals to work from home without support features in place for remote work. Combine that with juggling the new needs of the family, women have not fared well. Wherever the trends were headed, they seem to have been abruptly halted by a pandemic glass ceiling installed in the homes of professional women across the country. Now, the discrepancy of productivity, promotions, and pay raises between women who work from home and men who work from home is great, with the potential to increase.

Data recently collected suggests that we have perhaps gone backward in many respects to remote work and gender equality. In a recent study led by Yale, research showed greater gender gaps in housework among telecommuters, particularly on telecommuting days. The data collected following the stay-at-home orders last spring suggests that telecommuting mothers reported more anxiety, loneliness, and depression than their male counterparts. While there is a case for working mothers to have more flexibility with telecommuting jobs to balance out the home needs, there is a tendency for them to also have a disproportionate amount of housework, as a result.

Yale is not the only study with similar findings. Survey company Qualtrics conducted a recent survey with Boardlist to gauge the attitudes of those who are working from home. 70% of men feel that they have an increase in productivity working from home compared to only 41% of women who feel the same way. That same survey also revealed additional massive inequities between the genders in work-from-home environments. 26% of men reported pay raises while working from home and only 13% of women reported the same. As far as feeling that working from home has been a positive change for their careers, 57% of men and 29% of women agree. Part of this can also be attributed that many jobs were never designed as telecommuting positions and suddenly, have become that. There’s no infrastructure to support employee growth when a position is initiated and designed as an in-person position. Harvard Business Review published an article that explains how when there is no WFH infrastructure, women find it more difficult to reap the career benefits of being in close contact with leaders and decision-makers. (One aside here is that maybe if there are more women decision-makers on a whole then this would be a nonissue?) This fuels the fear that with more WFH, women will slide further down creating an even larger inequity.

March is Women’s History Month, a time for recognizing women’s contributions to the workplace and the world as professionals and leaders. Before the month is over, take some time to reflect on ways to continue supporting women in the workplace, at home, and in your life.

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