Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, tech companies including Facebook and Twitter have been bullish about remote work, arguing that letting people work from anywhere could open up new opportunities for people who don't live inside the Silicon Valley bubble.
But a new survey by theBoardlist and Qualtrics, shared exclusively with Protocol, shows that the perks of remote work aren't evenly felt by all — especially working moms. According to the data, working moms were more likely than working dads to say working remotely has negatively affected their careers during the pandemic, while working dads were significantly more likely than working moms to say they've recently received a raise, promotion or increase in responsibilities.
The findings, based on a July survey of 1,000 salaried employees who are working or recently furloughed in the United States, align with reports that COVID-19 is prompting the country's first female recession. Women are disproportionately losing their jobs compared to men, and mothers with young children are cutting their hours four to five times more than working dads. While much of that research has focused on how women have had to leave the workforce, theBoardlist's findings illuminate the impact this period has had on parents who are still very much in it.
The survey asked working parents and non-parents how the pandemic affected their productivity. It found that a whopping 77% of men with children at home reported they were more productive while working at home, compared to just 46% of women with children at home.
There were stark differences between the perks, including raises and promotions, that men with children at home received compared to women with children at home.
The dads were significantly more likely than the moms to say they were more productive because they had fewer distractions while working at home. By contrast, the working moms were more likely to say they were less productive because of all of the distractions at home.
Women with children at home also reported more stress during the pandemic than women without children at home: 46% compared to 34%. But despite experiencing more upside working remotely, it was the working dads who reported experiencing the most stress of all. Some 71% of men with children at home reported higher stress levels during the pandemic.
To Shannon Gordon, CEO of theBoardlist, which helps companies find women and underrepresented minorities to serve on their boards, this gap speaks to the fact that women may be more used to dividing their lives between work and child care. "Men are now at home and experiencing that a little bit more," she said. "Like anything new, that can drive additional stress."
Still, while 71% of men said working from home for an extended period would have a positive impact on their careers, only 31% of women said the same.
Curiously, however, working parents of both genders had a far brighter outlook on working from home than people without children at home. More than 68% said that working from home has affected their careers positively; that figure was a slightly lower 57% for working moms. By contrast, 71% of people with no children at home said remote work affected their careers negatively. That may be due to the fact that respondents with no kids at home skewed older, Qualtrics said, and therefore, may have had a tougher time transitioning to remote work.
For theBoardlist, an organization that started with the explicit purpose of getting more women into corporate boardrooms, these stats suggest that as parents take on more responsibility at home in an era of remote work, women will bear the brunt of the consequences. "I recognize the danger of the number of hours we all work correlating with career advancement," Gordon said. "I worry about a widening gap in career advancement between the two genders."