Hybrid working helps women into senior management roles

The widespread adoption of hybrid working has opened the door for women to apply for senior positions within their companiesThe widespread adoption of hybrid working has opened the door for women to apply for senior positions within their companies, according to a new report released ahead of International Women’s Day. IWG’s 2024 report Advancing Equality: Women in the Hybrid Workplace, based on research among more than 1,000 female hybrid workers, found that flexible working had allowed over half (53 percent) to pursue promotions or apply for more senior roles  – which, in an encouraging move for advancing equality, rises to more than three in five (61 percent) of women from minority backgrounds. For almost three quarters (73 percent) of women in minority groups, flexible working has opened up new opportunities that they would not have had otherwise.

Two thirds (67 percent) said that hybrid work, which supports a number of the UN’s Sustainable Development goals including the advancement of equality across gender and healthcare, discrimination and economic growth, had helped to level the playing field for career progression, while 70 percent think that flexible working has made their job more inclusive. The data covers women who are part of at least one minority group, which includes those who identify as LGBTQIA+, disabled or as coming from an ethnic minority background.

Nine in 10 (86 percent) of those with a mobility disability (78 percent) said that hybrid working has made office-based jobs more viable for them, while 61 percent agreed that it has made their job more inclusive.

For the overwhelming majority of women (89 percent), hybrid working also has helped facilitate a better balance between work responsibilities and family commitments thanks to more flexible working accelerating the creation of more 15-minute cities, allowing them to work closer to home. Women are saving valuable time on their lengthy commutes, and as a result, over a third (38 percent) said that hybrid working has given them more time to pursue personal passions outside of work.

As a result, the report shows an increasing number of women are making significant career decisions – such as changing jobs and switching industries – motivated by flexible working arrangements and the better work-life balance it can offer.

In pursuit of flexible working arrangements, many have changed sectors altogether with two in five (43 percent) of women overall saying that hybrid working has enabled them to move into their new industry. Women from minority groups report that this career growth comes from hybrid working enabling them to be more productive and efficient (44 percent), helping them learn more about other roles at their company (49 percent) and increasing their visibility with senior leadership (32 percent).

Of those that said they suffer from mental ill health, three in 10 (27 percent) experienced improved mental health as a result of working in a hybrid manner, with 70 percent agreeing that hybrid work had positively impacted their career growth trajectory as a result. Additional benefits included saved commuting costs (38 percent) and increased productivity (24 percent), while 7 percent even said hybrid working had allowed them to get a pet.

A previous study from IWG identified hybrid working as a crucial strategy for HR leaders in the UK to attract and retain talent. This is especially relevant for female employees, with 40 percent indicating that a lack of flexibility was a decisive factor in leaving their former job. This is supported by academic research from Professor Bloom, a Stanford economics professor and world-renowned expert on hybrid working, who says that companies that offer this kind of flexibility can expect to see quit rates decline by as much as 35 percent.