Future of Work — A More Balanced Future for Female Employees
The current pandemic has normalized remote and flexible working — previously bêtes noires of the workplace. As Professor Eliot Sherman, London Business School, said in his article on remote working “In a rather morbid twist of fate, it has taken a pandemic — an existential threat to life — to force the hand of the majority of organisations.” Remote working, while tried by corporates in the past, had an iffy track record and made both employers and employees uncomfortable, especially female employees who had to balance the demands of home and work life.
The last few months have forced most of us to work remotely and while some have complained about the blurring boundaries between personal and professional life and the lack of ‘real’ interactions with team members, for the vast majority remote working has worked out better than we had ever imagined. Employers included. Cost savings, higher employee productivity to name a few. And so, as corporations begin to reimagine the 9–5 working day model, one thing is clear — remote working is here to stay coupled in some shape or form with sharing office space again.
A number of startups have emerged to shape this new reality. Companies such as Flock, Superhuman and Quill are developing messaging and email solutions that will boost remote productivity and in time it will become irrelevant whether it is a male or female employee that is working remotely. Other solutions such as Threads, Blink have developed products that will make the workplace more inclusive with a community feel. All of these solutions will enhance the remote working experience and blur gender related constraints to make the work environment more inclusive.
Flexible working options have been another area that made employers and employees nervous in the past. According to a 2019 FlexJobs survey of more than 2,000 women with children under 18 years, 31% of women who took a career break after having kids said they didn’t want to but had to because of a lack of workplace flexibility. As corporations have discovered that office presenteeism is not mandatory to work success, we believe flexible work options are here to stay as well. Women who were apprehensive to broach this topic before with employers due to the attached stigma, will look for options that allow them to pursue this path. This is a game changer for working women who have struggled with balancing work with family life.
Innovative startups that offer the female employees flexible work options are expanding. This works well with the trend of increasing numbers of women joining the gig economy. We spoke with one such company, You’ve Got This, founded by Sujatha Rastogi, which connects startups with skilled talent that is seeking flexible work options, who says, “The gig economy continues to evolve. We see rising demand for ways of working that enable individuals to fit work around their lifestyle rather than the traditional 9–5pm.”
As companies face increasing public and shareholder pressure to hire more female talent, hiring portals have emerged for women who have had to take a career break to balance family responsibilities. They have enabled women to showcase their skills and sign up for job opportunities that provide remote working and flexibility options and benefits. Companies like “The Mom Project” based in the USA, Doyenne in the UK and “JobsforHer” based in India, do just that.
Other companies are addressing the fact that networking has been harder for women in the past. According to She2Capital’s founder Nicola Grant, “Over the last two years there have been a variety of research commissioned, all from respected sources, and all focused on women leaders and entrepreneurs, albeit with a number of different focuses. However the common threads shout loud and clear; women simply do not have access to the same peer networks and support systems as their male counterparts.” Companies such as Leap.Club, founded by Ragni Das in India and Elpha in the UK are addressing this problem too.
This shift in reality and mindset has opened many doors and will continue to create new opportunities for women globally. This will lead to best of talent hiring and new partnerships and collaborations across borders and physical boundaries. Future of Work is definitely the Future of Women and much more.