A woman working at home is a lightning rod for female bias. Maybe not anymore. The logic followed that her priorities are obviously at home and admirable performance didn’t dent the logic. This alone, disqualified her for a position of leadership. At least it used too. Her absence from the office, anyway, rendered her incapable of fulfilling a fundamental requirement of leadership; being on the ground to physically engage with employees and colleagues, and keeping the pulse of people, politics, and projects. Perhaps, not anymore.
Ushering in the e-economy, Covid-19 has changed views, requirements, and much else that will improve opportunities for women in leadership; this is good for gender equality. Covid-19 introduced a massive untested experiment in entire workforces working remotely. Many will stay remote for some time. For others, it will take on a permanent basis. Employers now know how large populations of employees can work remotely and productively. To boot, it can be cost effective. With men and women working remotely, bias against women working at home will shrink.
With large remote populations, the value of a physical presence will diminish. The proliferation of video teleconferencing during the pandemic, has proven up to the task of an allusion of physical presence. One Fortune 500 executive said it was so effective, they decided it would be a staple of meetings going forward. If it’s OK for male executives to sign into a video teleconference, this will lessen the bias for female executives that do similarly.
Women taking maternity leave is a bias generator. When women stay engaged during leave, they demonstrate their commitment to work, and bias decreases. For women leaders, staying engaged allows them to maintain crucial career momentum. The newfound receptivity to video teleconferencing can be a game changer. Women can now virtually connect with employees and colleagues one-on-one or in groups, locally or across the nation and the world. It’s also a convenient and acceptable vehicle for e-networking with people that are career supporters and influencers, and a substitute for onsite meetings in remote locations, foreign and domestic. About those business meetings that require foreign travel. Women that refrained in the past were reflexively omitted from consideration for a promotion. This may no longer be true.
More women working remotely offers another big benefit. Sexual harassers cool inclinations when they know they’ll be caught. In the E-economy everything leaves a “paper” trail. Diminishing sexual and gender harassment is good news at many levels. This includes women that are harassed lose confidence, and many change jobs due to anxiety — not opportunity. Neither are good for a woman’s career.
The e-economy opens up many new opportunities. The crisis saw the proliferation of
e-everything from e-medicine, to e-meetings, e-education, and e-shopping. It’s so convenient, cost-effective, and safe, the amplified use of e-applications will continue increasing and improving. Who better to take on these opportunities than women? Women are bigger consumers of social media, bigger shoppers, the majority of teachers, and more interested in telemedicine.
Experience helps but women also have some real advantage when it comes to overseeing the conception of e-economy applications. Women tend to be better facilitators of innovation. Being the empathetic gender also gives them a better base to understand the needs of customers. Women leaders are also less likely to be receptive to product designs that assume people find it fun to figure out how things work. A better direction is encouraging product designs that are intuitive to use. These tendencies will facilitate creating, improving, promoting, and expanding the market for e-applications. In this next wave of internet-inspired opportunities the names that roll off people’s tongues can be Maria, Suzie, Ying Hui, Saanvi, or Aliyah, rather than Steve, Jeff, or Bill.
An e-economy ushers in thousands of opportunities for present and prospective female entrepreneurs or senior executives. A pre-requisite to gender equality is gender equality in leadership. A silver lining in the Covid-19 pandemic is increased opportunities for women in leadership in industries poised for growth. This can accelerate progress toward gender equality.