Employer of Record & PEO — 8 min
Belongingness is a powerful catalyst for team performance and individual productivity. Essentially, it is the foundation of a thriving workplace.
Failing to foster that belonging can restrict even the strongest organizations. As we’ve seen at Remote, creating an environment that welcomes and empowers everyone is especially critical for businesses building diverse global teams.
We believe in the power of remote work and its benefits for women around the world. We have seen firsthand how greater flexibility can help women achieve better work-life balance and find belonging in their careers. However, we cannot ignore that since March 2020, more women have been disadvantaged than empowered by the circumstances driving greater remote work adoption.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and poorly developed remote work strategies continue to threaten the progress and safety of women in the workplace. Women continue to face disproportionate job losses, unfair expectations, bias, and barriers to advancement.
We must acknowledge that governments and employers have yet to deliver on equal economic opportunities, safety, and belonging for women.
We recognize how vital it is for women to find belonging in their communities and working lives, and Remote is committed to leading the change necessary to foster that belonging.
In this article, we will explore the challenges remote women face, the importance of belongingness for women in remote work, and strategies to foster an inclusive and supportive work environment for remote women.
Navigating the workplace as a woman can be an uphill battle.
Women often find themselves dealing with frustrating obstacles caused by systemic barriers and societal biases. These issues hinder not only their advancement opportunities but also their overall mental well-being.
Addressing these issues is crucial to advocating for women at work and fostering an inclusive and equitable environment for them.
With that said, let’s take a look at the unique challenges women face in the workplace and how remote work can offer women more empowerment and greater autonomy.
Despite the rise of remote work and the potential for greater flexibility, working women have faced considerable losses over the past year and a half.
The pandemic has exposed many disparities plaguing working women worldwide.
According to the National Women’s Law Center report, women have lost 5.4 million jobs since the start of the pandemic — nearly 1 million more than men. In Italy, a staggering 98% of those who lost their jobs were also women. And school closures, which impacted 1.7 billion children, created more setbacks for women at work because they are much more likely to be expected to perform unpaid childcare and household work.
The impact of the pandemic on women can also be seen in funding for women-led businesses and startup companies. Despite more money being poured into venture capital in 2020 and the first few months of 2021 than in previous years, a lower percentage is going to women (falling from 3.4% to 2.4% for all-female founding teams).
Additionally, a report from TrustRadius pointed out that 72% of women in tech are being outnumbered by men in business meetings by a ratio of at least 2:1. This imbalance fuels a system in which women’s voices and perspectives are underrepresented and undervalued.
Meanwhile, women who make it to the executive rank find themselves facing the glass cliff: only given leadership positions when they are expected to fail (and, often, to be replaced by a man after the crisis ends).
In fact, the 2023 Catalyst Women CEOs of the S&P 500 shows that only 41 (8.2%) of women hold CEO positions at S&P 500 companies.
The lack of women in leadership positions emphasizes the need for systemic change and equal opportunities to advance in their careers.
As a leader in helping companies build global remote teams, it is an essential part of our mission at Remote to help women overcome gender barriers and find belonging in the future of work.
Expanded remote work opportunities have created a unique opportunity to right many of the wrongs working women have faced. The damage has been significant so far, but the opportunity for progress remains greater.
Of course, the struggle for women to find belonging in the workforce is nothing new. Women have always faced tougher obstacles than their male counterparts at work due to factors ranging from unconscious bias to outright prejudice to more complex socioeconomic forces.
The gender bias and deep-rooted attitudes that perpetuate inequality have hindered women’s progress and limited their access to opportunities for far too long.
For every 100 men promoted from entry-level roles to manager positions, only 87 women are promoted, and this number drops to 82 for women of color, according to McKinsey’s 2022 Women in the Workplace report.
The key is to acknowledge the gaps and ensure that the current crisis is not a step back but a leap forward.
One of the greatest benefits of remote work is that it can remove some of the “attitude barrier” seen in traditional workplaces. The attitude barrier is the pervasive and inaccurate idea that women do not have the right temperament or desire for leadership, that there are not enough qualified women in the workforce, or that caretaker and household duties will prevent women from excelling.
Unfortunately, even in the last two years, prevailing attitudes from male leaders and society at large have acted as roadblocks for women in business and leadership positions.
Statistics from the UN Women’s Gender Equality Attitudes Study reveal that a shocking 52% of adolescent men and 54% of adult men still believe that women should work less and devote more time to caring for their families.
Remote work can help create a more inclusive and equitable work culture that dismantles existing biases and stereotypes.
In a traditional office, women struggle with gendered expectations, unconscious biases in decision-making, and limited networking events and mentorship opportunities. Physical office dynamics perpetuate these biases.
On the other hand, remote work provides a level playing field, where employees are evaluated based on their work, skills, and contributions and less on superficial factors like appearance and gender.
As we look to a future beyond the unique economic and social challenges that have come with the pandemic, we also look toward the new ways workplaces can ensure women belong.
The expectation of unpaid labor held women back from career advancement even before the pandemic. Women are expected to shoulder more burden of the household and caregiving responsibilities than men.
More hours spent on unpaid labor than male peers, combined with long commute times, have made finding time for professional advancement, family, and personal wellness a challenge for women required to work exclusively from the office.
Work-life balance is not supposed to be an elusive or unrealistic ambition for women. Unfortunately, however, 18% of women employees cite a lack of work-life balance as their main reason for leaving their previous jobs.
Ultimately, the expectation of being constantly available and responsive can lead to stress and difficulty in achieving balance.
Remote work gives women more control over their time and enables them to better balance their professional and personal responsibilities. In fact, 76% of women in the tech industry have said remote work is important for companies to retain their staff.
Remote work has also shown positive impacts on career advancement for women. According to a recent Pew Research Center report, female workers (19%) are about twice as likely as male workers (9%) to say working from home has made it easier to advance in their jobs.
This research highlights the empowering effect of remote work for women. Working remotely not only provides a chance for women to level the playing field, but it also gives them a more flexible schedule while they serve in leadership roles.
When everyone works flexibly, women don’t have to ask for permission to live their lives, exposing them to unfair criticism and doubt. Instead of measuring employees by what they look like or by how many hours they spend in the office, remote work puts the focus on output and achieving goals, allowing women to shine. With remote work, more women can advance based on the quality of their work instead of outdated notions of what leadership is “supposed” to look like.
As more women turn to remote work, fostering a sense of belonging is crucial. Although remote work has helped alleviate certain challenges, it hasn’t eradicated the gender disparities that persist both in and out of the office.
Working women still need a supportive and inclusive environment that values their contributions.
When we talk about seeking belongingness as a remote woman at work, it means we seek the opportunity to have our voices heard and our contributions respected. It means we can bring our whole selves to the workplace, home office, or otherwise, and not have to suppress aspects of ourselves like the lived realities of our gender, race, sexuality, or status as caretakers. It means we can feel accepted and not only succeed but thrive in our careers and communities.
But building a sense of belonging is more than a theoretical concept — it has tangible benefits for remote women.
First, belongingness is essential for remote women to combat feelings of isolation, disconnection, and loneliness that can arise from the challenges mentioned above.
Employees who feel unvalued or unappreciated are usually unhappy and disengaged. And this disengagement comes at a high cost, with Gallup estimating that it costs companies from $450 to $550 billion annually.
Second, women who feel a sense of belonging are more motivated, engaged, and productive, leading to better job performance and increased profitability. Inclusion and belonging enhance the retention, collaboration, and innovation — ultimately contributing to a positive organizational culture.
Creating a working environment that fosters belonging is paramount to empowering women in remote work.
Remote is committed to building a future of inclusivity and belonging, both internally and for companies everywhere. We are proud that our global team at Remote is 48.3% non-male when women make up just 28% of the tech industry. (We are not yet sharing more specific employee demographic information related to gender.) Women at Remote operate at every level, with many of our senior roles held by women leaders. We know gender equality is crucial to our success and that without it, we would fall short of our goals to transform the global working world.
While we continue to be committed to gender equality at Remote, we recognize that we can do more. We recognize the importance of intersectionality and are actively developing strategies to ensure that people of all genders, races, backgrounds, and nationalities know they truly belong as part of our global team.
You can do the same for remote women by implementing the strategies listed below.
To be more intentional about creating belongingness in your remote workplace, consider the following options:
Businesses should foster belonging by creating policies that ensure women feel included, heard, and respected. At Remote, we follow asynchronous work practices and offer unlimited PTO (minimum 20 days per year), global parental leave, and quarterly self-care days to help women and all our employees find balance and wellness in their lives. These policies and more can be seen in our public handbook.
Additionally, set up a generous and equitable parental leave policy. Global parental leave is still not equal. Many companies only offer the bare minimum as required by local laws. In the US, that’s zero days. Offer a parental leave policy for all workers with a minimum amount of time required to take off instead of a maximum number of days. Parental leave should ideally be 16 weeks or longer and should be offered to both parents.
When employees return to work from leave, be mindful and empathetic, and respect the ramp-up period. Make sure they feel supported until they are fully settled into their new routine. That support may look like fewer hours for the first few days, but it should also include not tagging the person on leave while they are away.
You can also consider implementing work arrangements that accommodate employees’ unique needs and responsibilities. This could look like compressed workweeks, flextime, remote work allowances, or job-sharing opportunities.
Offering these arrangements demonstrates a commitment to supporting work-life balance and allows all employees, including remote women, to better manage their personal and professional responsibilities.
Of course, it’s important to talk to members of your organization to gauge the success of any policies you create. As part of our focus on belonging, our people team conducts regular surveys to see where we can grow and improve. In our most recent survey, belonging saw an average score of 4.9 out of 5 across our 400+ person organization.
To further promote an inclusive and supportive environment for remote women, consider implementing a results-oriented approach that focuses on output rather than availability.
According to Deloitte’s 2023 Women at Work Report, 42% of women workers believe their career progression will be affected if they are not constantly available for work, so they cannot switch off. Advocating for flexibility during working hours and measuring performance based on outcomes rather than hours worked means that employees can work when it suits them.
At Remote, we encourage employees to add things like family time into their work calendars and to do it during “typical” working hours. Measuring outputs over hours worked means you can work when you need to, not when others think you should.
Another important aspect of remote work is normalizing interruptions from kids, family, and pets. No one on your team should feel like they need to apologize when someone pops into frame on a video call. Documenting this and turning it into a company policy can ease a lot of the anxiety and fear people may feel when working from home. This is not limited to children, either. Many workers may not be able to afford to live alone, may care for older relatives, or may share a home office.
Facilitating virtual community-building activities is another powerful way to foster a sense of belonging among women working remotely. Organizing virtual events, workshops, or informal gatherings tailored for remote women can create opportunities for interaction, connection, and community-building.
Virtual events can range from webinars and panel discussions to networking sessions and team-building activities. These events provide a platform for remote women to engage with each other, share experiences, and learn from one another.
Informal gatherings, such as virtual coffee chats, happy hours, or book clubs, can create a relaxed and inclusive environment for remote women to socialize, unwind, and build meaningful relationships.
These casual interactions build a sense of camaraderie and friendship, which can help overcome feelings of isolation and disconnection. In addition to online gatherings, you can consider hosting these types of events at coworking spaces for periodic face-to-face meet-ups to strengthen the sense of community among remote women.
Businesses should provide remote women the chance to acquire new skills. A good way to do this is to actively invest in training and development programs that are specifically tailored to remote working women’s needs.
Such programs can focus on remote communication, virtual collaboration, time management, and leadership skills.
Establishing clear pathways for advancement and career growth is also key to addressing the gender disparity in promotions. A transparent promotion process can make a significant difference in a remote woman’s career progression.
Mentorship opportunities play a vital role, too. Mentors can provide guidance, advice, and support, helping remote women navigate their career paths and seize growth opportunities.
As the number of global remote workers continues to rise, with just over one-third of US workers now working from home full-time, companies have a unique opportunity to tap into talent pools beyond their physical locations.
Expanding hiring opportunities in new locations is a game-changer in promoting gender equality in remote work.
Organizations can create more inclusive and diverse remote teams by casting a wider net in their hiring searches. Women will also benefit from easier access to flexible, higher-paying opportunities that were once unavailable due to geographical constraints.
At Remote, we recognize the benefits of increasing global employment opportunities. That’s why we are committed to helping companies hire talent from around the world legally and easily. Our mission is to democratize access to both talent and wealth, ensuring that remote work becomes a catalyst for equal opportunities.
Remote work is not a silver bullet to fix the systems of oppression and socioeconomic factors that have disadvantaged women economically, professionally, and politically. We still have a long way to go to make remote work the driver of change it should be for women.
But the difficulties of the past do not define the future. The advent of remote work has already begun to create new opportunities for women around the world. Remote is proud to do its part to make good on the promises of remote work for all, and we invite companies across the globe to join us in creating distributed workplaces where everyone can truly belong.
Join us in leading the charge to create an inclusive, supportive, and compassionate workspace for women.
Subscribe to receive the latest
Remote blog posts and updates in your inbox.
Employer of Record & PEO — 8 min
Employer of Record & PEO — 10 min
Remote & Async Work — 8 min
Visas and Work Permits — 4 min