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How The “Home Office” Digital Era Sparked Another Gender Gap

The working paradigm is shifting – due to the Covid pandemic „working from home“, „hybrid work“ or „home-office“ is becoming the norm in so many industries. And for a while there, it was hard to name the downsides – you are safe(r) from the pandemic, the commute that eats up so much time for many is, basically, nonexistent (unless you count the „bed-batroom-desk“ route“), companies are saving money, people get to see their spouses and children more, and yet, the gender gap is widening – again.

Simply put, in most cases the woman still holds „three corners of the house“ and – most of the time – a job. Many research has shown a light into how (and why) women are more burned out, less sucessful, more overworked and less promotes in the past 18 months, and that especially goes for women with children.

Qualtrics, a survey company, and the Boardlist, an organization that connects candidates with global board opportunities have crunched the numbers – 57 percent of men, compared to 29 percent of women, say that working “from the house” had any kind of positive affect on their careers, just as 70 of men say their productivity has skyrocketed since the home-office era, compared to 41 percent of women, says CBS News.

The gender gap was never fully erased, it seemed for a while we had it under control, but it has, again, become a topic.

“My work as such is easier, because we live in a digital age. But my life, that is a completely different story. There are no more work-private life boundaries. And in all honesty, it is easier for my partner to “carve out” his time, and peace, working from home – even though he has less deadlines. From the moment I open my eyes I juggle online schoolwork with my three kids, meals, household chores (because instead of a break in the open, what I would do in the office, I need to put away another bulk of laundry), all the time handling my CEO, the stakeholders and all my work chores and meetings”, says Victoria who works for an international chain of hotels.

She is, says Victoria, incredibly grateful to have such a well-earning job during this crisis, and is aware of how only ten years ago this would have all been technologically impossible.

“But still, between us, I see around me that men have more “fixed” work time, which is sacred. Women, and I mean women from all walks of life, just juggle so much more”, she says.

And the numbers, unfortunately, corroborate these experiences – women are underrepresented, they have been less promoted during the pandemic, they took more paid and unpaid time off (even if they were the spouse with the better salary), and they suffer more from burnout.

“Even more worrisome is that one in three women has considered leaving the workforce or downshifting their careers, according to the report. That’s up from one in four during the first few months of the pandemic. Women responsible for managing teams have even higher levels of burnout, with more than 50% of women managers surveyed reporting they were often or almost always burned out”, writes CNN Business.

Because of societal reasons, it is more important for women to “show their face” in the office, to even have a chance of scaling that ladder.

“A cultural bias exists where the picture we have in our minds of what a leader looks like is mostly male. And we perceive women as in the support roles,” comments Connson Locke, professorial lecturer in management at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and the author of a new book, Making Your Voice Heard. She claims it is simply very hard for some women to assert themselves in this new type of meetings.

“We’re having boy’s clubs again”, she says.

A source who wanted to remain unnamed has a team of more than 50 people. He was honest about the “screening” process.

“I count more on men, yes. Because if there is something wrong at home, or with the kids I know most women will take time off, lack focus, or not finish the work. I realize that this is society speaking, and it’s not that they are like that by nature necessarily, but I need my business to function so we can all get paid, and I can’t re-shape them or tell them their spouses or support systems have to take up more of the burden. That’s not up to me”, he says, quite honestly.

But women (at least the majority), still, cannot have it all, and working from home has yet again exacerbated these differences.

“Among parents, fathers were three times as likely as mothers to say they’ve received a promotion while working remotely”, according to the Boardlist survey.

“In traditional workplaces, it’s not about what you produce, it’s more about where you are, and if you aren’t in the office, you may miss out on new projects or what’s going on or a new strategy,” said Mary Noonan, a professor of sociology at the University of Iowa, whose research focuses on gender and work for NBC News.

Harvard Business Review finds that “Mothers have felt the negative impact of remote working since females take on the responsibility of domestic and childcaring duties more so than their male partners. The systematic gender norms that continue to pervade in the home mean that women are more likely to have homeschooled their children during Covid-19. They also spend five more extra hours focusing on household responsibilities then before the pandemic.”

On the other hand, as we live in an everchanging world, it is important to consider how much technology has helped women not to “sink” even more.

“I work three different, brilliant jobs all because digitalization has given me that chance. For my life, my career, and my budget this has been truly revolutionary. Yes, work is not shared proportionally – I see with my childfree friends as well how after work it is ok for men to relax while women to the “silly” tasks of taking care of the house, chores, meals. Things that aren’t considered work, but they are. Still, think what would have happened to these women, to me, only 10-20 years ago. We would have shrunk and disappeared”, says Zahara, a professional photographer and correspondent from Israel, who works for plethora of European media outlets.

“It’s daunting, because I want to prove myself as much as I can, despite the pandemic. But I have great editors who just want good work delivered. How I organize my life is up to me. Without the technology we have, I would be finished”, she says.