Women in the workplace: How stereotypical gender roles are changing with remote work

Posted at 8:22 AM, Jun 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-17 08:22:46-04

All week long on 7 Action News, we're highlighting "Women in the Workplace."

Related: Women in the Workplace: Local mothers talk work-life balance

We're digging into what metro Detroit women are facing and how those obstacles have shifted during the pandemic. From childcare to maintaining a work-life balance or re-entering and leaving the workforce; we're tackling it all with a new topic each day.

On Thursday, we're talking about moms leaving for work while their partners stay behind and take care of the kids, throwing stereotypical gender roles out the window.

Related: Women in the Workplace: How childcare problems may impact the bounce back

We spoke with two local families who rely more on dad to get the kids to school and make the lunches while mom is out working.

Related: Women in the Workplace: Employers' role in avoiding a 'she-cession'

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, research found women and men left the workforce at comparable rates, but that shifted a lot.
"Before COVID I'd be gone at 7:30, be back at like 6, and Ashley was on the hook for a lot of the breakfasts, lunches, getting the kids to school," Danny Jolley said.

Not anymore. Now Ashley, mom to a 4-year-old son and 18-month-old daughter, relies on Danny, who is working remote, to help get the family's day going.

"On the days the kids are home, like if they're napping, I can run out and do an appointment for work because he's physically here, where in a couple of weeks or a month or so from now when he's back into the office, that whole routine and dynamic is definitely going to change," Ashley said.

The child care crisis is something we can't get away from when talking about the pandemic's economic impact on women.

According to research from McKinsey and Company, one in three moms have considered leaving their job or downshifting their careers due to the pandemic, with a majority citing childcare as a main factor.

"We moved during a pandemic and also had a baby during a pandemic. My daughter was born March 2020," Samantha Buchanan said.

Samantha also opened a business during the pandemic, something she said she would have done eventually, but not as quickly, had it not been for her husband being able to stay home.

"He is home full-time. He's a stay-at-home dad currently," she said.

"A lot of parents, I think dads and moms, have been doing insane amounts of multi-tasking," Erin Hunter, the director for the University Center for the Child and Family at the University of Michigan, said.

Gendered expectation of home roles vs. work roles isn't just unfair to moms, Hunter said it's also unfair to men.

As of September 2020, 93% of companies say more jobs can be performed remotely, and 8 in 10 employees surveyed say they want to continue to work remote more often than they did pre-pandemic.

Danny will head back into his office within a month, and Samantha's husband is starting work at a local school in the fall. So what will happen?

"We're still trying to figure that all out," Samantha said.

That same data shows that employers are warming to the idea of allowing more remote work, even after the pandemic, something that could make arrangements like this more doable for a lot of families.

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.

See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.

Visit our The Rebound Detroit, a place where we are working to help people impacted financially from the coronavirus. We have all the information on everything available to help you through this crisis and how to access it.