As women climb into the leadership ranks of major companies, writers, politicians, pundits and policy wonks have been paying more attention to a deep inequality—working mothers, at all professional levels, usually end up juggling the lion’s share of housework and familial duties alongside their careers. (Lean in! Lean out!) Even President Obama has felt it important to acknowledge that women are still undervalued in business.
Telecommuting has been floated as one possible solution, which would allow working women to literally juggle the laptop and the baby. But a recent study shows that even here men have women beat—more men than woman are capitalizing on the ability to work from home.
Vickie Elmer at Quartz cites to a recent study by the Flex+Strategy Group that found that 36 percent of men work from home, compared to only 23 percent of women. These results are corroborated by a Harris Interactive poll conducted last year.
Why aren’t women taking advantage of the ability to work from anywhere? Elmer spoke with Cali Williams Yost, the author of two books, Tweak It and Work+Life: Finding the Fit That’s Right for You. Yost says that it’s not just a matter of deciding to work from home. A company has to decide that flexibility is going to be a part of its policy and offer that option to both men and women. Elmer writes:
She thinks women may be reluctant to request work from home arrangements, fearing they will be shunted onto the “mommy track.” Her survey results show women are more likely to work in open floor plan and cubicles in workplaces, the same group that said they were least likely to use flexibility.
And women who do choose those more flexible schedule are often punished, according to a Harvard study that found that companies tend to reward people who stay late and work long continuous hours, over those who chose the flexible schedule—even if those two employees are equally productive.
Essentially, most companies don’t make it easy for anybody to work from home, and those who do have that option are often punished for using it. So while telecommuting is a great thing — it’s not going to magically make the pressures on working moms go away.