how moms can break the zoom ceiling

How Moms can Break the Zoom Ceiling & Overcome Pandemic Career Setbacks

This Mother’s Day finds us emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic after two long years to find our footing in a changed world. Unfortunately, it was two years that affected women significantly more than men. While we are still waiting for the dust to settle and fully reveal the changes wrought, some trends are becoming only too clear — one of them being the Zoom Ceiling.

According to recent research, during the pandemic women were more likely to take the lead in childcare, homeschooling, and domestic chores. The stress of maintaining these roles while also coping with the pandemic has taken its toll. Women reported higher levels of burnout, exhaustion, and pressure to work more. Data also shows significant increases in instances of domestic violence, health problems such as hypertension, and substance abuse including binge drinking.

COVID Impact on Women’s Careers

To add insult to injury, the pandemic has also disproportionately affected the careers of women worldwide. The COVID impact on working mothers included losing more work hours than men, and during the height of the pandemic more women lost their jobs. In addition, mothers were more likely to leave the workforce entirely, and if they decided to return, they were likely to receive an offer worth less than if they had not taken an employment break.

As women try and retake control of their lives and careers, another pandemic-related career obstacle is rearing its ugly head. Coined the “Zoom Ceiling” by Dr. Elora Voyles, this refers to the tendency for remote workers to be passed over for promotions in favor of in-person colleagues. Dr. Voyles argues that remote workers are “out of sight, out of mind” and that this lack of face time is the primary reason for the Zoom Ceiling. Current data backs Dr. Voyles argument, with studies revealing that remote workers are half as likely to be promoted, and 38% less likely to receive a bonus.

While the Zoom Ceiling is gender neutral, research is also showing that women are more likely to favor remote and hybrid work arrangements post-pandemic than male coworkers. According to one survey, 68% of women said they prefer remote work, compared with 57% of men. The survey also found 80% of women felt remote work is a top job benefit, compared with 69% of men. This preference indicates that the Zoom Ceiling may disproportionately affect women.

Tips for Breaking the Zoom Ceiling

Times are challenging for mothers who are hoping to balance career and family. However, there are proactive methods you can employ to crash through the Zoom Ceiling, while also lowering stress levels.

Before the Job Search

If you are thinking of changing jobs, there are a variety of ways to ensure that your next position will meet your needs for both flexibility and career advancement. Starting a job search with a clear set of requirements will help you avoid bumping your head on that dreaded Zoom Ceiling.

checkmark icon Identify current pressure points.

Before you start looking for a new position, take stock of what is most problematic about your current position. Job searches are time consuming. By identifying the work situation that will work best for you, you can focus on the companies and positions that will best meet your needs.

checkmark icon Clarify your career goals.

Revisit your career plan to make sure it is still valid. Circumstances change, dreams change. Don’t be afraid to adjust direction if you need to. A new job is a big investment for both you and your new employer, and knowing what you want will help reduce the risk.

checkmark icon Talk to your family.

Make sure that everyone in your family is on board with your career plans. Gaining and maintaining the ongoing support of your family is important to your success. Talk to them about your professional dreams and why they are important to you.

checkmark icon Undertake training to fill in any gaps.

If you currently lack frequently asked for skills or experience in the jobs you’d like to apply for, you may want to invest in additional training prior to a job search. The more prepared you are and the more boxes you tick for your potential employers, the quicker your job search will be.

During the Job Search

As you embark on your job search, you can optimize your chances of securing a remote position with advancement opportunities and avoiding the Zoom Ceiling by following the tips below.

checkmark icon Look for positions with a 100% remote company.

The best way to eliminate the Zoom Ceiling is by working for a company that has no in-person presence. Whether the company was fully remote to start with or transitioned during the pandemic, these are the companies that will have the best opportunities for promotion because there is no “out of sight.”

checkmark icon Research company remote work policies.

Another way to screen companies for Zoom Ceiling potential is to research remote work policies. Some questions to ask yourself during your research include: Do they value virtual workers? How do they facilitate team collaboration? How do they measure productivity?

checkmark icon Network with current remote employees.

Sometimes what a company says and what they do are two different things. This is especially true regarding the attitude toward remote employees. Many companies and team leaders are under pressure to accommodate work from home employees but aren’t very happy about it. Identify employees of the company that are currently working remotely and see if they will talk with you about their experience.

After the Job Search

After you find your new job, or if you love the job you’re currently in, the tips below will help you side-step the Zoom Ceiling and put you at the front of the line when promotions are being handed out.  

checkmark icon Schedule frequent 1-on-1 meetings with your supervisor.

The best way to offset the advantage of in-office workers is to make sure that you get your share of face time with the boss. Team meetings are helpful, but private meetings are important to help you develop and maintain a relationship with your supervisor. In addition, this is the time to focus on your contributions and highlight the impact your efforts are making.

checkmark icon Be available during regularly scheduled hours.

In-office employees are assumed to be working as long as they are in the office (even if they’re not!). Because managers can’t see remote employees in their home offices, it’s important to be accessible and available when you are supposed to be working. Responding quickly to emails and texts and answering your phone promptly will help managers feel reassured that you are working hard.

checkmark icon Take part in company social activities.

Make yourself part of the corporate culture by participating in employee events, challenges, fundraisers, and other social occasions. Travel to the company Holiday Party, help raise funds for the United Way, or show up unexpectedly for a colleague’s birthday lunch.

checkmark icon Use available company programs and support services.

Take part in company programs or collaboration opportunities specifically for remote employees. These might include opening a Zoom channel for large meetings or hosting a virtual happy hour. It’s important to support any efforts your company is making to be inclusive, so you are seen as part of the solution.

Who Says You Can’t Have It All?

No one can dispute that working mothers have been disproportionally and negatively affected by the pandemic fallout. However, the proactive tips and techniques listed above can mitigate these effects. This Mother’s Day, empower yourself, avoid the Zoom Ceiling, and give your career a boost! Check out the Virtual Vocations jobs database of fully remote jobs today.  

Have you experienced the Zoom Ceiling since the pandemic started? Connect with Virtual Vocations on FacebookTwitterLinkedInInstagram, and YouTube to share your thoughts. We’d love to hear from you!

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