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Is hybrid work the new ‘mommy track’? It doesn’t have to be

November 16, 2021, 1:24 PM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Daily Harvest becomes a unicorn, Casper gets a new CEO as it goes private, and experts worry that hybrid work may hold women back. Have a great Tuesday.

– Hybrid risks. Since the early days of the pandemic, white collar workers’ shift to remote work was hailed as a godsend for working women. Finally, they’d get the flexibility so many were after. Corporations invested in tools that made remote work feasible, any stigma related to remote work faded because—well—everyone was doing it, and the blurring of work-home spaces opened some employers’ eyes to the need for more agile schedules.

We know now that remote work didn’t deliver all it promised. First, there are plenty of women whose jobs don’t allow them to work from home. Second, even those who had the privilege of logging in from the kitchen table burnt out as all the multitasking—working, caregiving, remote learning-supervising—became too much to bear. And third, working from home without defined, enforced boundaries can easily mean that work simply never stops.

Now many employers are embracing a ‘hybrid’ work; they’re welcoming workers back to the office but leaving open the option of working from home. And many workers want that kind of arrangement, especially after getting a taste of such flexibility during COVID. But experts worry that women will be more likely to opt for remote work, and that the choice will subject them to a modern-day “mommy track.”

Emily Peck (a Fortune contributor who authors our sister Worksheet newsletter) captures the potential pitfalls of hybrid work in a new piece for Politico, and it comes down to employers—however enlightened they claim to be—still penalizing workers who don’t log enough face time.

The most instructive part of Peck’s story are the examples of employers that have intentionally ensured remote work doesn’t count against those who opt for it. Homemade marketplace Etsy, for instance, instituted what it calls Prime Time, which encourages workers to schedule all meetings between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. so workers can arrange the rest of the day as they see fit.

Experts say such deliberate strategies, rather than an ill-defined free-for-all, are the key to ensuring hybrid workplaces don’t hold anyone back.

Claire Zillman
claire.zillman@fortune.com
@clairezillman

The Broadsheet, Fortune’s newsletter for and about the world’s most powerful women, is coauthored by Kristen Bellstrom, Emma Hinchliffe, and Claire Zillman. Today’s edition was curated by Emma Hinchliffe

ALSO IN THE HEADLINES

- Harvest season. Daily Harvest, the frozen foods business led by CEO Rachel Drori, is the latest startup unicorn. After a recent funding round, the company is now valued at $1.1 billion. The business took in about $250 million in revenue last year. Bloomberg

- Growing pains. Sophie Schmidt, the daughter of former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, launched Rest of World, a tech news site intended to cover technology and its effects outside Western countries, a year and a half ago. Staff say the publication is hitting some growing pains as it chases its audacious goal. Business Insider

- Cyclical speculation. As 2024 speculation gets going, all eyes are on Vice President Kamala Harris. CNN reports on tensions among her team and the White House, as some say the VP isn't being given enough political heft or a portfolio that would position her for a presidential run. Politico reports other Democrats are still considering running in three years, rather than ceding the potential nomination to Harris. 

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: As mattress business Casper goes private after a short tenure as a public company, the company is putting president Emilie Arel in the CEO job.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

- Tennis consequences.  The Women's Tennis Association is seeking a probe into the allegations of sexual misconduct raised by Chinese player Peng Shuai about a top Chinese tennis official. (Chinese authorities haven't commented on the case.) The WTA says that, without action, it would reconsider its operations in China. Bloomberg

- On tour. Huma Abedin's book tour is the most she's ever talked about herself in public. The longtime Clinton aide says she feels "unburdened" as she shares her life story—even as reporters and readers remain eager to know more about the high-profile dissolution of her marriage to Anthony Weiner. Politico

- Underground ads. More than two years ago, the sexual wellness brand Dame sued New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority after its subway advertisements were rejected, alleging unequal treatment of sexual wellness ads targeted toward women compared to such advertising aimed at men. The two parties settled the suit, and Dame's ad campaign launches on New York subways this month. Adweek

ON MY RADAR

The fight of Meghan Markle's life The Cut

J. Smith-Cameron knows what you're thinking about Gerri The New Yorker

The Texas pastor preaching about abortion rights The Cut

PARTING WORDS

"Even if it took 148 years, I'm thrilled that I get to be in the position to be that first person."

-Raquel Coronell Uribe, the first Latinx president of the Harvard Crimson

This is the web version of The Broadsheet, a daily newsletter for and about the world’s most powerful women. Sign up to get it delivered free to your inbox.