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More people are working from home now because if COVID-19. Workers have desired more flexibility in terms of their work environments for some time now but it remains to be seen whether it will be positive or negative for gender equality.
“It remains unclear whether remote working will serve to close the gender wage gap or to promote more women into top roles,” says Meera Aswani, Associate at Hassans International Law Firm, “in fact, a recent United Nations study on the impact of COVID-19 on women warns that there is a risk the pandemic will reverse decades of progress concerning gender equality in the workforce”.
But, how will remote working impact gender equality in the workplace?
It is still the case that women are the primary caregivers in families but remote work could potentially make it possible for working parents to continue their job while balancing childcare duties more efficiently.
One of the benefits that many people have experienced as a result of working from home is a greater work-life balance, which has the added bonus of making it easier to balance childcare responsibilities.
Studies suggest that women are more likely to be interrupted than men in everyday life and the workplace. During conversations with women, both sexes are likely to interrupt women more often than men. Digital communication tools, however, could actually help with this issue. The rise of messaging tools such as Slack makes it easier for everyone to communicate equally, reducing the risk of women being interrupted.
Physical stature bias
Studies have shown that, in a business setting, it is beneficial to be tall. In fact, an increase to the 75th percentile in height from the 25th could result in a rise in salary of between 9% and 15%. On average, men are taller than women.
But remote work has the potential to remove this unusual bias to a certain extent. It’s too early to say whether this would have a genuine impact on gender equality in the workplace but it could well be a step in a positive direction.
COVID-19 challenging for women in the workplace
COVID-19 has been difficult for everyone the world over, but studies show that it’s been particularly challenging for women in work settings. Women’s jobs are 1.8 times more vulnerable compared to men now. And while women make up 39% of global employment, they account for 54% of the overall job losses.
Existing gender inequalities are responsible for the fact that women are experiencing more vulnerability at the moment, such as the long-established barriers to developing new skills and switching careers.
Gender equality still has a long way to go despite the effects of COVID-19. The pandemic has raised important questions and opened up the gates for businesses to make important choices, such as removing barriers to female participation and reducing the imbalance where risks to jobs are concerned. It will be interesting to see what the true impact is on gender equality at work when some level of normality returns to our daily lives.