The downside of remote work for women

The women's workforce has largely benefitted from the pandemic-spurred surge in remote work offerings. Millions of mothers with young children who left the workforce in 2020 found balance with the ability to work from home, and there are now more women in the labor force than ever. 

But working from home could hurt women, not just help them, management consulting firm Korn Ferry recently argued. As men return to the office and women stay remote, the latter may be less visible for advancement opportunities. 

On an average day in 2022, 41 percent of women worked remotely at least part of the time, according to a survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Only 28 percent of men reported still working partially remote. 

This 13-point difference is notable, considering it was only a 4-point difference in 2019 — and it could carry unintended consequences, according to Kristi Drew, a senior client partner and global account leader in Korn Ferry's financial services practice. 

"I think one of the obvious considerations is unconscious location bias," Ms. Drew said, noting that men may be "more visible and top of mind for key assignments."

Organizations should recognize the gap between the number of men and women working from home, according to the firm. They should explicitly state promotion criteria and ensure it is based on performance, not "face time." 

And women can enhance their visibility by pushing for more difficult, important assignments, advised Ms. Drew. 

"In many cases, women already have to work harder, or perhaps more accurately, smarter, to ensure they are seen as equal contributors," Ms. Drew said. 

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