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How to Navigate the Gender Gap in a Remote Culture

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The traditional 9-5 office setup might have been a punishing commute, with work distractions, and a lack of privacy. But on the plus side, there will likely have been impromptu chats, closer collaboration, and access to in-person mentoring and support.

The lack of in-person interaction becomes more pertinent in the context of a gender gap that has barely closed in recent years. Women are still likely to earn lower wages and have less parity than their male counterparts. Studies also show that still, they still find it harder to speak up and forge deep working relationships. Therefore the remote working shift – which can make it more difficult to connect with colleagues and develop mentoring – brings new implications for the gender divide. Indicative of this, one recent study found that 45% of women said it’s difficult to speak up in virtual meetings. A further 20% of women said they had felt ignored or overlooked by their colleagues during video calls. It doesn’t help too that women are inherently more susceptible to taking on more and struggling to switch off when remote working. Therefore, for those companies going remote, the big question is – what can business leaders do to support better gender equality and inclusivity?

Storyblok is fairly unusual in that it has been fully remote since it was founded in 2017. We’ve grown to a team of 230+ people in 45+ countries, and have a proven track record in providing a supportive, progressive workplace for everyone – including women who make up 40 percent of our team. This has meant we’ve had to spend a lot of time developing processes and policies that fit remote work and employing technology to ensure an inclusive, nurturing team – of all genders, ages, abilities, and backgrounds.

Remote culture

One of the biggest challenges when transitioning to a remote work setup is maintaining company culture. How, after all, is it possible to account for those all-important ‘watercooler’ conversations, socials, or team catch-ups, all of which are key for relationship building? This is especially important for part-time employees, those returning from maternity or paternity leave, or those working flexible hours who may not feel as tight-knit in the workplace community.

Here it’s important to curate an inclusive culture and everyone has a voice. At Storyblok, for example, employees can send questions in ‘Ask me Anything’ sessions either verbally, in written form, or anonymously. We also send out lots of surveys throughout the year.  Depending on the type of person, this variety of communication possibilities ensures everyone gets a different chance to speak up and express their thoughts, needs, or ideas. We run an annual review where employees can talk through feedback with their manager.

Ultimately, our approach isn’t to write a one-size-fits-all rule book – it’s about bonding people on a human level so they fully understand each other’s perspectives and create a unique culture that has space for everyone. As part of this, we also organize randomized ‘coffee chats’  where people speak for 30 minutes to their colleagues in different teams. This enables people to break the ice with people they may not get the chance to regularly interact with.

In this way, fully remote or hybrid working requires a level playing field where everyone feels like they are equally involved, engaged, and heard. This becomes especially important considering women are more likely than men to work remotely to balance work around domestic duties. In this way, culture should revolve around self-empowerment and autonomy.


Another challenge is management. With some nuances lost through technological communication, we recognize that it can be daunting for employees to be left to decipher requests through short instant messages or email without the opportunity to connect with their co-workers in person for clarity. We also recognize that the virtual forum isn’t necessarily always conducive to introverts, making it easier for quieter team members to fade into the background. Given that studies show that many female workers already struggle to speak up, this becomes an even more crucial focus.

To address this, we hold regular check-ins where we go through each team member’s goals and ask where they are. For some members, it can also help to have a meeting at the beginning of the week to define the weekly tasks and review them at the end of the week together. Communication can happen via Slack, recorded videos, or meetings.

We want to avoid micromanagement and don’t believe daily meetings are needed to evaluate the performance. Good managers will know who is performing as they focus on the result. How they achieve the goal is open, as there are different paths to achieve them. Making more data-driven assessments of performance can help to take human bias out of the equation.  For example, some managers may subconsciously favor in-house team members they talk to face-to-face and reward them accordingly. Relying more on the hard facts (achieved goals, met deadlines, met KPI) can remove this danger and also help with diversity and inclusion.

Alongside this, it’s important to create a systematic approach to checking in on your team’s health and well-being. As a good manager, it is essential to ask your team members – what is your preferred way of communicating? How would you structure our communication? You do not want anyone falling through the cracks and it is very easy for a remote worker to suffer in silence. Vigilance is key. Care about them, ask them how they are, create an environment of trust, listen to them, and make sure they don’t do too much overtime and they take off. All of that can be done in regular check-ins with your team in the guise that they prefer.

It also helps that we have a very diverse, vibrant team made up of lots of female senior leaders who can provide mentorship to other female employees. Drawing on their own first-hand experience of working in the male-dominant tech space, they can provide inspiration and advice on breaking through boundaries and reaching their potential. Going beyond even gender, we believe that we should break down cultural norms, beliefs, stereotypes, and patterns – we can all be whoever we want to be

Tech stack

Technology has a huge role to play in enabling your hybrid or remote startup to work efficiently and productively. From day one, we invested in Notion, Slack, top-end IT equipment such as webcams, microphones, headphones, G-Suite, Salesforce, and simple time-savers such as DocuSign. This is underscored by a holistic strategy that details communication, documentation, collaboration, onboarding, and synchronized work to ensure everyone has the means to work effectively, efficiently, and towards the same goal.

Importantly, we also utilize bambooHR for performance reviews. In the performance review, we request feedback from team members and give the manager a chance to give feedback from team members. It is a safe space where people allocate time to discuss the current situation and future growth potential of team members. The mid-year and annual reviews helped me as a manager to improve my collaboration with the team as we work in a fast-changing environment and every team member needs an individual management style. The performance review setup in our HRIS enables managers a well-rounded approach that is fair and unbiased.

Big benefits

Undoubtedly, there are vast benefits to be had from going remote including increased opportunity, productivity gains, better diversity, and internationalization. However, business leaders mustn’t overlook the importance of supporting all workers – including women – to form close relationships, build confidence, learn from others, and grow professionally as part of the transition to continue to break down the bias.

About the author


Lydia Kothmeier

Lydia Kothmeier has been working for Storyblok, a headless CMS provider, since February 2020. Storyblok was founded in Linz in 2017 and is now an internationally active company that is 100% remote. As VP of Operations, Lydia plays a major role in ensuring that Storyblok remains successful and continues to grow. Her tasks are as varied as she is. With background and expertise in accounting, controlling, business consulting, and even experience as an authorized signatory, Lydia can apply all the more knowledge to her work at Storyblok today.