Deborah Gray explores a stark gender divide, with many women finding hybrid working more difficult than their male counterparts.

The past two years have been a continued period of transformation for the majority of companies and employees, bringing with it both obstacles and opportunities.

Results from the Office for Nationals Statistics show of the adults surveyed who were working from home in April 2021, 85 percent wanted to adopt a permanent long-term hybrid approach.

However, evidence suggests that gender concerns are arising about this new style of working, with women becoming increasingly apprehensive about the impact it is having on their professional development, mental wellbeing and inclusion in decision making.

 

Concerns over career progression

Almost 60 percent of the 5,000 women in the Deloitte 2022 ‘Women @ Work’ survey reported feeling excluded from important meetings at work and 94 percent believed requesting flexible working would affect their likelihood of promotion.

This is echoed by Totum Partner’s Hybrid Working Report, which found that 35 percent of women are concerned about being “out of sight out of mind”, compared to just 12 percent of men.

These statistics worryingly suggest that hybrid working has the potential to negatively impact the career progression of women, pushing them further and further from achieving gender equality in the workplace.

With women already facing more barriers to career progression in the workplace than men and, recent statistics showing that women are only paid 90p for every £1 earned by a man, it is crucial to ensure that the ‘flexibility’ of hybrid working does not become another barrier for women at work.

 

Proximity bias

Women who have adopted a hybrid approach to working are reportedly experiencing more microaggressions than employees who work full time in the office.

Over the past year, almost 20 percent of women who are hybrid workers have experienced being excluded from informal conversations, compared to just 4 percent of women who work full time from the office. With nearly a third of managers agreeing promotion opportunities were likely to decrease for remote workers, concerns over proximity bias are by no means unfounded.

To truly create a diverse and inclusive workplace, it is vital to address these potential gender fallouts from hybrid working.

Adapting professional development programmes and training to be hybrid working friendly is a good place to start. In addition, performance reviews and promotion considerations must be cautious not to over-value face-to-face time. Remote workers should not be an afterthought and proximity bias needs to be addressed.

It’s only once the above factors are recognised that organisations can truly strive to alleviate the concerns of their remote female colleagues and foster a genuine inclusive work environment.

 

Recruitment and Retention

Research suggests that the ‘Great Resignation’ is set to continue into the second half of 2022, with 47 percent of women planning to leave their employer within the next two years.

A failure to realise the gendered implications of hybrid working, which is now commonplace in most industries, is sure to make an organisation’s female employees the first to join the millions of UK workers resigning from their posts.

Despite initial discourse at the beginning of lockdown regarding the benefits that working from home could bring for women, for example, when it comes to arranging childcare and other family commitments, it is now women who research suggests are losing out.

Our Hybrid Working Report supports this analysis, revealing that 65 percent of men surveyed believe hybrid working delivers better wellbeing and health, compared to just 45 percent of women.

In order to stay ahead of the Great Resignation and ensure gender inequality in the workplace does not increase, it’s imperative that organisations think about how to ensure female hybrid workers feel included, heard and supported, wherever they may be working from.

 

 

Director & Executive Search Consultant at Totum Partners

As an experienced executive search professional, I have led senior and exclusive searches and have been regularly retained for Board level, C-suite and senior search recruitment. My style is to work in partnership with professional services firms at a senior strategic level to develop highly effective and integrated business services teams. My particular focus is on the recruitment of C-suite and Board level professionals: CEOs and COOs, as well as directors and all other business leadership positions. This includes (but is not limited to) the following business functions: Business Development, HR, Risk, Knowledge Management, Innovation, IT, Finance and Shared Services.

My career has allowed me to develop a distinct set of skills and experience giving me deep market insight of the professional services sector. Not only do I understand the workings of a law firm from my role at Herbert Smith Freehills, where I spent five years in HR management and recruitment but I also have over 15 years' experience working as an executive search professional for professional services firms of varying sizes in a variety of locations nationally and internationally. I do not believe that ‘one size fits all’ and I am very adept at putting square pegs in round holes….