Given that women tend to take on more care giving for children or other family members, which can interfere with nine to five office life, they often have to adjust their careers. But it turns out that they are taking less advantage of one particular change: doing work outside the office.
A new survey from the Flex+Strategy Group of more than 500 full-time American employees finds that about a third of all workers do most of their work away from an office, working at home or another location, but it’s not that a huge number of women are working remotely to be with children. Three-quarters of remote workers are men, and a similar proportion of workers without children work away from the office as those with children.
The gender imbalance in telecommuting may relate to the fact that women are less likely to be given flexibility when they ask for it from their managers. A study from July found that men who ask for flexible work schedules were much more likely than women to have their desires granted, particularly when they were asking to do it for career advancement opportunities.
It may also mask other gender imbalances in flexible workplace practices. Working remotely is just one of many ways employees can change their schedules to be more flexible — others including adjusting arrival and departure times, being flexible about when work is done throughout the week, reducing hours, or going part time. Women may be making more use of the last two options. According to Australian research, they are more likely to go part time or use other arrangements that cut back on hours instead of shifting them, and American research has shown similar results. Over their lifetimes, more than 40 percent of women with children have had to reduce their work hours to care for someone, but just 28 percent of fathers have had to do the same. Reducing hours or working part time can hurt women’s overall pay and make it less likely that they’ll get picked for job opportunities and promotions.
Some women get pushed out of work altogether when they need to care for family. Nearly 30 percent of mothers have said they even had to quit their job for this reason, but just 10 percent of men have done so. While being a caretaker makes it more likely than a woman will leave her job, taking on that role doesn’t impact whether a man stays in the labor force.
Meanwhile, in perhaps a sign of how few women make it into the top ranks of their companies, the Flex+Strategy Group survey also found that of those who work in an office, women are far more likely to work in a cubicle or open space than in a closed-door office compared to men. Women occupy less than 15 percent of the jobs in America’s executive suits.