The great equaliser: how hybrid can help bridge the gender gap

The great equaliser: how hybrid can help bridge the gender gap

Research shows that women are more likely to return to full-time work when empowered to go hybrid – and that this work model can level out opportunities in the workplace. What can businesses do to make sure they’re supporting women?

In August, a study by Public First found that hybrid working has encouraged many professionally educated women, particularly mothers, to move to full-time work. This finding aligns with IWG’s Empowering Women in the Hybrid Workplace report, released for International Women’s Day, which showed that 53% of female workers believe hybrid working has empowered them to apply for more senior roles within their organisation.

Hybrid is the great leveller, with the power to boost diversity in business – an advantage already widely acknowledged. Indeed, 88% of women who responded to IWG’s survey believe that the flexibility offered by hybrid working serves as an equaliser in the workplace. So what can business leaders do to help support women’s success?

Embracing opportunities in the hybrid era

It’s not hard to see the appeal of hybrid for women in particular. In the IWG study, 75% reported a better work-life balance thanks to hybrid working. While around half say it gives them more time to spend on personal passions, 44% also say it’s improved their mental health. Little wonder, then, that 72% said they would look for another role if their employer no longer offered a hybrid schedule.

The post-pandemic era is seeing signs of opportunity for women in the workplace, with more choosing to switch jobs and industries, and considering career changes that wouldn’t have been as possible previously. It’s the option to work more flexibly that’s enabling them to take the leap.

That said, there’s still work to be done to achieve equality in the workplace. Research by LeanIn Org and McKinsey & Company found that just one in four C-suite leaders is a woman, and just one in 20 is a woman of colour. At the point in their careers when they feel ready to step into a management role, for every 100 men who are promoted, just 87 women move up the ladder.

Seen in this light, hybrid is a powerful tool for equalising opportunities. As Traci Mabrey, the General Manager of Factiva at Dow Jones, notes in IWG's white paper: "The hybrid model has really been a game changer for women. It’s given us opportunities to find and execute our boundaries. While the idea of women ‘having it all’ is appealing, being a working woman is not about how much farther we can stretch ourselves between our work and personal lives. Hybrid work environments provide women with the space they need to say no, to delegate and to healthily compartmentalise.”

Supporting women’s success

Alongside offering hybrid working, here are some of the things your business can do to help support women’s success in the workplace.

1. Provide a clear pathway

First things first, you need to define what career progression looks like for the women in your business. “There must be a clear path for women so they can understand how to progress and believe that it’s possible for them,” advises Clar Rosso, CEO of (ISC)2

2. Development opportunities 

Secondly, ensure women have the opportunities they need to learn and grow. One-to-ones can be used to discuss development as well as projects; “The goal is to have conversations that are more developmentally focused, more frequently,” advises Gallup. “Asking employees to share the details of current project lists, how things are going and additional helpful context 48 hours before scheduled meetings allows [one-to-ones] to cover more ground than just ticking through a project list,” they add.

3. Mentoring 

Mentoring can be a valuable way to support women as their careers develop, and this can be from male allies as well as from the women leaders of today. “Many companies are already seeing the value in this new kind of leadership,” says Fatima Koning, IWG’s Group Chief Commercial Officer. “It’s all about looking for what you can bring out in someone, nurturing their potential and empowering them to grow.” 

4. Networking

While mentoring offers one-to-one support, providing plentiful opportunities for networking allows women to build relationships both in the office and beyond the workplace – both of which are especially important in a hybrid model. “Managers should encourage the women they lead to be intentional about cultivating their network and investing time and effort in relationship-building,” Gallup advises. “For example, women might consider letting on-site and other hybrid coworkers know when they will be in the office or scheduling time to meet with others face-to-face when possible to help nurture relationships.”

5. Recognition

In a hybrid work model, it’s important to ensure that ‘out of sight’ doesn’t mean ‘out of mind’ – and that includes making sure your efforts to recognise employees’ achievements aren’t subject to proximity bias. “Make it a point to seek out and celebrate accomplishments from other women, regardless of where or when they get their work done,” Gallup advises.

Closing the gender gap

Hybrid working – facilitated by local, flexible workspaces – has a crucial role to play in helping to address gender imbalances. “IWG research shows that access to hybrid working is a factor in the making of major career decisions for women,” concludes Fatima Koning. “It facilitates a better work-life balance and opens up new opportunities for them.” The result is a fairer, more diverse workplace from which everyone benefits.

Discover how IWG can help your company move towards a hybrid model that supports women in the workplace, through access to 4000 flexible workspaces worldwide.