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Commute This Baby: Is The ‘Work From Home’ Ban a Fuss About Nothing For Working Women?


Before we women start burning our bras – via skype as a show of telecommuting solidarity – there’s just a few things that are important to know…


Melissa Mayer is about as embattled as the ailing company she was brought in to save. First we rush to her defence as she is criticized for even considering taking the role of CEO of Yahoo while pregnant. Then, in a firm 180 degree turn we get all mad when she states she is only taking a few weeks off after giving birth. When she said that her baby was ‘easy’ millions of mommy-bloggers’ around the world simply imploded with rage.

[W]e don’t have a lot of other pregnant Fortune 500 superstars to look to, so we held you up as a role model and now we worry that you’re modeling the wrong thing.

Lisa Belkin, Huffington Post

Now she is back in the news for rescinding the right for Yahoo employees to telecommute and with that the word is out because retail giant BestBuy decided to partially f0llow suit.

But, before we women start burning our bra’s – via skype as a show of telecommuting solidarity – its actually important to know that, in reality, slightly more men are losing their extra hour of sleep and cushy home office than women. In fact, the Daily Beast reported that:

According to the Families and Work Institute’s nationally representative study of the U.S. workforce…men actually have more access to telecommuting than women [and] are also more likely (4%) to work mainly from home compared with women (2%).

Add to that the fact that, if Yahoo is reflective of the IT sector, only 25% of its entire workforce is female. This isn’t exactly a statistical blow to womenkind.

All in all, telecommuting seems to be a bit of a catch-22. As the Daily Beast reports, the reason why women are unrepresented in the ‘stay-at-home’ category is because these kind of telecommuting opportunities are typically only available to those higher up the pecking order. Those jobs are typically going to men. On the other hand, other research suggests that:

[B]eing present at the workplace gives an employee an important edge. When bosses and co-workers see an employee at work, they tend to think more highly of that person. And their evaluation is even more favorable if the sighting is after normal business hours.

Professor Kimberly Elsbach, Graduate School of Management, UC Davis

In other words, telecommuting could actually damage your career opportunities and limit your job security. In fact, one telecommuter reports that he has to go to great lengths to over-communicate how great he is. Given that self-promotion is already a problem for many women in the workplace, surely telecommuting is the worst idea for a woman that wants to get ahead.

Having a feminist freakout over Melissa Mayer’s edict seems to be a little like a child having a tantrum when you take away a broken toy. Yes it’s a loss, but its statistically insignificant and, in the long run, could actually do us some good.

So grow up girls…

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