Remote Working Could Further Increase the Wage Gap between Men and Women

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    What began as a measure imposed by governments to prevent Coronavirus infections in the workplace has ended up becoming a regular employment relationship between workers and companies. And it seems that remote working is here to stay. Now, after the initial boom, everything indicates that it is returning to in-person.

    Given that remote work is something that is still “in the experimentation phase”, in several countries, the analysis and assessment of its consequences are yet to come. In addition, although numerous virtues have been attributed to it —especially related to work-life balance—, for some time now there have been many voices that have been expressed in the opposite direction.

    This is the case of Ana Isabel Jiménez Zarco, professor of Economics and Business Studies at the Open University of Catalonia (UOC), who assures that women who work from home seek to combine their professional activity with domestic work.

    Work-life balance disappearing

    The problem is that this effort means that “sometimes they may be doing housework during working hours and, even if it is flexible, they may be working outside the time established by their contract.” “This means that work-life balance is disappearing and that the number of working hours is increasing,” concludes Jiménez Zarco, a researcher at the i2TIC (ICT Interdisciplinary Research Group). Some studies, such as the one carried out by the EurofundFoundation, corroborate the words of the expert.

    The research carried out by this institution reflects how remote working has multiplied the responsibilities of women at home and has made it difficult to reconcile their professional and family life.

    Eva Rimbau, a professor at the Economics and Business Studies at the UOC and a member of the DigiBiz (Digital Business Research Group) research group, who believes that “the effectiveness of remote workers could be threatened due to the constant interruptions, the extra work required and the mental load that they have to endure while also working from home.”

    An advantageous option… only in theory

    The great benefit of telecommuting, work-life balance, seems to “run out of steam”, especially among women. The question that has been raised in recent weeks is whether, in addition to reducing their quality of life, a decrease in the salary of the workers can also be perceived.

    According to Rimbau, “in theory, remote working is the ideal context to reduce the gender wage gap, since in this work modality what is important is the results of each person, not their level of presence or their schedules.”

    In addition, in a context of remote working, “some elements that have traditionally generated discrimination, such as gender, belonging to ethnic minorities or disability, lose visibility,” adds the expert. However, it seems that one thing is theory and another very different, the practice: according to a report mentioned by the expert and entitled:Equal pay for equal work (from home) (published by Owl Labs), the gender pay gap that already exists in face-to-face jobs increases in remote jobs. Similarly, women who work remotely full-time are less optimistic than men that they will receive a promotion or pay raise.

    By contrast, women who never work remotely are 26% more optimistic about getting a promotion than women who always work remotely. The data was obtained in 2020 through a survey of more than 2,000 professionals in order to find out how virtual jobs could affect the compensation potential of the workforce.

    Salary equality far away

    Salary equality will not arrive before 2064.Some experts place the end of the salary gap in 2064 at the earliest. However, until then numerous initiatives can be carried out in order to accelerate this process of social justice.

    In general, Eva Rimbau proposes measures to reduce the burden of care that falls on women, in particular, promoting a more equitable distribution of household chores and promoting male telecommuting. “On the one hand, from the point of view of public policies, strategies that address the sexual division of labor in the home, such as paternity leave, could be improved”.

    Alleviate the burden of individual care responsibilities

    Therefore, it would be appropriate to increase the public provision of care services for children and the elderly to alleviate the burden of individual care responsibilities, says the expert. “From a corporate point of view, remote working among men could be promoted, since there are studies that have shown that at least some of the men assume a greater burden of care tasks when they work remotely, since this makes it easier for them to see firsthand what they mean for their female partner.

    On the other hand, company equality commissions are in an optimal position to collect data on this issue (how much telework do men and women do, what is the gender pay gap in this context, etc.) and suggest improvements in their organizations. Finally, Rimbau defends that, for a greater acceptance of remote work, people who telework should not be penalized with respect to those who work in-person.

    This implies that human resources policies must contemplate equal opportunities between remote workers and those who work in the office, in terms of salary, professional promotion or training opportunities, as well as in terms of skills.

    Remote work is having numerous repercussions that will have to be identified, analyzed and corrected, where appropriate, in the best possible way. This change in the labor sphere “requires a transformation in the culture of companies that focuses on results, not on hours or attendance, which may imply a strong change of mentality for some people in management positions,” the experts conclude.

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