Resolving the gender-gap in the workforce through a more flexible approach

Manal Abdelshafy
Tuesday 28 Mar 2023

Theresa J. Whitmarsh, former CEO of the Washington State Investment Board, once said, “If you exclude 50 percent of the talent pool, it is no wonder you find yourself in a war for talent.”


This statement still holds true today and highlights the role companies need to play in enabling equality to take their business forward. The benefits of providing more women a chance at the workplace are manifold and, in some cases, can unlock opportunities for entire societies to be uplifted by empowering a single woman. 

But the situation in hand seems to be off tangent.  Women continue to face barriers preventing them from achieving equal representation and pay in the workplace. From unconscious bias to lack of access to promotions and leadership roles, the obstacles can feel insurmountable.

Per last year’s World Economic Forum report, while more women have been moving into paid work over the last decades and, increasingly, into leadership positions in industry, there have been continued headwinds: societal expectations, employer policies, the legal environment and the availability of care infrastructure.

All studies point towards a significant gender gap in the workforce. As per the World Bank, the global labour force participation rate for women is 52.4 percent compared to 80 percent for men. This gap is considerably wider in Egypt. If I must cite the example of Egypt alone, with a population of approximately 50.6 million women, Egypt remains steady within the Global Gender Gap Index, but with a marginally lower score in 2022 (0.635) than last year.

But what if there was a way to level the playing field and give women more opportunities to succeed? This women’s month, I want to shed light on flexible work arrangements and the "work from anywhere" model to narrow this gap.

Flexible work can encompass a variety of arrangements, including part-time hours, job sharing, and remote work. Companies are now pivoting towards making flexible work, work for women. One reason for this is that remote work allows women to better balance their work and family obligations. Without a long commute or rigid office hours, they can more easily attend to their children's needs, attend doctor's appointments and care for elderly relatives.

This model helps reduce gender bias, as it enables women to work in a more egalitarian environment, free from the traditional workplace biases that they may face in a physical office setting. These benefits can lead to greater job satisfaction, less stress and better overall well-being. The benefits of flexible work go beyond personal fulfillment. Studies have shown that companies with more diverse workforces perform better financially, and that flexible work can be a key factor in attracting and retaining diverse talent. By offering remote work, companies can tap into a wider pool of candidates, including women who may not be able to commute long distances.

However, there are challenges to implementing flexible work arrangements. Some managers may be hesitant to allow remote work, fearing a loss of productivity or difficulties with communication. And there may be concerns about maintaining company culture and collaboration in a remote environment. But these challenges can be overcome with the right systems and policies in place.

Technology is at the center of a successful Work from Anywhere model and companies can invest in technology that allows for seamless communication and collaboration, and establish clear expectations for remote workers including providing them special resources, tools and guidelines to succeed.

However, remote work is the first step in closing the gender gap in the workforce. By embracing remote work, providing training and upskilling opportunities, and creating specialised programs at the workplace for women, companies in Egypt can create a more equitable and inclusive workplace, one that allows us women to thrive.  

* Manal Abdelshafy is an expert in Human Resources

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