Women who work primarily from home risk damaging their careers and being caught in a “sale from her” as more men return to the office to work after the pandemic, a Bank of England policymaker has warned.
Catherine Mann, a member of the Bank’s monetary policy committee, said virtual working methods, such as video conferencing, have not been able to replicate spontaneous conversations in the office that are important for career advancement.
“Virtual platforms are much better than they were five years ago,” Mann said, speaking at an event for women in finance hosted by the Financial News newspaper. “But extemporaneousness, spontaneity, are difficult to replicate in a virtual environment”.
Women do not return to work to the same extent as men, and when they work, they are more likely to work from home. Problems include difficulties in accessing childcare and the interruption of school due to the pandemic has led to more women continuing to work remotely.
“There is the potential for two tracks,” he said. “There are the people who are on the virtual track and the people who are on the physical track. And I worry that we will see these two tracks develop, and we will practically know who will be on which track, unfortunately. “
Vincent Keaveny, the Mayor of London, said an increasing number of City employees are returning to office in the UK’s financial center.
“The city is coming back to life,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today program. “It’s really important for young people in the industry to get the training they need, the creativity, collegiality that the office brings.”
Keaveny, a partner of the law firm DLA Piper, said companies should be left to set their own return-to-work policies and that there is no one-size-fits-all post-pandemic model.
“I think every company is coming to this from different places,” he said. “I don’t think we should be telling people, telling companies, we shouldn’t be micromanaging companies on an approach to this problem. But there is a very strong message that the city is open. We would love to see more people come back. “
The percentage of employees traveling for work has progressively increased since national restrictions were relaxed in March, rising to more than 50% in August, when a further change in the rules meant that those who had been vaccinated twice did not have to self-isolate, according to the National Statistical Office.
Previous ONS research found that women were more likely to work from home than men because it gave them more time to work with fewer distractions.
In August, Chancellor Rishi Sunak warned younger workers that they could risk their careers if they worked from home.
Mann was a professor of economics and chief economist at Citigroup and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development before joining the Bank of England’s MPC in September. She is one of only two women on the nine-member committee.