How does remote work affect early-career women in computing?

Jessica Hair, Jaelle Scheuerman, Gürkan Solmaz, Pam Wisniewski

A recent survey of early-career computing professionals found that although many people benefit from the flexibility of remote work, many groups, particularly women and minorities, face challenges while working remotely. A volunteer team from the ACM Future of Computing Academy (FCA) explored the impacts of the new era of remote work after COVID-19 on early-career computing professionals. They conducted a survey to understand how remote work affects many aspects of early-career computing professionals’ personal and work lives, including their productivity, mental health, and well-being. The survey also asked how working remotely is impacting the usability, accessibility, privacy, security, diversity, and inclusion of work environments. The survey was completed in July 2020 with 253 respondents, 39.3% of which identify as women. Some questions asked people to rank how positively, or negatively, they felt about various aspects of remote work. Other questions were open-ended, asking respondents to highlight the most significant impacts of remote work.

Survey responses indicated that remote work affects people in a variety of different ways. When asked to rank how positively remote work impacted diversity and inclusion efforts, 36% of women reported seeing a positive effect on diversity and inclusion compared to men, of whom only 12% reported positive effects on diversity and inclusion. Respondents mentioned benefits, such as how flexible work hours and reduced commutes have allowed them to spend more time with family. Others noted the benefits of virtual conferences and meetings for diversity and inclusion efforts. Participants also mentioned many drawbacks faced by women in remote work. Video calls and chat rooms made some women feel isolated and unheard. Mothers faced many challenges juggling child-care with work. For example, some noted that some decision-making meetings were scheduled during times they were unavailable due to child care. 

Overall, the survey highlighted that while many people benefited from remote work, many experienced drawbacks as well. As many organizations begin implementing long-term remote work, it is vital that they carefully design their remote work policies and environments to address the unique challenges faced by early-career professionals and women. 

A blog series describing the insights gathered from the survey, including the benefits and drawbacks of remote work and recommendations for coping with the major challenges, can be found on Medium at: https://medium.com/p/5d7ed50c923/.