It stands to reason that continued workplace improvements could entice even more women to enter the workforce. But it’s also clear that more changes are needed. “While our research shows some glimpses of improvement for women in the workplace over the past year, it also illuminates the work that remains,” Emma Codd, Deloitte’s global inclusion leader, says in a news release. “We’re seeing a worsening picture when it comes to critical workplace aspects, such as mental-health support.”
Women say access to mental-health services through work is worse than last year, and 53 per cent say they’re more stressed out than before. They’re also struggling to keep thoughts about their jobs from leaking into their personal time, with 34 per cent saying they’re having difficulty “switching off,” compared to 45 per cent last year. At the same time, many are single-handedly doing the bulk of the household chores, such as cleaning, cooking and caring for children. That extra burden could be one reason why many say they’re letting their partners’ careers take priority over their own, which can hold women back financially and exacerbate the gender pay gap. In 2021, women earned 89 cents for every dollar men made, Statistics Canada says.
Even though some aspects of hybrid work are getting better, issues remain. For example, women say they’re not getting clear communication from managers about when they’re expected at the office, and more than one-third say they don’t have predictable schedules. Flexibility remains a major pain point, with 30 per cent saying they don’t have enough, compared to just 11 per cent last year.
Women have repeatedly made it clear that flexibility is no longer a want, but a need, so a push for workers to be at their office desks at least three or four days a week risks alienating a key part of the workforce. Deloitte’s research pegs poor flexibility as the main reason why some women quit their jobs. Yet the stigma around such policies is also an issue, as 98 per cent of women worry that asking for or adopting a flexible schedule will reduce their chances of getting a promotion.
Despite these fears, employers that offer adaptive schedules reap the benefits. For example, 56 per cent of women who have high flexibility at work say they’re planning to stay at their jobs for the next three to five years, while only 36 per cent of those without flexibility say the same. Other research has also proven that women stay loyal to employers that give them the ability to adjust their hours or work location as needed. Catherine Clark, co-founder of podcast The Honest Talk, goes so far as to say that flexibility “is critical for keeping women in the workforce.”
It’s a message that is being heeded by corporate leaders, including some of remote work’s biggest critics. JPMorgan Chase & Co. chief executive Jamie Dimon, who has said working from home “doesn’t work,” also says it can “help women” and has called on other executives to bake flexibility into their policies. “Modify your company to help women stay home a little,” he said in January.
But companies that want female employees to succeed shouldn’t put the focus solely on offering adaptable hours and work locations. Addressing equity on a broader scale is also necessary, and creates benefits for employers. Deloitte’s study found that businesses that make gender equality a priority have more productive and engaged employees. Plus, staffers report greater work-life balance and career satisfaction.
“It’s not only the right thing to do,” says Michele Parmelee, Deloitte’s global deputy chief executive and chief people and purpose officer, “but it’s a win-win for leaders to cultivate an inclusive culture where all women are set up to thrive.”