Remote Work Could Present a Digital Divide for Minorities

By: First Union


Remote Work Could Present a Digital Divide for Minorities

In light of the circumstances faced, working remotely potentially saved numerous companies across the country. That said, this shift to remote work does not come without challenges. As civil unrest continues to be an issue in the US, we are seeing more and more gaps in terms of minorities and the access they have to telecommute technology. A recent survey showed that Black and Hispanic college students were much less comfortable with virtual work than their White classmates. The question stands: is remote work creating a digital divide?

The same survey suggested that Black and Hispanic students were 145% more likely to be concerned about remote work capabilities. They were in large part worried about their ability to successfully handle an internship in this capacity. Some of the data gathered cited such issues as lack of physical space in which to work, as well as being plagued by constant distractions. Especially with lower-income families, finding a space can be difficult as smaller homes are cramped and generally noisy. Hispanic households of those interviewed had on average eighty percent more people occupying the space than was seen in White households.

Another top concern, lack of adequate access to the necessary technology for remote work. In this country, approximately 82% of White households have a laptop or some form of computer. Whereas this number drops to just 57% when looking at Black and Hispanic households. This same pattern holds for broadband access as well. And with Zoom meetings becoming the go-to form of conferencing during the pandemic, for those without sufficient access to equipment and the internet, things got to be quite difficult at times.

The lack of physical interaction also presents a problem for some young professionals who are minorities. Especially those recently hired, not having a face to face time with managers, for instance, can prove confusing and downright frustrating. Not to mention, younger professionals just starting to build their careers want the ability to network and interact with co-workers from whom they can learn. At home, there is a definite feeling of disconnection. It becomes far more difficult to understand a company's culture—they're going to need to get somewhat creative in terms of figuring out the "language" and what's acceptable when it comes to a work environment that is now virtual.

Despite the many challenges that minorities face in trying to work remotely, some do feel confident and who are getting the support that they need. Returning to the survey of college students, many said that they were afraid to ask questions of their supervisors lest they come off looking unprepared or incapable. Many bosses however understand that this is a very new situation and consequently offer the patience and support that young professionals need right now.

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