In honour of International Women’s Day (IWD), which was celebrated across the world on March 8, 2023, this March piece is dedicated to women in the workforce.
IWD is a global day that celebrates the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The United Nations’ theme for IWD 2023 was “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality”. This year’s theme was focused on innovation, technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.
Digital technology has enabled many possibilities in the working world, including flexibility with remote work, improved work-life balance, and increased productivity. Amidst the pandemic and throughout the post-recovery period, there have been major shifts in workplace cultures and expectations.
McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace 2022 report found that women leaders are switching jobs at unprecedented rates. Despite improvements in representation, women are still dramatically underrepresented at the leadership level in corporate roles. The two main barriers to achieving gender equality at the leadership levels are (1) the broken rung at the first step up to manager and (2) women leaders leaving their companies at high rates. The report noted that digital technology, and in particular having the choice to work remotely, is an important factor in women’s job satisfaction.
Despite the benefits that adopting remote and hybrid work options can bring to women in the workforce, these ways of working may also create new challenges for women and gender equality. For example, research has found that women with kids are evaluated worse than men with kids when they decide to work remotely, which may lead to career penalties such as being passed over for promotions.
According to research from the Women in the Workplace 2022 report, companies that are navigating the shift to remote and hybrid work should focus efforts in five main areas. Firstly, companies should share guidelines for remote work that outline expectations, such as specific windows during which meetings can be scheduled. Secondly, companies should gather regular feedback from employees on their remote and hybrid work systems. Thirdly, companies should invest in fostering employee connectedness to ensure that all employees feel included and that events are accessible. Fourthly, companies should be purposeful about in-person work. Lastly, companies should ensure that employees who choose remote or hybrid work options get the same support and opportunities as on-site employees.
As digital technology continues to enable flexibility within the working world, new shifts in workplace cultures and expectations will be inevitable. All employees benefit when workplaces leverage digital technologies in ways that support healthy and supportive remote/hybrid work environments. In particular, it is important that workplaces in the digital age adopt efforts to support gender equality and empowerment of all women.
Jane Huang is a corporate lawyer in the Business Law group at Miller Thomson. She is developing a commercial law practice with an emphasis on marketing and advertising, franchising, product regulatory, privacy, transportation, and intellectual property matters. Jane is registered with the College of Patent and Trademark Agents as a trademark agent-in-training.
Prior to becoming a lawyer, she gained business development experience at a tech startup and was part of the investment team at a venture capital fund. Jane graduated with a science degree from the University of Toronto and a law degree from Western University. While in law school, Jane was co-president of the Western Health Law Association and served as a teaching assistant for a 1L legal research, writing, and advocacy course.
In her spare time, Jane enjoys taking dance classes, admiring art, listening to podcasts, trying different kinds of food, and perfecting her skincare routine.