Are women being left behind in the race for hybrid?

Our latest WORKTECH Wednesday Briefing examines how hybrid working might disadvantage women as they find themselves unable to climb the corporate ladder due to working from home

The inbuilt flexibility of the hybrid model has been widely touted as supporting a more inclusive approach to the workplace.

But research from the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) in the UK suggests that there is the potential for women to be left behind in the switch to hybrid working.

This could result in an increase in inequality within organisations, with women being resigned to lower paid, less senior roles and men being put up for promotion in their place.

As The Guardian reports, a survey of 1,300 managers from the Chartered Management Institute has revealed that male managers are significantly more likely to mostly or completely work from the office (48 per cent of men compared with 38 per cent of women). Two in five (40 per cent) of managers surveyed said they had already observed opinions or behaviours suggesting an inequality between those who work flexibly and those who do not.

But why does this data suggest that women are being disadvantaged by hybrid working?

More often than men, women are choosing to work from home in order to balance caring responsibilities with their careers. The CMI’s report on Making Hybrid Inclusive shows that women are eight times more likely to take the primary role in caring for children and are one-and-a-half times more likely to take the lead in caring for adults in UK working households.

With women wanting to work from home in order to be present for their dependants, more are choosing to work remotely when offered.

However, the report also notes that managers find it harder to connect with colleagues who work remotely, as they are perceived as less visible; 20 per cent of management staff are concerned that a rise in remote working will increase the risk that women will be overlooked and miss out on opportunities for career progression.

This highlights the clear concern that whilst companies that are now offering hybrid work, they will continue to overlook people who choose to spend more time at home, instead looking to the mainly male office regulars as the future of their organisations.

‘Companies offering hybrid work could be overlooking people who choose to spend more time at home…’

These findings are echoed by Deloitte’s Women at Work Survey, which collected the opinions of 5,000 women across 10 different countries. This report illustrates how 94 per cent of women believe that requesting flexible working will affect their likelihood of achieving a promotion, and 90 per cent believe their workloads won’t be adjusted accordingly if they request flexible working. These results, coupled with the startling revelation that women are currently experiencing significantly lower levels of wellbeing that other workers, suggests that flexible working is taking an unfair toll on female workers.

Hybrid work was hailed as the solution to many of the caring issues that were affecting women at work. However, if attitudes towards home working don’t catch up with people’s desire to work flexibly, the hybrid model could undo a significant amount of the progress made in women’s rights in recent decades and leave female workers bearing the brunt of burnout and stress in the workplace.

‘If attitudes don’t catch up, hybrid working could undo a significant amount of the progress in women’s rights…’

Bias towards people who are present in the office every day runs the risk of creating a tiered system, with people who can come into the office at the top of the ladder and those who can’t at the bottom. This will not just disadvantage women but also people with mobility issues and, as the cost-of-living-crisis hits, people without the funds to support an expensive regular commute.

Perhaps a key message from all this is that companies will have to examine their biases when it comes to planning and offering promotions, and work with their employees to ensure that each individual receives the support they need to conduct their work to the best of their abilities.

Turn up at Toronto

If you’re interested in the issues raised in this WORKTECH Wednesday Briefing, you might like to check out WORKTECH’s global events calendar.

WORKTECH Toronto 2022, taking place on Wednesday October 26, will focus on bringing cutting edge ideas and inspiration to the workplace community to move thinking forward and enhance creativity. The keynote session, delivered by Nina Abdelmessih from BCG and Caitlin Turner from HOK, will discuss how to make the workplace a powerful asset for your company through workplace culture and employee engagement, where people gather, share and connect. Find out more about our Toronto event here.

Read a review of our WORKTECH Wellbeing 2022 conference, held in London on 20 September, here.


In our WORKTECH Wednesday Briefings, we reach out to our 10,000-plus Academy members, WORKTECH attendees, speakers, partners and sponsors while WORKTECH’s professional conference series continues through our in-person, virtual and hybrid platforms. This edition is posted 28 September 2022.
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