The COVID-19 pandemic’s advent altered every human experience in significant ways. The experience of working remotely was not exciting in the early stages of the pandemic. Many of us had to adjust to new ways of working.
Adjusting to the new demands of remote working and its challenges was a major hurdle, especially for those who had to juggle work and taking care of the home and children. One good thing, however, is that we never get late for meetings because of traffic. I have come to believe that virtual and remote work has made life more flexible – and even has the potential to increase gender inclusion on all fronts.
At first, the conversation on Gender Inclusion always looks like an agenda to place women at par with men – and even in some instances, place women above men; but I see it from the perspective of equity. In conversations such as these, we need to primarily think of ourselves as ‘human’ before either ‘male’ or ‘female’. It is not a gender war – we need to become more responsible in all fields and remove the stereotypes that inhibit us from achieving such human equality and equity.
As a society, we have used our values and societal dimensions to exclude certain people from opportunities that they should ordinarily have access to. People should first be seen as humans with knowledge and capabilities, who when given the opportunity can flourish in whatever field. Categorising one’s ability based on gender only is wrong and must be discouraged.
Gender inclusion is not a quota system – it is not just about saying that five or ten more women have been recruited or added to the group. It is about everybody being allowed to add value to our society in their own specific way. Everyone should be given the chance to bring their own offering to the table to make a difference. Everybody should be allowed to do what they can do in order to earn their place. We will be removing barriers and stereotypes when we allow people to earn their places by proving themselves capable.
Gender inclusion also means being deliberate to holistically bring along those who have been left behind due to gender inequalities, and enabling them with the right support and capabilities to harness their strengths and capabilities to be part of the whole.
The conversation of remote work and gender inclusion (as it stands) applies to people differently based on their peculiarities. For example, in the case of a business consultant who is also a nursing mother, the presence of virtual tools and remote work can prevent her from losing her clients to a male competitor or colleague because she can perform her role and still be a mother and be present. Ultimately, remote work allows mothers the flexibility they need to raise a family and pursue their career at the same time.
Consumer behaviour is also changing drastically as working remotely is being accepted globally. We are now realising and accepting that many services do not necessarily have to be rendered physically. Remote monitoring, stock management and some other new remote-working practices are allowing women to run their businesses without having to stop because they are pregnant or have recently been put to bed.
Working from home in the post-COVID-19 era could pose a difficulty for some women who now have to balance their work, family and personal life within the same space. My advice is that you should not discard the things you were relying on to balance your work and life before COVID-19.
If you had a help at home to take care of your children in your absence, then that person should remain so even while working from home you can still maintain laser focus. If your organisation begins to feel that your productivity levels are dropping due to remote work, then it is time for you to get help.
The pandemic, as devastating as it is, has at the same time opened multiple channels for work delivery. This means increased flexibility. Organisations should support their employees with whatever they need to work from wherever. Some people need to leave their family environment and come to the physical workplace in order to be more productive, whereas some people find it easier and better to work from home. From the perspective of the employee, however, do not forget that your job is the reason you can afford your lifestyle; so it is very important that you stay productive, or else you could lose it.
Working remotely can indeed be that additional support needed to close the gender gap in the modern workplace. However, a lot of concerns must be taken into consideration in order to make our workplace – in-office or remote – more inclusive.
>>>the writer is the Head, Enterprise Banking – Stanbic Bank Ghana