Women’s experiences of remote working: Is remote working a blessing or a curse for women?
Although remote working is not a new phenomenon, the COVID-19 pandemic shifted the traditional, placed-based employment model in cities across the world, virtually overnight. Mobile connectivity and digital infrastructure has allowed people to work from home and some argue has bolstered the working force within the growing gig economy. Remote work has been praised with many merits, such as increased productivity, greater employee happiness, and improved work-life balance. Women are more likely to apply to remote positions, as a 2021 LinkedIn study reveals. Despite the increased flexibility remote work can offer working women, an article published in Forbes raises concerns that “the new hybrid workplace [could] turn some women into second-class employees”.
The main argument: Working remotely doesn’t just offer women possibility to find balance between their work life and their family duties, but it also comes at a cost. Women are still less likely to be promoted, are underrepresented in leadership positions, get paid less and experience disadvantages after having children. All of these factors may contribute in entrenching existing gender pay gaps. In terms of gaining a healthy work-life balance, the research emphasises how women who work remotely are faced with different opportunities and challenges than men in these situations. The hidden taxes on women are a good example that illustrates gender differentiation and dynamics, particularly those working in countries of the Global South.
What are we trying to understand?
This Digital Dialogue will discuss the risks and benefits of strengthening greater gender-equality for remote workers by first unpacking current challenges faced by women (practice, policy, infrastructure, time), and, second by offering opportunities and solutions to tackle these challenges. Along with rapidly evolving digitalization and innovation, the virtualisation of the workforce, particularly in more developed economies in which digital infrastructure is accessible, remote working models (including hybrid work models) are seen to be permanent features for many companies. This trend of virtualising the workforce is also happening in cities of the Global South. The Digital Dialogue aims to address the following questions:
- What are the challenges and risks faced by women in the world of remote working?
- Is there any differentiation between women working remote in areas within the Global North versus the Global South? What are the reasons for this?
- How can we evaluate the benefits and opportunities against the risks and disadvantages of remote working for women?
- What role does remote (or hybrid) work play in community-based organisations or organisations working in the democracy and governance sector?
- What are the benefits and drawbacks of remote working for women innovators/entrepreneurs? Particularly those working in Africa?
- How should employers and gig workers plan for new challenges and opportunities for women working in an ever-increasingly connected, and globalised digital world?