Flex Your Work Muscle: Remote Jobs Pay Off For Women Leaders

The 19th century nursery rhyme may have honored  “the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker,” but 21st century remote jobs feature workers in every field from freelance writers to engineers, travel agents, sales directors and many more.And remote work —that is now close to half of the workforce in this country— is having an impact on gender equity in the workplace, says FlexJobs’ CEO Sara Sutton Fell .During Women’s History Month, FlexJobs highlights 16 women-led companies hiring for remote jobs. According to the data, companies with majority-remote teams have a higher percentage of women in CEO/founder roles than traditional office-based companies.[bctt tweet=“Remote work now makes up close to half of the workforce in this country. And it’s having an impact on #genderequity in the workplace.” username=“takeleadwomen”]“Remote work is definitely a trend within the U.S. and globally,” Sutton Fell says.“Remote.co compiled the Mobile Minds report several years ago, which found that, in India, 53 percent of workers prefer to work from home. In the United States, 37 percent of all workers work remotely at least occasionally, up from 9 percent in 1995.”She adds, “The United Kingdom has 54 percent of its workers engaging in remote work. In developing countries, estimates show that between 10 and 20 percent of managers work remotely. And in the U.S., the most recent number is even more—43 percent.”In an earlier study, Remote.co, asked the women leaders of some of the most remote-friendly companies to weigh in on why remote work is preferable.  Their top reasons included more space to handle conflicting responsibilities; fewer trade-offs when maneuvering work and life priorities; no face time or “looking like” a leader; and a more level playing field for all professionals to balance work and life goals.The intersection between flex work and women in leadership is noteworthy.[bctt tweet=“The intersection between flex work and #womeninleadership is noteworthy.” username=“takeleadwomen”]Companies with majority remote teams seem to have a higher percentage of women in CEO or founder roles than traditional office-based companies: 28 percent of completely remote companies have either women CEOs, founders, or presidents and 19 percent have women CEOs.And while the myth is that remote work is the domain for new parents, older workers transitioning to a slower pace or caretakers, a survey of over 5,000 flexible job seekers FlexJobs in 2017 shows that only 35 percent of remote workers are working parents. A fourth, or 26 percent are freelancers; 21 percent are entrepreneurs and  15 percent are people living in rural areas.“It’s definitely a myth that flexibility is only for working parents, though they are one group that seeks it,” says Sutton Fell. “It also used to be assumed that flexibility was only for more seasoned professionals who’d already spent time working in an office, but we’re seeing a lot more variety in the experience levels required for flexible jobs and more entry-level opportunities.”The age breakdown for remote work is also surprising to some, who may think that it is all Gen Z or Millennials who are working at home. However, the greatest portion, or 41 percent, are Gen X workers, with 31 percent of remote workers identifying as Baby Boomers.While the numbers of men and women working remotely are about the same, more companies that have female founders or CEOs have a remote workforce.“Roughly the same number of men and women work remotely,” says Sutton Fell. Fifty two percent women and 48 percent men work remotely, according to the 2017 State of Telecommuting Report.“And that’s changed very little over the last decade. I think people assume there is a larger gender difference because women are more likely to be caregivers to children, elderly parents, etc., and so it’s assumed that they are more likely to seek out remote work opportunities. But the data shows that isn’t really the case,” Sutton Fell says.While those who have flexible jobs may praise the benefits, why would companies opt to have a flexible work force? That’s easy, Sutton Fell says.“For companies, there are big benefits. Companies see reduced turnoverimproved productivityreduced real estate and operating costsa lowered carbon footprint, better emergency preparedness, and more satisfied workers,” Sutton Fell says.“For recruiters and managers, flexible work helps them tap into new candidate pools to find the best talent regardless of location. And finally, flexible work allows companies to create a more diverse, inclusive workplace by hiring people for whom remote work is a must-have in order to work, like people with disabilities or health issues, military spouses, and others.”In other words, a flexible workplace may be a more fair workplace.[bctt tweet=“A flexible workplace may be a more fair workplace, opening opportunities to new candidate pools. #flexwork “ username=“takeleadwomen”]“Between our three sister sites, FlexJobs1 Million for Work Flexibility, and Remote.co, we offer people and companies support across the remote work spectrum. At FlexJobs, we connect job seekers who want flexible work options with the employers that offer them.1 Million for Work Flexibility advocates for flexible work options for all. And Remote.co is the only resource of its kind for remote companies, remote workers, and remote jobs,” Sutton Fell says.But how do you go about introducing flexible to your workplace, and making the case for your job to be flexible?Sutton Fell has five specific steps to take.

  1. Figure out the type of flexible work you want or need.

  2. Look around your office to see if others work flexibly and ask HR about the company’s flexible work policies.

  3. Draft a proposal and ask your manager for a meeting, where you’ll explain what you’re asking for. Include ideas for how this will work for you, your team, and your boss, and ways this will benefit the company by making you more productive and effective.

  4. Meet with your boss and share the details of your plan. Give them time to think about it and don’t expect an answer right away.

  5. If you see hesitation or are told “no,” ask for a trial period to test out the idea.

And if you do succeed in having your job become flexible or introducing it company-wide, Sutton Fell offers support.This set of suggestions aligns with Power Tool #2 in the 9 Leadership Power Tools created by Gloria Feldt, co-founder and president of Take The Lead. “Define Your Own Terms—First, Before Anyone Else Does,”  is the second power tool. Feldt continues, “Whoever sets the terms of the debate usually wins. By redefining power not as ‘Power-Over.’ but as ‘Power-To’ we shift from a culture of oppression to a culture of positive intention to make things better for everyone. ‘Power-To’ is leadership.”