In the aftermath of COVID-19, organizations need to pay additional attention to how they support women at work, according to new research by people analytics firm Perceptyx.
The reason lies in how women's return to work preferences differ from men's. Almost half of women do not want to return to the physical workplace full-time, compared to 36 percent of men; and if they do have to return to the workplace, women are more likely to want to spend 2-3 days a week in the workplace, as compared to 3-4 days for men.
The research highlights multiple ways in which this potentially puts women at a serious disadvantage. Jobs without flexibility or remote options are less attractive to women, and women become less visible in the workplace, putting them at a disadvantage when it comes to performance assessments, recognition, and rewards.
Brett Wells, Director of People Analytics at Perceptyx, warned that this simply exacerbates the damage the pandemic has done to women in the workplace. “Our research indicates the gender gap will widen even further if the realities organizations face aren’t acknowledged and addressed,” he said. “Women have fundamentally changed the way they want to work. It's critical these desires be taken into account as organizations make plans to get their employees back into the office.”
The report suggests three specific actions organizations can take to address the issue.
Make positions desirable to female job-seekers: ensure that jobs posted come with the option for flexibility and that the organization as a whole is prepared to support that flexibility, so that women will continue to enter the workplace.
Actively and intentionally recognize and reward remote workers: organizations must eliminate bias towards physical presence in the evaluations, compensation, and promotions process, so that remote workers—who are more likely to be women—do not lose out.
Actively address the factors that encourage retention of women: earlier research, also from Perceptyx, indicates that the top factor affecting women's retention is how empowered they are to make their own decisions about how to best accomplish their work, which is much more closely associated with flexible work than with being in the physical space.
Wells observed: “Many organizations spent 2020 more worried about retaining jobs than employees, but as things return to normal, understanding the drivers of voluntary turnover through people analytics and making the necessary adjustments should be a top priority.”