How Working Remotely Is Helping Women Close The Gender Gap In Tech
Contributed by Andrea Loubier August 7, 2017
It is no secret that I am a big advocate for remote teams. Since launching my startup in Bali, I have hired top talent from all over the world to help build Mailbird1 into what it is today.
While many companies are starting to realize the benefits of remote work, it is still a work structure that has yet to be embraced by the masses. However, for women, the ability to work from home runs much deeper than a reduced commute time and increased productivity. Remote work is a chance for the tech industry to close its infamous gender gap.
The Problem With The Gender Gap In Tech
These days, everyone seems to have their own reasons for the gender imbalance in tech. Some argue that tech companies have male-centric cultures and as a result hire men over women regardless of skills and aptitude.
Katharine Zaleski, a founder of PowerToFly2, a remote work job site for women, has a different theory. She believes that the reason there aren’t more women in tech is that companies are not giving women, especially mothers, the flexibility they need to pursue their career and raise a family at the same time.
Let’s Look At The Cold Hard Facts
The lack of flexibility in the workplace is not a new theory in the gender gap studies. According to Pew Research Center3, 51 percent of women said being a working mother made it harder for them to advance their careers while only 16% percent of fathers felt the same way. The same study also found that 42 percent of mothers reduced their work hours to make time for their growing families while just 28% of fathers said the same.
This claim is further supported by the National Center for Women & Information Technology4. Their report found that as many as 56% of women leave their tech jobs mid-career.
Another study by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee5 also found that one-third of women surveyed had left the tech industry because companies were not flexible enough to accommodate an adequate work-life balance.
With statistics like these, I think it is safe to say the problem with the gender imbalance in tech does not lie within the lack of female candidates or male-centric office cultures. It lies with companies holding on to archaic working environments.
By continuing to vouch for a structure that impacts a women’s career prospects and financial well-being, it affects the economy as a whole. The fewer women in tech means more jobs will go unfulfilled and this will spur stagnation in innovation and global competitiveness.
The Solution: A Flexible Working Environment
The inclusion of women in the workforce has changed how we work. It has made women feel pressured into choosing between their careers or families. As a result, our working environments need to change, and remote work is a viable option.
Companies need to adapt and change their structures to give employees a healthy work-life balance especially if they want to keep retention rates high.
A 2017 study by professional recruiter Robert Walters and leading UK job board Jobsite found that remote working opportunities are top priorities for women in tech. 76% of women surveyed said that the chance to work remotely was necessary if companies wanted to retain long term staff.
Dawn May, a manager at Robert Walters, commented on the findings, saying: “Particularly among tech firms, the freedom to work remotely is becoming increasingly popular with professionals. The flexibility these policies afford staff is a powerful draw for top talent.”
Remote Work Needs To Be Embraced By The Tech Industry
The tech industry has a reputation for being against remote work. Case in point, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer who in a storm of controversy killed the company’s popular work from home policy because she believed people are more collaborative and innovative when they are working together.
This mindset needs to be changed if we want to improve gender imbalance in tech and stop women from feeling pressured in choosing between two important aspects of their lives.
Remote work allows women to work from wherever they feel most productive and watch their children grow up without having to hit pause on their career progression.
And for women who are not mothers, this policy is still attractive. It gives them peace of mind that if they do not have to put their career goals on the backburner and it gives them all the other benefits of remote work in the meantime.
As a woman who runs a tech company, with no kids, the possibilities of remote work have allowed me to be in places and conversations that have primarily been dominated by men. Remote working allowed me the possibility of attending an awesome Venture Summit in Bali last April. That meant more opportunity for networking, building community, making valuable connections and representing women in Southeast Asia in the world of tech in this region.
We need to change the narrative of women in tech. It is not about the lack of educated women in the industry to take on these roles. Modern companies need to embrace remote work as a way to level out they playing field and invest in the women who are here now.