The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted the trajectory of businesses as well as the lives of people, but if one could ever see a silver lining in this tragedy, that would be the transition to remote work. And this has been helpful not just for organisations, but also for its women employees who are finally able to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
“This crisis has tested the multi-tasking abilities of women in tech,” says Purva Chadha, Senior VP at Primus Partners. “I am proud to say that most of us have managed to put a child to sleep, or helped them attend an online tutorial, or cooked a quick meal, alongside managing critical conversations at work,” she adds.
With the adequate infrastructure in place, women professionals find it easy to work remotely. As many companies begin to realise the benefits of remote work, women are also discovering an opportunity here to pursue careers while balancing both personal and professional commitments.
While gender equality is a bigger issue that cannot be solved by merely introducing flexible working options, such a move can help narrow the workplace gender gap by enabling women to actively participate in the labour market.
This, and more, will be discussed at length during The Rising 2020, the second edition of Analytics India Magazine’s Women in AI conference on July 3 and 4. Until then, we spoke to a few women in tech to understand how they stand to benefit professionally if companies embrace long-term remote work.
Better Work-Life Balance & More Opportunities
While it may be easy to dismiss work-life balance as a critical factor to retain employees, it is more than just indulgence when it comes to women.
According to research conducted by the National Centre for Women and Information Technology, more than half are compelled to leave their jobs mid-career, mostly due to motherhood or other familial responsibilities. This is an age-old problem that tends to hold women back in any industry, a fact corroborated by another study that reports that most working mothers find it hard to bounce back and advance their careers after a break.
“Although the initial days of lockdown was uncharted territory for all of us, I’ve seen positive changes right after – both with experimenting on balancing the household burden with the family and also utilising our time to learn new skills for the new-normal,” says Sowjanya Shetty, Director of Business Development at Microsoft.
Thus, archaic working environments may be one of the key issues behind the gender problem afflicting the tech industry. Flexible working opportunities can not only enable working mothers to accept more work but also allows them to take out time to upskill – all while maintaining a healthy work-life balance. In the long-term, this could also attract more women into the tech industry, helping gradually closing the gender gap.
Remote Arrangement Making Work More Accessible
A large-scale transition to remote work arrangements will also afford more opportunities for women who live in the suburbs or away from cities where most tech parks are located. This will provide a level playing field for all women professionals regardless of their geographical location.
“While the pandemic has disrupted businesses, there have been some positive takeaways from this,” feels Shilpa Rao, Head – AI powered Strategic Intelligence & Sustainability at TCS. “It has made work from home a norm for several tech companies, opening up opportunities for women to come into the workforce, who previously had stayed away due to childcare, travel, or familial needs, regardless of geography” she adds.
Thus, remote work can give all women ample opportunities to secure jobs they otherwise might have lacked access to, opening up doors for those in less privileged locations who have the skills, but are hampered by other constraints.
Improved Productivity & Better Mental Health
While reduced commute time may allow employees to be less tired and more productive, women have also been experiencing peace of mind and building better mental health due to remote work arrangements.
“This transition has led to positive reforms and improvements in self-growth,” says Suma Rammohan, Senior Manager at Accenture. “It has been a journey of self-reflection and introspection, which has eventually led to better work-life balance and more family time, which was previously consumed by long commute hours to the workplace. Work from home has also provided us with more ‘me-time’, giving us an excellent opportunity to maintain mental resilience. It, thus, has wholesomely improved the lives of women in technology,” she adds.
The narrative of women in tech needs an overhaul. It is neither the lack of education nor skills that has been keeping women away from the workforce, but archaic working conditions. More companies need to embrace remote work to prove their genuine commitment to diversity and inclusion in the workplace.