Why no 'ambitious' woman should work from home after COVID-19 restrictions lift, says Janet Street-Porter

Why no 'ambitious' woman should work from home after COVID-19 restrictions lift, says Janet Street-Porter
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Women shouldn't continue favouring the "familiar and cosy" nature of working from home if they want to advance their careers, according to a prominent UK journalist.

A number of COVID-19 restrictions are set to lift in the UK from July 19, one being that employees will no longer be required to work remotely as they've previously done throughout the pandemic.

In an opinion piece for the Daily Mail, journalist Janet Street-Porter says flexible working conditions during the pandemic have been a "career-tastrophe" for women - and claims that those who continue to work from home will struggle to climb the career ladder.

"From the start of my career as a television producer back in the 1980s, to editing a newspaper, I have always promoted women and pushed them to achieve their ambitions. When key executives wanted to have babies, that didn't stand in their way, they always came back to work," Street-Porter writes.

"But many found that too long a gap out of the office made it harder to claw their way back into what can be a very male-dominated environment.

"It's revealing that few men take paternity leave. Those who do often cut it short. They've worked out that to get ahead, you have to be visible."

While working from home appears to be a good solution for busy mums, there are a number of downsides, says Street-Porter. Women who work from home are now juggling several tasks, combining housework and childcare with homeschooling and office work. Unless women are paid enough to have help around the home, they're now doing twice the labour - and are "wrecking" their chances of promotion in the process, she says.

"Most important of all, WFH [working from home] limits your chance of promotion, which is the last thing we need. While the gender pay gap still yawns - at 15.5 percent in 2020 - women need fewer obstacles to career advancement, not more," Street-Porter says.

"Work isn't just about delivering output to order. The benefits (for women) of going into an office are not immediately obvious, but look at the most successful people in any workplace. They are good at networking, they probably don't work any harder or better than anyone else, their results are likely the same, but they will be good at making sure the managers and the boss notice what they've done."

She says "ambitious" workers spend time networking and chatting with colleagues in the workplace - and when it comes time for a promotion, managers will remember the candidates they saw and spoke to the most.

Street-Porter, who is 74, says she's concerned that everything her generation fought for in terms of gender equality in the workplace will be eroded if women continue the recent trend of working from home.

"It will be men who decide to return to work first [after restrictions lift] and men whose careers will advance, at a huge cost to female equality," she says.