As we continue to talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion in all aspects of life, a new dynamic has emerged. With more people than ever working from home, increased focus has been placed on how working remotely, if done correctly and with intention, can increase diversity in the workplace and expand opportunities for workers who have barriers to working in person.
Some companies find that remote working helps eliminate location bias, which allows them to recruit employees from a much larger pool and in turn increase their workforce’s geographic diversity. It also compels companies to be intentional about cultivating a sense of belonging within the company and to focus on how new employees add to the culture of the company. Rather than expecting new hires to fit into the established company culture, they can feel more free to bring new ideas and viewpoints to the table — an important mindset for hiring and retaining diverse employees.
While most employers wouldn’t knowingly create a hostile work environment, more and more companies — including most Fortune 100 companies — are specifically adding rules that promote inclusivity to their nondiscrimination policies, according to the Human Rights Campaign. These policies often now include protections for gender identity and expression. Remote work can remove barriers for transgender people and people with disabilities, allowing them time and space to come out with a very personal expression. For some transgender people, working from home can ease the process of coming out to their co-workers.
“I could make a statement that was vulnerable and uncomfortable in the safety of my office here at home, and then I could step away from the computer for a little bit and calm down,” said River Bailey in a recent Wall Street Journal interview. Bailey said she was unsure if she would have come out as transgender at work if not for the ability to work from home.
Remote working also removes workplace barriers for people living with disabilities. Commuting to work can be difficult, complicated and even dangerous for people with disabilities. Many workplaces aren’t designed with disabled folks in mind and can make navigating an office challenging. From modified training tools or assistive technology for the visually impaired, to stairs or other physical barriers for those who have mobility concerns, or even ADA-compliant accomodations like rest breaks and flexible schedules that could seem very public in a traditional office, workplaces can contain impediments that could prevent those with disabilities from succeeding. Working from home in an environment that suits each person individually empowers them to do their best work.
Robert F. Smith — Founder, Chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners — has long been an advocate for increasing diversity in the workplace. He proposed that leaders ensure at least 50% of incoming intern classes come from diverse backgrounds, an important step in ensuring companies are more representative of the communities they serve. Vista Equity Partners also joined other top companies in an initiative pledging to create and post five board seats dedicated to women and marginalized candidates.
“This is the right way to empower corporations to make strides towards equality of opportunity,” Smith said. “Vista proudly joins Diligent and its partners in taking this critical step along the path toward a more just and equitable future.”
Learn more about the best ways for companies to use remote working to increase diversity and equity in the workplace.