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Working from home is a better deal for men than women, survey indicates

Sharing parenting duties and workspaces
Sharing parenting duties and workspaces 02:25

Working from home has its merits. Think indoor attire, no distracting coworkers or long commutes. But working where you live, as many Americans now are because of the coronavirus, appears to be more beneficial to men than women. 

Nearly twice as many men as women — 57% compared to 29% — say that working from home has positively affected their careers, according to a recent study from Qualtrics, a survey company, and the Boardlist, an organization that connects candidates with global board opportunities. 

Male workers report being more productive while working from home, too: 70% of them say their productivity has increased since the start of the pandemic, compared to 41% of women who say they've seen similar improvements.

Jobs as a share of "work" pie

The study's results reflect a gender gap that has long existed, but appears to have intensified since the pandemic forced offices, schools and daycare centers to close.

That's in part because women disproportionately bear other work responsibilities, including household chores and taking care of children. 

"In addition to a job, [working from home] includes household chores and childcare and education for children. But a much more significant portion of that pie for men is the job component," said Boardlist CEO Shannon Gordon. "That is what is driving more men to feel like they're more productive at work. They are now allocating all of their hours toward it, having removed the commute and distractions at the office." 

Workers who are parents now bear dual responsibilities of doing their jobs and caring for their children, and that responsibility disproportionately falls on the shoulders of women. Kathleen Gerson, a professor of sociology at New York University who focuses on gender and work, said the results reflect a persistent gender gap made more acute by the pandemic.

"In a two-parent home where both parents are working remotely, the father is much more likely to be able to carve out that private space to get work done," Gerson said.  

Same storm, different boat

Katie B. Garner, the executive director of the International Association of Maternal Action, who focuses on motherhood, childcare and labor equality, said that even she found herself pulling back on work this spring while taking care of her three young children. 

"As much as I want to fight the system, it's still going on in my own house," said Garner. "I wound up taking two months off of work, because my job wasn't the one paying the bills." 

Instead, she found herself managing her kids' homeschooling and retooling the family's home environment, while her self-employed husband focused his time on his job. Garner's hopeful, though, that upheaval ushered in by the pandemic will eventually lead to different ways of working "that will help women long-term," she said.

No face time

Study after study shows that women take on a disproportionate share of housework. But there's another dynamic at play, which is that in some workplaces, optics still matter. 

Among parents, fathers were three times as likely as mothers to say they've received a promotion while working remotely, according to the Boardlist survey.

"In traditional workplaces, it's not about what you produce, it's more about where you are, and if you aren't in the office, you may miss out on new projects or what's going on or a new strategy," said Mary Noonan, a professor of sociology at the University of Iowa, whose research focuses on gender and work.

Also concerning to experts is the fact that 26% of men with children at home say they've earned pay raises while working remotely, while only 13% of women with children at home say the same, according to the Boardlist survey.

"Women feel they have to go above and beyond to make it in the work world, and feel like anything they do off the norm will hurt them twice as hard," Noonan said. "The lack of face time hurts them more." 

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