Whilst reading this article, it really created some food for thought with regards to the impact that the Coronavirus crisis could have on female talent within our organisations. Initially, one may assume that the move to remote working could be a more positive aspect for women, in that it has served to normalise remote and more flexible working. However, when looking at this more deeply, it is possible that, if organisations are not aware of some potential barriers of remote working and do not put in place some subtle but important elements as part of their processes, they may well go on to suffer from a critical loss of talent once the current crisis is over.
There are several steps that can be taken to mitigate this risk which could be incredibly powerful for enabling organisations to deepen loyalty and safeguard female talent, therefore being in a great position as we emerge from the crisis.
1) Pay extra attention to the Motherhood penalty
When we go to work at a location which is away from home, it is possible to separate our work responsibilities from our caregiving responsibilities. Currently, whilst working from home, with no childcare provision available, this will inevitably make having a separation between work and caregiving that much more difficult. When leaders of organisations are aware of this and open about their own caregiving responsibilities and the difficulties they are facing during the current crisis, this serves to alleviate the pressure that women could be experiencing.
2) Pare down the pressure
Prior to the current crisis, research had shown that people who work remotely are actually more productive than average. Indeed, at a time of such uncertainty, it could be tempting to expect even more from our teams, thus increasing the pressure they are already feeling, regardless of gender. At a time when pressures are increased and childcare options are limited, the risk is that many women may feel forced to choose to step back from work. By being aware of this and by setting reasonable expectations and objectives, this will generate increased loyalty and will benefit everyone within organisations, in particular women with young children.
3) Run virtual meetings equitably
With the move to virtual meetings and the need to be able to make decisions quickly, there is a risk that there could be an inclination to meet with smaller groups than would have been the case previously. As such, this may mean that women could be excluded from virtual meetings or left off important calls. In addition, when holding meetings online, given the nature of a virtual meeting, it could be easy to miss people's contributions or to see that not everyone has been able to input. These issues could lead to feeling undervalued and disengaged. By being aware of these potential issues and by paying attention to everyone's contributions, this can help to increase engagement and loyalty.
4) Keep digital spaces inclusive
With the move to communicating digitally and socialising virtually, there is a risk that women could start to be excluded from these channels. Even during virtual team meetings, there is the ability to take conversations onto different windows, thus potentially excluding other team members. By leaders being aware of this and by making clear what the expectations are in terms of sharing views and ideas with the whole group, this will hopefully serve to limit the chances of this happening and therefore the possibility of team members feeling excluded and disengaged. By creating an inclusive virtual culture, this will definitely help to build a positive overall organisational culture, one which will support gender equality.
The Covid-19 crisis has reconfigured how we work, parent, and care for ourselves and our communities. It remains uncertain how a post-pandemic society will function, but already a consensus is emerging that the global pivot to working remotely will likely change how many companies think about face time and rigid work schedules. Might the current revolution in how work gets done benefit women, who traditionally have been more likely to take advantage of flexible work arrangements? A recent paper by a group of economic experts argues yes, that the current situation will normalize remote and flexible work and will therefore make these arrangements available to a broader segment of working women. While we share the authors’ hope, we aren’t convinced that the sudden expansion of remote work will end up benefiting women.