You don’t have to be a Human Resources professional to observe the dynamic shift in workplace culture since the onset of the COVID 19 pandemic. This change will have long-lasting and perhaps permanent implications. Employees who may have never imagined a ‘work from home’ environment have been thrust into an unfamiliar situation and quickly. Employers are now rethinking their business models, literally from the ground up. Companies worldwide are taking the leap to restructure teams to include more (or even all) remote workers in an effort to realize significant cost savings and improve hiring and retention efforts. 

The employment landscape is shifting rapidly, and this phenomenon will have untold impacts on the workforce. However, it is clear that the majority of people would prefer to retain a remote work option if given the opportunity. According to Prudential’s Pulse of the American Worker Survey in March 2021, “a year into the pandemic, 68% of American workers say having the ability to work both remotely and at the worksite is the ideal workplace model [and] 87% want to keep working remotely at least one day a week once the pandemic subsides.”

I migrated last year from the federal government sector, and “work-from-home” was not in my vocabulary. I sought an opportunity with SafeGuard Cyber for precisely this reason, and specifically to bring balance once and for all to both my work and family life. I hoped that a transition to the ‘tech space’ would present a new and unique type of culture in addition to a predominantly remote work environment. Fortunately, I have not been disappointed. For the first time in my professional career, I can feel the ‘mom guilt’ subsiding (somewhat). While it has been incredibly challenging to manage work and home life under one roof, it has also been more fulfilling than I could have imagined. While the lines between work and home have blurred undeniably, the vision of meeting employer and family needs simultaneously is finally within reach, and I could not be more grateful. 

Considering the significance of this moment, it is important to observe the intersection between this new remote world and the 4th industrial revolution. The World Economic Forum observes that this revolution “represents a fundamental change in how we live, work and relate to one another. It is a new chapter in human development, enabled by extraordinary technology advances commensurate with those of the first, second, and third industrial revolutions…[and that it] is about more than just technology-driven change; it is an opportunity to help everyone, including leaders, policy-makers and people from all income groups and nations, to harness converging technologies in order to create an inclusive, human-centered future.” Notably, the COVID 19 remote work shift has expedited this revolution exponentially. While this fact underscores the importance and urgency around cybersecurity initiatives, the convergence is also enormously meaningful to diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. 

Experts observe that two of the most significant areas of concern due to this revolution are growing inequality and adverse impact on human identity, voice, and community. Exacerbating the issue, women have “borne the brunt of the pandemic-related job losses and have stepped away from careers to care for children suddenly out of school. The result is a lower labor force participation rate not seen since 1988.” What if thought leaders could see this moment in time for what it could be, the perfect collision of human invention (tech revolution) and destiny (pandemic), harnessed to actively and aggressively propel “an inclusive, human-centered future?” This could be the moment where ‘inclusivity’ accounts for women, caregivers, and single parents struggling to balance family dynamics against career aspirations, creating a more even playing field. How could this workplace shift create an opportunity for work-life balance to be realistic? 

The tech industry is regularly at the forefront of change, namely workplace trends and retention standards. History has proven, where the tech space leads, others will follow in order to remain competitive -- what if the space leveraged the moment to drive increased equality within the workplace? What are some ways that women and leaders in tech can drive this discussion starting today? Here are a few ideas...

  1. Increase focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, especially on hiring women right now
  2. Initiate cross-sectional groups (like ‘Vision and Voice’) across the industry to synchronize like-minded efforts; our collective networks can move mountains when working together
  3. Source from ‘outside-of-the-box’ candidate pools to welcome new and inexperienced talent into the industry; this is one of tech’s biggest obstacles to a diverse workforce and the “turnover tsunami” presents boundless opportunity
  4. Create employer brands and cultures built on the idea that work should fit well within your life, not the other way around
  5. Emphasize wellness, balance, resilience, protection of boundaries between work and home, and flexible work schedule offerings 
  6. Empower remote employees rather than micromanaging them, remote workers tend to be more productive on average; leaders may often assume the opposite is true, which breeds mistrust and adversely affects culture
  7. Spotlight and celebrate (through awards and recognition programs) employees who effectively prioritize self-care, wellness, balance and resilience rather than those who ‘live-to-work’
  8. Ensure that leaders ‘walk the walk’ by demonstrating the aforementioned behaviors at work and in their personal lives, openly and transparently

As women (or supporters of women) in tech, we have done a LOT of pioneering over the past several decades. It is no mystery that breaking down barriers is hard work, and there is no shortage of women leaders in our industry to thank for their hard-earned progress. It is also true, however, that the work is not done, and we cannot afford to lose ground. Let us all take this moment to lift others to more equal footing and propel positive change around us.

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