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Four Key Takeaways to Build a Remote Culture That Enables Women to Thrive

Anna Brailsford

CEO

Code First Girls

We keep discussing how the world of work has transformed in 2020. Six months on from the UK’s initial COVID-19 lockdown, 40 per cent of UK office workers are continuing to work from home and nine out of ten remote workers would like to continue to do so long-term.

But now that the initial phase of moving to remote working is complete, the new challenge is building a culture that empowers everyone remotely.

As remote work becomes a reality for millions of women, it’s important workplaces don’t backslide.

Businesses had to move quickly to adapt to remote work and divert resources to do so. But the spirit of survival can’t come at the expense of stunting workplace equality progress, or become an excuse!

Unsurprisingly, navigating remote work cultures was a hot topic at our recent Code Fest series of virtual events, which brought together leading women from businesses including Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Trainline, KKR and OVHcloud to discuss what comes next—and how we can do better.

Drawing on insights from these incredible female industry voices, here’s how we move forward with a remote culture that enables women to thrive.

Refocus on diversity and inclusion

“It doesn’t really matter if people are in the room if their voices aren’t being heard,” Ariana Ocampo, UX Designer at Softwire perfectly summed up in our Defining Diversity & Inclusion panel. With teams distributed across the globe, the risk is that even within diverse teams, a diverse set of voices isn’t heard.

It’s important to provide clear forums for employees to voice all concerns. And that procedures for feeding back are formalised and equal. Otherwise, it’s easy for businesses to rely on senior perspectives that don’t always reflect the true makeup of an organisation or pinpoint the pressing challenges.

Eliminating bias is even more important in a remote world. Business leaders need to work even harder to think about what tasks employees are given, whether there are discrepancies in how they are managed, the diversity within teams and whether individuals have a clear—and fair—career trajectory.

Businesses have to interrogate every aspect of work with a diversity and inclusion lens whether in or outside of the office. Here’s our chance to build back better.

Upskill teams

Remote working shouldn’t simply be about maintaining the status quo. Workers still need to learn, develop skills and progress. Technology skills should be an area of focus, they continue to be in high demand and are highly transferable in this new normal we find ourselves in.

Allen & Overy is one business that invested in a tech skills programme for its team of female lawyers and reaped the benefits. Employees on the programme collaborated with clients to bring technology ideas to life. Those that joined reported higher levels of tech literacy and improved relationships with clients—a win-win for the business and individual employees.

There’s no need to press pause on training and upskilling just because teams can’t make it to a physical classroom. Virtual classes, whether shorter sessions to provide a taster or a full-blown degree, offer something for every level of interest.

Nurture confidence and tackle imposter syndrome

90 per cent of women in the UK suffer from imposter syndrome—a lack of belief in their own talent and skills. This lack of belief and confidence is a harsh reality that we need to address. But how do you do that over Zoom or over a DM?

Kema Davies, UK Early Careers Recruiter at Microsoft spoke at our event about the importance of being authentic and confident in the workplace. With fewer touch-points during the day, remote work only emphasises the need to make interactions count. If workers feel they have to perform, they’re losing energy that could be better focused on meaningful work.

Clear agendas, ownership and talking points can tackle confidence issues and imposter syndrome by empowering everyone to have a voice, reiterating that everyone’s input is valued. Meanwhile, mentors with past experience can offer support, answer questions and provide professional feedback to help develop skills and instil confidence.

Just because you can’t meet for a coffee doesn’t mean these opportunities should fall by the wayside.

Encourage flexibility

Remote-first working has many benefits, from cutting the commute to improving work-life balance. Businesses that want to improve their culture can take benefits even further by offering greater flexibility.

Jessie Link, VP of Engineering – Team Development at Twitter noted in our ‘Hacking Remote Culture’ panel that just as the need to go to the office five days a week is changing, so are work patterns: “This idea that it has to be five days a week, eight hours a day is old-school thinking.”

Increasing flexible working is particularly important for mother’s, with research suggesting that during the lockdown, they achieved only one hour of uninterrupted paid work for every three hours done by men. This has a knock-on effect in increasing the likelihood for women to move out of paid work.

While tackling the gender imbalance in unpaid household labour like housework and childcare is a complex issue, normalising women’s access to flexible remote work can relieve pressure, enabling them to fit productive working around parenting.

A culture for women to thrive remotely

With the right approach, remote working can transform women’s experience at work. However, ensuring the right culture is in place is essential.

Women continue to face an uphill battle, from their share of voice in meetings, to the skills and training they can access, to managing workloads around care commitments. In the remote work world, it’s easy for these issues to slip into ‘out of sight out of mind’ for employers.

As our speakers and panellists highlighted, creating an effective remote culture for women requires action. Deliberate steps must be taken, by business leaders, by partners that can offer upskilling or mentors, and by women workers themselves.

Together, this community will ensure the thriving remote work revolution is one women have a leading voice in.

This article was first published on www.minutehack.com