Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Imminent Reality of Gender and Work Locations Follows You Home

Does it matter where you work as long as your work gets done?

Yes - it matters. The data says so.

Dame Stephanie Shirley's recent TED Talk was both an inspiration and a kick in the rear for me. She founded a software company in the 1960s to provide opportunities for women with dependents. She recognized the challenges and opportunities - and then she built a solution.

After many years in business her company was subsequently valued at $3 billion USD and she created a significant number of millionaires to boot. She continues to contribute through philanthropy and other endeavors.

Her idea to employ women with dependents wasn't really ahead of it's time considering that mothers have always existed. It was however an outstanding solution for leveraging an untapped talent pool. Working from home has been and will continue to be a workforce option. 

Studies show that over 20% of working Americans are remote today and the number is expected to climb to 63% approaching 2018. Formulating strategies for handling remote work assignments for individuals and for handling remote workers for corporations appears to be an imminent necessity. 

Here comes a key question:

Question #1: Can the gender equation be balanced more quickly through working-from-home (WFH) opportunities?

As with most questions on gender equality this one has a complex answer. While 90% of women feel that working from home provides for a number of distinct advantages such as increased flexibility and increased productivity, they may also be reluctant to take advantage of remote work opportunities due to fear of being "out of sight" or being thought of as less committed than their work-long-hours-all-times-of-the-day-and-night co-workers (I was one of those!).


...women who do choose those more flexible schedules are often punished

... companies tend to reward people who stay late and work long continuous hours, over those who chose the flexible schedule - even if those two employees are equally productive

 Smithsonian Magazine (Harvard Study) [i]


This unnecessary punitive challenge helps to explain why fewer women than men take advantage of remote work opportunities as captured by the U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey. One study shows an even wider gap between WFH women (23%) and men (36%). Yet the profile of a remote worker is quite similar for men and women. 

Going forward the choice of whether to work from home or in an office will become less of a choice as more opportunities are outsourced to at-home workers. Whether your work-life gets balanced will be up to you.

What does all of this mean for individual earning power? Well - that's a deeper question requiring in-depth examination of the types of opportunities that are being sent to the homestead. 

The work may be part-time or full-time, knowledge-based or activity-based, etc. Work requirements will help to determine pay differentials.

Of course there's the nagging reality that average pay is already unequal - at home or at the office. 


The advantages of WFH are expansive and inclusive - for companies, for women who are mothers, for women who aren't mothers, for men, across generations, for families, and for the planet. There are few areas in life where almost everyone agrees that the benefits outweigh the costs. Working from home (or working remotely) is one of those areas. 


...if Americans who hold work-at-home compatible jobs did so 50% of the time, U.S. companies could collectively increase their bottom lines by between $525 and $665 billion USD as a result of savings in real estate, absenteeism, turnover, and increased productivity

Global Workplace Analytics [ii]


Anyone who works in an office knows that you often have to go home or get out of the office in order to get your work done. If you google "working from home" you'll instantly get ~900 million responses on the topic. Do the same for "studies on working from home" and you'll come up with ~800 million responses. Ask anyone if they'd like to work from home for at least part of the time and 90% of them will say yes.



In study after study, employee satisfaction, productivity, and retention increase when individuals are allowed to work from home at least part of the time. There are compelling stats across reams of studies covering everything from saving employers money to reducing the brain-drain from retiring boomers to expanding opportunities for the disabled to increasing individual empowerment and engagement.



75% of women in the 25-44 age range participate in the labor force compared to 90% of men

25% of women work part-time compared to 10% of men

Global Workplace Analytics [iii]


The answer to the Question #1 appears to be "well-maybe?"

If more women enter the workforce approaching 90% or more of the female labor force OR if more women take on full-time remote work OR if women are simply not penalized for working remotely OR if more women get paid the same as men THEN WFH opportunities may help to move the dial towards the gender balanced position.

Work location challenges aren't just here at home. The impact is felt in other places around the world. According to Fiona Cannon, Head of Diversity and Inclusion for Lloyd's Banking Group in the UK achieving their 2020 objective of 40% women in senior leadership roles is doable yet is hampered by traditional working models.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- of the biggest obstacles is the traditional working model on which most organisations are based: Nine to five, five days a week. Start work at 16, retire at 60. Commute into offices in the town centre. Follow a linear career path. This model no longer reflects the lives we are living...

Forbes Magazine [iv]


Are you overwhelmed with all of the data about where we work, when we work, how we work, and what will happen in the near future about work locations? I certainly am. I prefer Ricardo Semler's unconventional approach.

Think ahead - if you haven't already! Plug in some numbers with this gender-neutral HP Telework Tool to estimate how much you could save yourself and your employerDame Shirley had it right way back in the 1960s as one of the first companies willing to offer flexible work arrangements to an untapped female talent pool.

Question #2 - Can you use the info provided in this post to prepare yourself for WFH opportunities?

Answer - YES! 

Thanks for reading my article. Keep climbing and share your insights by commenting, liking, or sharing.

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