‘Stop Making Working From Home A Female Problem’

As a Bank of England policymaker says WFH is harming women's careers, Anna Whitehouse says companies should help all staff work more flexibly

Anna Whitehouse Mother Pukka working from home

by Grazia |

Another day, another senior woman cementing gender stereotypes in the workplace. This time its Catherine Mann from Bank of England saying that ‘‘women who work remotely will damage their careers.”

Not people, not men, but women.

Putting aside the fact she’s hampering progression for her own gender, her own daughters, her own granddaughters, it’s the focus on this being a female issue that stings.

Rather than questioning whether women working flexibly should do so, why isn’t she asking businesses to support ‘everyone’ to work flexibly? Knowing that flexibility ‘for all’ is the key to closing the Gender Pay Gap - at a time when it’s increasing at a terrifying rate.

Instead of rewinding the conversation to pre-pandemic times, why isn’t Catherine questioning ‘proximity bias’ (or ‘accidental favouritism’) within companies? This is where businesses promote those they see in person in the office, over those working remotely, where water cooler conversations and boozy pub lunches more readily lead to promotions.

Yes, the reality is women bear the burden of care because of the imbalance of maternity and paternity leave. Mothers do, of course, need this time to recover, heal, feed and and bond. But we need men to step up, too. And for companies to enable that. (The uptake of paternity leave is at a 10 year low, just 27% of dads took paternity leave 2020-2021.)

And it’s not even a case of hapless Dads not wanting to face days of Coco Melon, bottle sterilising and raising the next generation.

Sure the pandemic pushed us to the limits. But The Fatherhood Institute found that 74% Dads did more childcare, and 59% did more laundry, cooking and cleaning, and 63% said they would like to be able to work more from home. Despite it feeling like a pressure cooker at times, the domestic load has been marginally less loaded for women over the last 18 months.

The truth is women with dependent children are seven times more likely to work part-time than men according to the ONS. And this burden of childcare remains firmly strapped to female shoulders. So no, Catherine, it shouldn’t be on us to fix this, too. We’re carrying enough.

Instead of this blinkered push back to the office and scaremongering of career regression for women that don’t, let’s encourage a world of flexibility for everyone. For those with caring responsibilities, those living with disabilities and those simply wanting to live and work. It’s about inclusion not location.

By advocating for presenteeism Catherine, you’re actively widening that glaring hole of gender inequality.

By pushing everyone back to the office you’re effectively pushing women backwards.

More than anything you’re stopping us from helping the economy ‘Build Back Better’. It comes down to cold, hard cash Catherine. Something I’d imagine would interest the Bank of England.

Gender inequality aside, it’s all about the money - that’s the bottom line.

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