The Coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a sudden shift in millions of people transitioning overnight from working in an office to remote working. Now more than ever employers and employees are engaging in conversations surrounding the benefits, challenges and future of remote work in many industries, including tech.
Aside from the obvious benefits of saving money on the daily commute, the flexibility to achieve a better work-life balance, and reducing your carbon footprint, remote working has the potential to genuinely increase diversity in the technology sector.
It’s no secret that the technology industry is suffering from a gender gap. And it’s not a case of women not wanting to have a career in the industry, but more a case of the traditional office set-up, so common in the industry, preventing a huge proportion of women from realistically pursuing a career in tech.
The beauty of remote working is that it offers a practical solution to retaining more women in tech. Research from PwC recently discovered that just under 30,000 women who return to the workforce on a part-time basis, after career breaks following the birth of their child or other reasons, will be underemployed. The research also found that these women would prefer to work more hours if flexible or remote working opportunities were possibilities.
The more employers put flexible working policies in place, including the option to work remotely, the more progress can be made in narrowing the gender gap currently holding the tech industry back from essential growth.
A report looking into people with disabilities in employment released last year revealed that people with disabilities have an employment rate of 28.6 percentage points lower than people without disabilities.
Many offices and workplaces can be unwelcoming and impractical places for people with disabilities, making it far more difficult for them to succeed in the workplace than people without disabilities. For the tech industry, this is a big problem because it means a lot of businesses are missing out on the untapped talent pool of people with disabilities. Remote working can help increase diversity and inclusion because it levels the playing field by removing the necessity to not only commute to work, but to navigate the working environment.
Geographic location is often a factor holding companies back from achieving better diversity and inclusion. If an office is located in an area where nearby house prices are high, people who have the skills and ability to work in tech, but who simply cannot afford to live within a commutable distance to the office, are automatically denied the opportunity that someone more well off with the same skills may have access to.
As highlighted in a recent Medium article exploring the correlation between the tech industry becoming more expensive and a downturn in diversity, the majority of big tech companies are located in some of the most expensive places to live around the world. One of the biggest advantages of remote work is how the necessity to relocate for the job is no longer a factor, and when that factor is removed the talent pool is automatically much broader for employers.
Remote and flexible working has the potential to be a game-changer for the future of diversity in tech. For minority groups such as working and expectant mothers, people with disabilities as well as a whole host of people from disadvantaged economic backgrounds remote working levels the playing field enabling them to realistically compete for a job in tech.