Workforce exclusion | Do hybrid models reinforce stigmas against gender?

Do hybrid models reinforce stigmas against gender?

With 2022 edging closer to an end, it would be an understatement to say that this year’s agenda was overwhelmed with schedules and ideas for flexible working conditions across all businesses. However, with so many different plans for what the ‘best’ work model is, businesses have overlooked the line between exclusion and equality.

COVID-19 sparked the trend for many businesses to adopt remote working models, such as hybrid working. As a matter of fact, the hybrid working model is viewed by many as an opportunity for growth and enhancement for their employees and overall business. While this belief is true to an extent that the hybrid working model can bring opportunities and development, this model can also initiate challenges and create further problems, especially in terms of gender equality.

Deloitte’s report, titled ‘Women at Work’, revealed that 60% of women who work in hybrid working environments feel they have been excluded from meetings and interactions. These results uncover an inclination toward gender bias behaviour and reveal that women face stigmatisation in the workplace through exclusion through hybrid working settings as well.

A senior lecturer at the University of York and co-director of the Equal Parenting Project, Sarah Forbes expresses, “Flexible working risked reverting to pre-pandemic levels unless more men were persuaded to work from home.”

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Forbes also responded, “Even before COVID-19, flexible working had some negative impacts on women’s careers. Until both men and women are as likely to use all forms of flexible working, women will experience stigma.”

With this in mind, hybrid working environments are not putting forth the predictability and expression that many women are looking for. 64% of hybrid workers reported that their employers haven’t set clear expectations around where and how they’re expected to work. Presented with this particular behaviour, hybrid working enhances the stigma for gender equality and lacks inclusivity for women in the workforce.

How productive is the hybrid working model for gender equality?

Prof Rosie Campbell, the director of King’s College London’s Global Institute for Women’s Leadership stated that the impact of hybrid working on female career advancement was something she was ‘concerned about’, and it required more research.

She explained: “The solution is for hybrid jobs to be carefully designed rather than allowing them to develop on their own because existing inequalities might be reinforced.” In order to effectively bring gender equality into motion and diminish exclusion, it’s crucial to take into consideration sustainable change and realise that flexibility is a must.

Nichola Johnson-Marshall, a co-founder of cultural transformation consultancy, Working Wonder, raises another insight with regards to flexible working by expressing: “Switching the uniform five-day working week to a four-day one is not the answer to the flexible working question. Instead, I think that a better solution would be to empower each individual employee to design their own preferred working pattern and encourage employers to be willing to have a supportive conversation with them about it.”

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However, the hybrid working model can increase gender equality in the workforce and empower individuals to boost wellbeing, productivity and overall performance rates.

In fact, the women who work for the Gender Equality Leaders report far more positive experiences with hybrid working models, because they have built cultures that promote mental wellbeing with hybrid work models. 87% say that they get adequate mental health support from their employer, and the same percentage feel comfortable talking about mental health in the workplace.

Overall, hybrid working models can help with inclusivity and enhance gender equality. However, it’s vital to see that flexibility is of major importance to bring these means into effect and realise that this model may not fit every individual's needs, particularly with regard to wellbeing.

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