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The Work-From-Home Revolution Is Also a Trap for Women

They’ve gained all the perks that come with flexibility, but have also become one-woman safety nets.

For many women, the work-from-home revolution has felt, for the first time, as if they might just be able to reach that mythical place of having it all. Women love the reduced or nonexistent commuting times; they love spending less time on their physical appearance and less money on their wardrobe. Hard-charging working mothers love that they can arrange their days to volunteer for their kids’ bake sale between Zoom meetings, dissolving that invisible line with the stay-at-home crowd. Women of color love not being exhausted from working in close physical proximity with White people and their microaggressions. I can’t tell you the number of women who’ve told me what a relief it is avoid going through pregnancy and postpartum in the often very masculine space of the physical office. Women like making their own lunches without others’ commentaries on them. They like being able to use their own bathrooms.

Extensive survey data have repeatedly revealed as much, as do the hundreds of interviews I’ve conducted with women about work scenarios over the past two years. Some mothers in intense, male-dominated industries such as finance or law or with older leadership teams feel pressure to go into the office more than they’d like. A woman whose staff is almost entirely female, told me that the push to physically show up isn’t coming from her manager, or even the CEO, but the board, which is composed of people whose years of parenting young children are far in the rearview mirror. But overall, if a company is offering flexible work, women are taking it. One 2021 study found that 60% of women say that if their company attempts to force them back into the office full time, they will look for employment elsewhere. For women, flexibility itself is no longer just a perk but indispensable.