On International Women's Day, reflections of a woman technology leader on how the pandemic has created new opportunity for working women
Ever since the onset of the pandemic COVID-19, the circumstances for working women related to work and living have changed drastically. Lockdowns and work from home scenarios have added to their share of responsibilities since not only do they have to look after the increased demand from family members but also balance it with the increased availability demanded by their employers. Due to unavailability of house help during lockdowns, additional responsibilities of daily household chores and childcare have come into picture. This has led to tremendous stress as there is little, or no time left for personal care. There is a strong feeling of being overwhelmed with work (both office and home) amongst a lot of working women due to the drastic changes in their daily routine.
However, though all this may sound to be very negative and stressing, it surely opens up a lot more opportunities for women in the post pandemic workplace. More and more organizations are adopting to the remote working culture rather than working from office. This provides flexibility for women to choose their work timings as well as where to work from. Organizations are moving towards providing flexible work model to employees. The commute time required between office and home can be completely reduced giving extra time for managing all the responsibilities.
Post pandemic workplace model also promises to remove or minimize gender bias at work. Generally, very few women tend to make it to the boardroom as they fear that they may not be able to take up the additional responsibilities that come with the role and strike a work-life balance. But, with the new model, this seems to be possible and can be very favorable specially for women as they get to work remotely with acceptance from their employer. In the past, a woman requesting for a flexible work timing to manage work-life balance was not welcomed by the employer, however, with the current pandemic situation, the perception has changed completely, and the remote working culture is now becoming the new normal. There is a different sense of respect that the employer has developed for remote working employees (specially women) which they had earlier since they now understand better the challenges that come accompanied with remote working. The increased sense of empathy and trust towards female employees is surely an advantage for all working women.
Since face-to-face meetings have been reduced considerably, performance evaluation in the post pandemic workplace model has shifted from being the “boss’s favorite” to being “goal-oriented” and “metrics driven”. It again opens doors of opportunity for women to prove their mettle by delivering results efficiently and effectively. They also get the option to negotiate better through their performance as this new workplace will reduce favoritism big time.
To conclude, I would like to mention that it also becomes the responsibility of women to now become vocal and ask what they need. If they need help at home, they should reach out to their spouse or extended family members for support. Similarly, at workplace, they should reach out to the relevant stakeholders (colleagues, managers, teams, HR who can help in clearing the obstacles being faced by them and help them in their path to success.
In a nutshell, I personally feel that although pandemic and lockdowns have been very tough to handle and manage, yet COVID-19 has come as a blessing in disguise for working women. Its “now or never”, there will be no better time like this which can offer a flexible work environment along with rewards. All in all, this is the perfect time for women to accelerate their career and pave their own path.
(The author is Head - Risk, Compliance and Information Security)