Report: Women in tech say COVID-19 is holding them back

Kaspersky finds the global pandemic has not impacted all tech workers equally, illustrating how the playing field for professionals is still uneven.

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Image: iStock/ JoaBal

As COVID-19 continues to upend the working world, with lockdowns forcing employees to work from home, research has begun to focus on the impact of the new work environment on remote workers. The upshot? The pandemic has not affected all workers equally. 

Women in tech have been hurt by the changes brought on by COVID-19, according to a new report released on Tuesday from Kaspersky. The report, which surveyed 6,500 women across the globe, illustrates the way that the pandemic has been viewed as detrimental to career progress for many women in tech. Specifically, roughly half of women surveyed believe it has hurt them, professionally. And with 95% of women in tech working from home at least part time since March 2020, the report has significant implications for tech professionals. 

The new report offers a contrast to some predictions that life in quarantine could help even the playing field for business professionals. Some thought that remote work would mean that families might more evenly distribute work at home, or that traditional barriers to success might be removed in a work environment characterized by Zoom meetings. 

SEE: COVID-19 workplace policy (TechRepublic Premium)

In fact, the report, "Where are we now? Understanding the evolution of women in technology," does show that nearly half of women surveyed believe that gender equality can be achieved via remote work environments. And a third of women say that they prefer working from home. A third of women surveyed believe they have more independence working from home, and many reported that they are working more efficiently.

This is to say that the findings do not mean, necessarily that working remotely, itself, is the cause of perceived career stalling for women. A deeper look at the report shows that it may be the added stresses of juggling home and career that have come down more heavily on women than their male counterparts, according to half of the women surveyed. Specifically, 77% of American women in tech report that they do most of the house cleaning, and a vast majority, 78%, also say they are responsible for their children's education—which has been a huge challenge for many families, because of school shutdowns and other obstacles caused by the pandemic.

"The effect of the pandemic broadly differed for women. Some appreciated the greater flexibility and lack of commute from working at home, whilst others shared that they were on the verge of burnout," said Patricia Gestoso, head of scientific customer support at BIOVIA, in the report. "It's paramount that companies ensure their managers are aligned with their strategy to support employees with caregiving responsibilities."

In particular, a combination of remote and hybrid workers may also mean that women have "less access to top management working from offices," Gestoso added, which can put them at a disadvantage when it comes to career progress.  

These findings are in line with TechRepublic's previous reporting, in particular, an interview with Nancy Wang, founder and CEO of a nonprofit called Advancing Women in Product. Specifically, Wang noted how crucial having mentors is to career advancement, and how, especially under COVID-19, women were hurt by the forced isolation.

"Companies need to signal, both through culture and policy, that they will give working parents of both genders the flexibility they need during COVID (and beyond)," Merici Vinton, co-founder and CEO at Ada's List, said in the press release from Kaspersky.

"Companies need to understand that representation does matter and having women in leadership, majority-women teams and women in interviews demonstrates that there's space for women in their company," Vinton said. "Finally, we see lots of successful companies' partner with external women's organisations who can challenge you, push you forward, and also provide external inspiration for your employees."

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