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Feeling a sense of belonging is the most important contributor to our overall happiness. Failing to foster that belonging can break 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 of 2020, more women have been disadvantaged than empowered by the circumstances driving greater remote work adoption.

The continuing COVID-19 pandemic and poorly developed remote work strategies continue to threaten the progress and safety of women in the workplace. Today is Women’s Equality Day in the US, but there and everywhere, 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.

COVID-19’s impact on working women

Despite the rise of remote work and potential for greater flexibility, working women have faced considerable losses over the past year and a half.

According to a recent United Nations study, the pandemic has been squeezing women out of the workforce. In Italy, a staggering 98 percent of those who lost their jobs were women. School closures, which impacted 1.7 billion children, also created setbacks for women at work, who 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 companies and companies with co-ed founding teams. 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). 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).

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 key is to acknowledge the gaps and ensure that the current crisis is not a step back but a leap forward.

As a leader in helping companies build global remote teams, it is an essential part of our mission at Remote to help women 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. So far, the damage has been significant — but the opportunity for progress remains greater.

Building the belonging women deserve

When we talk about seeking belonging as women 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. 

In the tech industry, 76% of women believe remote work is important if companies want to retain their staff long term. The success of women who were working remotely before COVID is evidence of the positive impact it can make on a career. In a study by Workforce.com, 57% of women working remotely reported being promoted within the previous year compared to just 35% of women working in an office.

Remote work can and will help women gain new economic opportunities and greater happiness in their working lives. 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.

Combatting the attitude barrier at work

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. In one survey of US workers by the Rockefeller Foundation, 65% of respondents (90% of women and 49% of men) said the attitudes of men in leadership positions are a barrier to putting women in leadership.

Remote work allows women to have more flexible schedules while serving 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 our work instead of outdated notions of what leadership is “supposed” to look like.

The need for flexibility

More than anything, inherent flexibility (specifically, asynchronous working) is what will set the future apart from the forced style of remote work necessitated by COVID.

Long before 2020, the expectation of unpaid labor held women back from career advancement. More hours spent on unpaid labor than male peers, combined with increasingly 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, not even those with positions of authority and family responsibilities. In fact, having children and wanting a better work-life balance are the first- and second-most cited reasons for wanting a remote job. Less rigidity in work structures provides women more opportunities to thrive. 

Although we’ve seen the pandemic set women back in the workforce, the silver lining is that the growth of remote work can open the door to new opportunities for flexibility and belonging.

Demonstrating commitment to equality in your workplace

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 49.7% non-male when women make up just 28.8% 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.  

A breakdown of Remote's evenly male and non-male global team

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.

Policies to empower women on remote teams

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

To be more intentional about belonging in your remote workplace, consider these options:

  1. Advocate for flexibility during working hours. 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.
  2. Normalize 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.
  3. Set generous parental leave policies. 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.
  4. Be mindful of workers returning from leave. When someone returns back to work after taking leave, 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.
  5. Hire in new locations. When companies expand their hiring searches beyond large metropolitan areas, more women will be able to access flexible, higher-paying opportunities. Remote was founded to create more remote jobs and to democratize access to both talent and wealth, which is why we help companies hire all over the world, legally and easily.

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 4.85 out of 5 across our 400+ person organization.

Remote's belonging score rated by employees is 4.85 out of 5 - our highest mark yet

The future of belonging depends on all of us

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 our 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.