Remote Work Shows Some – Some – Signs of Leveling the Field for Women

Remote Work Phone

While the remote workforce’s gender dynamics largely align with those of in-office workers, a survey by Ultimate Software found some surprising differences.

For example, in both environments men were more likely to be promoted within the last year. But the gap was dramatically wider in the office, where 43 percent of men reported being promoted compared to just 35 percent of women. Outside the building, more women (57 percent) said they’d been promoted than men (51 percent).

Survey finds surprising differences in gender dynamics of remote vs. in-office workers. @UltimateHCM #HR #HRTech #HRTribe Click To Tweet

At the same time, women working outside the office were significantly more likely to believe their jobs offer room for growth: 80 percent compared to 60 percent. The difference was notable when comparing genders, as well: Just 1 percentage point more remote-working men than women felt their jobs offered growth opportunity, but in the office men were more positive, 73 percent compared to women’s 60 percent.

One diversity specialist we spoke with wasn’t surprised by the results. In a face-to-face environment like the office, she said, “research has shown that male language patterns dominate.” In meetings, for example, men often overshadow others because they’re socialized to be competitive. Women, on the other hand, are socialized to be accommodating. In addition, men have an advantage because they continue to hold most executive positions. In a face-to-face environment, that can work to men’s advantage.

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“In a company where remote working is the norm, women may have an opportunity to let their work speak for them as opposed to trying to be heard in a meeting,” the diversity specialist said. “In remote working, there’s less emphasis on schmoozing and more on getting the work done and communicating productively with colleagues.”

The number of women who experienced sexual harassment was roughly the same whether or not they worked on-site. Fourteen percent of remote-working women reported being harassed at work compared to 13 percent of those in the office. Interestingly, more men reported sexual harassment outside the office (11 percent) compared to those working in the office (6 percent).

Remote Work Treats Employees Well

In general, Ultimate’s survey, titled The Remote Workforce Becomes the Empowered Workforce, found that employees who do their jobs outside the office are being treated as well—or better—than their colleagues on-site.

The survey found that, overall, remote employees are 40 percent more likely to have been promoted in the last year, and 27 percent more likely to feel they have opportunities for growth. Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) said their company is invested in their career development. That’s 9 points higher than the 65 percent of in-office employees who felt that way.

In addition, remote workers report higher job satisfaction, with 88 percent agreeing or strongly agreeing that they’re satisfied with their work, compared to 78 percent of in-office employees.

Tech’s Surprising Impact

Technology vendors of all types have been quick to introduce products built around the assumption that many employees spend most of their days either on the road or working remotely. Telephone and cable companies have developed product suites that include high-speed internet access and video conferencing, for example, while Slack has long positioned itself as a collaboration solution for remote teams.

Some effects of such technology are surprising. For example, many analysts have wondered whether technical tools will inhibit communications between employees and supervisors. But 70 percent of managers told Ultimate that software that helps them better understand their team’s feelings and delivers regular feedback helps them to be more effective.

Meanwhile, 75 percent of remote workers said technology such as chat tools and video conferencing helps them maintain relationships with their colleagues in the office.

None of this is to say working remotely is perfect. Ultimate said remote workers are likely to feel frequently misunderstood or misinterpreted nearly twice as often as those working in the office. And while they often say work-life balance is one of remote work’s great benefits, 76 percent report working beyond their set hours on a weekly basis.

Disclosure: Ultimate Software is a sponsor of the HCM Technology Report. To learn more, click here.

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