Is UC Helping Women Thrive in the 2020 Workplace?
We consider the role that UC plays
The debate about innate attributes vs social construction is always contentious, but regardless of the cause, the unarguable facts of the gender pay gap speak for themselves: Women in the UK still earn over 17% less than men doing work of equal value, and these figures remain in line with the US, Australia, France and many similar markets.
Recent research about remote working has produced some positive indications though, with research from Ultimate Software published in Workforce.com suggesting that it is women who are increasingly benefiting from the greater flexibility that the modern workforce offers — finding it easier to access career growth, and achieve work-life balance.
The career implications are contrary to a prevailing narrative about remote work, suggesting that visibility can be a problem on hybrid teams in particular, and that out of sight can indeed be out of mind, when it comes to consideration for professional development and promotions.
Playing to strengths in communication
But it seems that women are using the tools the collaborative workplace gives them to deepen connections across the virtual space, and maintain effective communication with their colleagues — including HR.
As the report author Annmarie Neal indicates,
“Our research found that women who work remotely were twice as likely to report proactively leveraging HR to resolve issues, when compared with in-office women”
“This gap did not exist between in-office men and remote men. Meanwhile, women who work from home were also more likely to feel confident that HR understands their needs and concerns — 67 percent agree or strongly agree that HR is aware of their needs, versus 57 percent of in-office women. Men tended to be even more confident — 73 percent of in-office and 72 percent of remote male workers agree or strongly agree.”
Women surveyed were also more likely than men to report a promotion in the past 12 months if they were working remotely (57% of remote women vs 35% of colocated women).
In support of the stereotype, there is much documented work to indicate that women’s communication strengths are naturally collaborative and intuitive, making more use of interpretation and nuance. In the remote workspace, it’s easy for the dialogue to end up being “all about the work”, and this can disadvantage the relationship-building and connection, which is fundamental to team emotional intelligence and motivation.
The greater tendency of women to communicate more broadly around a subject, and to value the nuanced feedback of verbal and non-verbal responses, creates natural advantages in leveraging the multi-modal functionality of unified communications in the modern workplace. Perhaps women are more likely to pick up the phone to complete a conversation which has stalled into misunderstandings in a text exchange, or to fire up a videocall where they can look the other party directly in the eye, and resolve things positively and rapidly.
This suggests that it’s not enough for organisations to simply provide the latest UC tools to their teams, but that responsibility for modelling appropriate use starts at the top — and ensuring that men and women with their respective communication styles are involved with decision-making about UC deployment, and developing communications policies which work for all.
As Neale concludes:
“Leadership has a particular responsibility to ensure a company weathers these changes by supporting all employees. A workplace revolution is coming. In many ways, it’s already started. Leadership must look inward to ensure their company is on the right side of that shift”