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Debbie Wosskow: Working from home a disaster waiting to happen for feminism

Debbie Wosskow: Working from home a disaster waiting to happen for feminism


In the fast-paced world of modern careers, the question of productivity often takes center stage. However, British serial entrepreneur Debbie Wosskow OBE, co-founder of AllBright, the preeminent women’s career network, urges women to shift their focus.

Instead of pondering whether working from home enhances productivity, she challenges women to consider how their visibility in the workplace has faded.

Wosskow didn’t mince words when she addressed the issue at the inaugural Women in Work summit in London, boldly condemning the pandemic-era remote work trend as “a disaster waiting to happen for feminism.”

“We’re doing it (remote work) and they’re not,” she said.

“I’m extremely worried that we lose our place in the room, that we lose our visibility and we lose conversation that becomes ever more male-dominated.

“Let’s not slip into setting back feminism in the world of work ever further.

“Let’s be very careful where the consequences of the pandemic and the desire for flexibility can take us.”

Remote work a blessing and a curse on women’s careers

Research has consistently shown that flexible working arrangements, including the option to work from home, attract and retain female talent.

The issue is, as Wosskow has witnessed, men aren’t taking it up.

According to the Chartered Management Institute, male managers are significantly more likely to mostly or completely work from the office than their female counterparts (48% v 38%), with women more likely to choose flexible hours or work from home for childcare reasons. 

The impact of women removing themselves from the workplace mustn’t be underestimated: Wosskow predicts that conversations around the likes of menopause, which she says are already anxiety-inducing because of the lack of female professional voices sharing their experience, will only get more taboo.

She also believes that working from home will have a direct impact on women’s earnings: “That’s frightening to me when we are still a way off equal pay,” she adds. 

Research shows that women would sacrifice around 10% of their salary for more flexibility. Meanwhile, proximity bias could result in female remote workers being overlooked. 

What’s more, when women do work from home they’re more likely to be taking on unpaid labor in addition to their day job.

In husband-and-wife couples who both work from home at the same time, men end up doing fewer household and family tasks than when they were in the office, while women with flexible schedules are discovering they have more chores on their plate than before, new research led by the Ohio State University found.

The solution: Flexibility with limits

As a single working mother of two, Wosskow says she understands the need for working parents to flex business needs around childcare. But adds there’s a “big difference” between working from home and working flexibly. 

“I need to be able to go to sports day,” she sympathized before stressing that taking a few hours away from your desk to be at those all-important milestones and the likes of dental appointments is vastly different from not being in rooms where male peers are still working.

“What’s not in my comfort zone is women taking themselves out of physical space and being stuck at home,” Wosskow said.

There’s no black-or-white answer, however, hybrid working looks like the happy medium to satisfy that desire for work-life balance without risking women’s careers—but only if, Wosskow adds, women become intentional about how they use their office days. 

“How do you make those two days count? How do you make sure that you’re seen because we shouldn’t pretend it doesn’t matter,” she adds.

Who is Debbie Wosskow?

In 2018 Wosskow co-founded the all-female private members club Allbright with Hearst’s former CEO, Anna Jones to provide support and a network for aspirational women. 

She exited the business in 2022 and has since launched another start-up with Jones.

Their latest firm, WJV LLP, invests in and provides advice to companies focused on diversity, wellness and economic empowerment. 

At the same time, Wosskow is a senior advisor at McKinsey and sits on the Mayor of London’s Business Advisory Board.

A multi-exit entrepreneur, Wosskow’s big break came when she founded an early alternative to Airbnb

Inspired by The Holiday starring Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet, she created Love Home Swap in 2011.

The home-swapping platform went on to become a huge success—at one point, it was the world’s biggest home exchange club—and in 2017 she sold it for a whopping $53 million.


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