Guest Post by Julia Kukiewicz (author bio is available at the end of the article):
The new president of the British Chambers of Commerce wants to encourage women to work from home.
“Government could give incentives, such as tax breaks, to encourage homeworking and remote working, which would mean women can fulfill their tasks wherever they are,” said Nora Senior, who was named president in June.
In 2011, the UK still had a gender pay gap of 16.4% across all sectors, with some industries far more unequal than that average suggests.
A more recent study for the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) found that, among top performers, bonus culture was widening the gap even further. The average bonus for male managers was double that of their female counterparts, the study found.
But would flexible working really help?
Supporting Women in Work
There’s certainly evidence that women feel that their workplaces don’t support them, particularly when they have children.
A recent study by law firm Slater & Gordon, which specialises in employment law, found that two thirds of women describe their working life after having children as ‘difficult’ and half felt that having children stopped their careers from progressing. About 33% agreed that it was ‘impossible’ to reconcile career and motherhood.
Flexible working has already come a long way.
A 2011 UK Government survey fund that 13% of business were offering homeworking in 2006; the same survey in 2011 found that 59% were.
However, the experiences of entrepreneurs like Emma Mulqueeny founder of Rewired State show that availability is only one aspect of the change to homeworking.
“Encourage remote working in start-ups and make it as valid as a start-up with offices in ‘hip new start up land [to encourage working women],” she said in a recent Next Women interview.
Clearly even in the start-up world, hardly the most staid sector around, a lot of women are still waiting for a culture change. It makes sense to think that tax breaks and other incentives could help to change things: they’re a top down solution, offering legitimacy to the choice to work from home and a financial reason for businesses to give employees the option.
Out of Sight, out of Mind?
However, not everyone thinks that home working is a good idea.
Yahoo! recently banned flexible working, in an effort to reform its business, for example.
“Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings,” CEO Marissa Meyer said in a letter to staff. Home workers produce inferior quality work, she added.
Other business leaders have argued that home working decreases team bonding, reduces an employee’s ability to focus and is, all in all, not a solid investment. On the employee side, many fear that working from home will mean being sidelined in the office: precisely the problem that women are worried about in the first place.
Learn more about telecommuting on Women On Business.
About the Author
Julia Kukiewicz is site editor of Choose, a consumer information and market research site in the UK, which has been covering consumer topics across personal finance and home technology for ten years. Julia’s been working remotely from home, and abroad, for the company for the past six years.