Show Notes

In this episode, Michelle and Samah talk about women working in WordPress and the current survey that WP Includes is doing around Gender Equality in WordPress Businesses. We talk about how women are treated and accommodated differently in the workplace country by country and company by company and share some of our own personal experiences.

Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Michelle: Welcome to the underrepresented in tech podcast, where we talk about issues in underrepresentation and have difficult conversations. Underrepresented in tech is a free database with the goal of helping people find new opportunities in WordPress and tech.


Hello, Samah, how are you?


[00:00:23] Samah: Hello. I’m good. How are you? I’m sick today, but I’m fine.


[00:00:28] Michelle: There’s a lot of stuff going around for sure. The topic we’re going to talk about today I think really does come into play when you’re not feeling well, when you’re sick. I think there’s a lot that is good and perhaps negative about working from home. So remote working is not always working from home. Sometimes it’s working from a coffee shop or something like that. It’s hard to record podcasts, though; if you’re not in your home setup, I will say that.


Or your office coffee shops are not the perfect place for that.


[00:01:01] Samah: yeah.


[00:01:02] Michelle: Tell us a little bit about the article that you found and the topic that you presented that you put forward for today.


[00:01:09] Samah: For me, the subject is something I really love and believe in, which is like how remote work strategies encourage diversity at work. And of course, it’s not only about diversity, it’s encouraging more productivity and more work-life balance.


I think after COVID, a lot of companies force their employees to work from home, of course, because of their safety. But after COVID, it’s open a lot for a lot of companies.


The mentality, or let’s say the new work system, just works remotely or works from home. And I think a lot of companies now are doing it. I’m going to speak about Yoast. My experience in Yoast, like before COVID was working five days from the office. Now I can work whatever I want from the office, which is good. I cannot complain.


And also at the same time, it’s not only working from home, you can work from anywhere you want around this world. But it’s really important for, let’s say women, for people of color, because most people of color, when they live, let’s say in a new environment, in a new country, they all the time live in very big cities because where’s the large number of, let’s say, people of color, unrepresentative group or they have bigger community. And most of a lot of companies, work in a smaller city, maybe it’s cheaper for rent. It’s a lot of things better to work in a small town or a small city. And those times like taking the travel up and down, people can benefit more doing it at home. A lot of opportunities like enabling geographical diversity, and increasing accessibility. People with disabilities can also now join from their own comfort homes. Instead of taking this time to come to the office, the difficulties to come to the office and yeah, offering flexibility. I love the flexibility.


[00:03:14] Michelle: Flexibility is absolutely one of the pluses, I think so. I used to work in higher education. Unfortunately, school settings aren’t necessarily someplace. Doctor’s offices, hospitals. Not everybody has the opportunity to work remotely, of course, but we work in tech, which makes things a little bit easier for us to be able to work remotely.


When I first started working freelance for myself, I rented an office.


My ex husband was, I would consider him a hoarder like our house. I couldn’t, I couldn’t keep up with the, the amount of things in the house and keeping it clean and all of that. So I didn’t want customers or clients when I was web designing and doing marketing, I didn’t want them to come to my house. It didn’t feel professional, definitely. It wasn’t in a situation that was conducive to having people in. So I rented a small ten-by-ten office, and I started working in that office.


And yes, it’s still remote, right? So then when I closed that down, and I went to work with Givewp, they said, hey, we’ll pay the rent on the office and you can hire somebody to come work with you. And then I brought Amanda Gorman, and she lives in this town too. So we rented office space, and we worked together. This year, in January, we closed that office down.


Liquid Web is going to basically fully remote, and I was in a space they were paying for. So they decided it’s not fair for two people, just me and Jeff, to have this big, huge office space when nobody else in the company did. And I understand that money and all of that. So I moved back to working from home 100%. And it took me a little while to get used to being in my home seven days a week and working from home because even though I did it for a few months during lockdown, it was temporary. And it felt like camping out and like there was almost, I mean, it was a tragic time in history, of course, but it almost had a sense of excitement to doing something so differently than you ever had before. And so for me, coming to a fully remote type position and working for all of this time from my home, first of all, I had to change. I had to get this room set up to be a place where I could enjoy spending lots of time. I didn’t want to sit at my coffee table or my kitchen table, those kinds of things.


But also from the perspective of somebody who is disabled, it is very convenient not to have to go someplace and, you know, either try to find somebody who will help me with my scooter or that I can walk with my cane.


So that’s definitely easier for me. And I could, if I want to take a rest, I don’t sit at my desk and take a rest. What now, I can go sit on my couch or lay on my bed for my lunch hour, things like that, and put myself in a different position. And so those are very helpful for sure. For me, the toughest thing to overcome is the feeling of isolation.


Because I live alone and I’m in my home seven days a week now, and because I do need help. When I go out someplace other than like to walk in and out of the old office was just a few steps, I could do that. But now if I want to go someplace and meet up with people, I have to make sure somebody can come who will do my scooter and all of those things. So it feels a little more isolating to me. And so I wonder about other people who deal with disabilities or stay-at-home moms or not stay-at-home moms, but work-from-home moms who also might get that feeling of that cabin fever we call it, like when you’re stuck in the same place for so long. But I will say the benefits far outweigh any negativity that kind of creeps in every once in a while.


[00:06:59] Samah: Yeah, I totally agree with you. But I want to say your room looks awesome. I’m jealous. You should see my office in my homeroom. It’s a big mess. Yeah, for me it is opening new opportunities because I would be honest, like waking up and going. Because for me, I take my bicycle to the train and from the train I’m so lucky that it’s only one train. I have to go for 35 minutes and then I will walk. I calculated it’s almost 1 hour from my home to the office. It’s so amazing that at 04:00 p.m. Or 05:00 p.m. When I stop working, I close it, and then I have this, my life, you know, that I have 2 hours extra in the day. I can do whatever I want to do. And I find it sometimes very handy, especially for women, because then it’s, let’s be honest, sometimes you can put the laundry while you’re walking this five minutes. Or you can see, because as I said before, daycare is really, really expensive. And also after the kids, after school, they have to stay in special day care. So if you’re working from home, mom, they can play, they can do something. So it really can be so benefit also, at the same time, it can be not if your manager doesn’t know how to handle you. Because the manager should avoid out-of-sight, out-of-mind syndrome. Because if you’re working a lot remotely, like kind of you’re not existing in the company, or if you’re, if you prefer to work at home or you prefer to work from a different location, and I think that is laying on and the managers to not to overlook remote employees and give them equal treatment as the one who’s showing up to the office more often.


[00:08:44] Michelle: Yeah, I think that’s very true. I think it’s the out-of-sight, out-of-mind part that is a little scary sometimes, I think from a human resources perspective. But I think one of the things that comes to mind with remote working is the trust that has to exist. So it’s not so much necessarily, and it may be this different for different companies that I am being tracked, that I’m at my desk from 09:00 a.m. Until 05:00 p.m. Like it’s, there’s a trust that I’m getting the job done and the work done and putting in the hours needed to make sure that that happens.


But I can see how it could be that people could totally take advantage of it if they’re not careful. So there has to be this trust built between the employee and the supervisor and the business and vice versa, making sure that there’s tracking different ways to stay in touch, which is why I think we use Slack a lot in tech because it’s a way to be in touch with people regularly. And I think it’s why we use collaborative things like Google Docs and things like that because it just makes it a lot easier if we do not have to always jump on a call; for example, working remotely means a lot of asynchronous work. And I think that that’s great, too. Cass, her tail just keeps coming in. Sorry, she just made me laugh.


[00:10:02] Samah: For me, I love working remotely, because my family lives in one part of the world, and my brother lives in the States the other part of the world. So if you only depend on your vacation date to visit, visit the family and beyond. Let’s be honest, visiting the family is not vacation. You have to go to do rounds with all of the friends, so it’s not a vacation. But while you’re working and visiting your family, I always put my A game. Like, I always want to give more. I’m always more productive. And because like my manager Taco, or previously, managers before trust me to go to work remotely, they always make sure that I am doing my things around the best. And it’s so amazing. I’m more productive when I work remotely than when I work in the office. And the office just, it’s like a normal day, but the way you feel guilty like you need to be like replying quickly to every message, you need to do more, you need to focus.


[00:11:04] Michelle: That is very true. I think about that a lot, actually. And how, I don’t know, just how the infrastructure has to be in place.


Excuse me, but also how you have to have a comfort level with doing what you’re doing. Because it’s easy to. For me, it’s easy to blur the lines. Other people probably have better discipline than I do. We talked about discipline a little bit last week. And boundaries. But because it’s right here in the house, I sometimes blur the lines and I’ll come back to my desk later when I have an idea, or I’ll work a little bit longer to finish something up. Which, yes, you could do that in an office, too. But when you leave an office, there’s just that absolute sense of boundary, right? Like, I left the office, it’s all shut down. Nobody can bother me until tomorrow. When your office is in your home, you have to really be good at setting those boundaries for yourself so that you’re not checking Slack. And we talked about that last week, too. But you’re not like, I’m just joking.


[00:12:01] Samah: To pop back in and do some work.


[00:12:02] Michelle: A few more things from my desk, kind of thing. But. But also, I think that you know, I think about some of those when talking about the trust issue. I mean, I know that there, I’ve seen TikTok and everybody else, all of these ways that they track your mouse and they track your keystrokes. And now that people have, like, devised these things to keep the mouse moving so they can actually go to the bathroom and they’re at home while they’re working without somebody saying, why did you stop working for ten minutes? Kind of thing, you know?


[00:12:32] Samah: Yeah.


[00:12:32] Michelle: And so that it’s not a healthy situation if you are working remotely. And that’s how closely, you are being monitored. So I think that there’s. There’s a lot to be said for good. It’s so good to be able to work remotely. You are able to hire people who meet your criteria and your needs and who might not live in the vicinity of where you are. So you’re able to build a team that is probably more diverse, especially if you’re paying attention to diversity and inclusion. But that definitely pulls in just more opportunity for people who are doing the work that you need to be done and perhaps less training and a shorter learning curve for them to be up to speed, too, because you’re able to pull from a worldwide resource as opposed to just your local. There is hair on my tongue, sorry.


She’s right here, and she’s driving me crazy. She’s so cute.


[00:13:29] Samah: I just want to put my hands through the screen.


[00:13:32] Michelle: Yeah, she’s the cuddly one, but she’s also shedding. So I apologize. One of the also that is the work-from-home hazard is that cat hair is everywhere.


[00:13:45] Samah: I think she is. I don’t know if she, or he. She loves the topic that she wants to participate in. She’s happy that you’re home.


[00:13:54] Michelle: She is, exactly. She loves that, for sure. I don’t know what they do. If they were like, where’d she go? Whenever I travel, I come home after a week. They’re like, you again, huh? You abandoned us.


But you make some really good points about, like, especially parenting. And I think when I wrote an article for advanced WP way back at the beginning of the pandemic on this, there are ways that we can get through working from home. If this is something new to you, I think I wrote another on for another company, too, but different ways that we can think about it. And part of it was creating space for yourself that is your workspace, so that you can even if it’s one end of your kitchen table. Because at the time, I was in a very small one-bedroom apartment. I had no place. I had my desk set up at the end of my living room, and then at the end of the day, I would close the laptop and pretend that it wasn’t over there so I could enjoy the rest of my evening. But if you can create space that is dedicated to work, so that you can only wander in when you want to break your own boundaries, but you have dedicated space, I think that really helps. And if you do have kids at home, it’s sometimes more difficult to work with kids at home than not, but you have to find a way that works for you, whether that’s sometimes bringing somebody in help, whether that’s you know, working when the kids are at school or whatever, whatever it is. But if you work remotely and you have the ability to be flexible with the time that you work, then I think it’s, you know, it absolutely is just an amazing thing for so many people to be able to work from home now. And, the impetus for a lot of companies to try to go bring people back to the office, I think is going to bite them in the butt because I think that people are used to being able to have the flexibility now. They don’t want to spend money to drive into an office. They don’t want to spend money to take a train. They don’t want to pay for parking if, like, in city situations. I used to work at a university where I had to pay for parking at the university I worked for. And it was like several hundred dollars a year just to park where I worked.


And all of those things would be much better off if I could put my kid if I could be at home and put my kid on the bus, I could be there when she got home, but I couldn’t. Those were not things that were available to me. But I could tell you now, looking back, I mean, she’s a grown-up, but if I could put myself in the same situation now, to be able to work remotely and have the opportunity to welcome her off the bus, set her up with her homework, whatever it was, I think definitely would have made my life as a single mom so much more fulfilling.


[00:16:44] Samah: I totally agree with you. And for me, like this relaxing because at the end, if you relax in your personal life and you have your own space, then you’ll give more to work and going back a little bit back, sometimes it’s so difficult to get a visa to work physically in countries or especially for people outside of Europe or outside of the States that you are applying to go to work in a specific company or in a specific field. Let’s talk about this, because it’s kind of sometimes impossible when you have the company to offer you, but now people can just have a good Internet connection. They have their computer, and here they go. They can be sitting in India and working in the States. They could be in the Philippines working in the Netherlands. And that is the beauty, because more people, more cultures, more diversity, and more different opinions can make things more creative and more successful.


[00:17:42] Michelle: Yeah.


[00:17:42] Samah: And at the end, I know a lot of remote workers, but I also have some people who don’t love it. They want to come to the office. Otherwise, they feel bored or they feel distracted. So I think it also should be the freedom for the employees and not for the employer to decide if I want to be working from home or I want to work at the office. And at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you work 8 or 10 hours. I believe there are tasks that need to be done, there are partial responsibilities that you need to finish, and an obligation to your work. And if it’s done in 6 hours of the day, here you go. Then you don’t have to stay working 8 hours.


[00:18:21] Michelle: Exactly. It’s interesting. I know that at one point, Liquid Web only hired people who could report to an office. So if you lived in New York, you couldn’t work for Liquid Web because they had several hubs, but this wasn’t one of them. And I do believe that Yoast actually, at one point in time, very seldom, um, employed remote workers as well. And the pandemic changed that for a lot of businesses. And I could be wrong about Yoast. You could correct me if I’m wrong. Yeah, I enjoy working with such a huge group of people from around the world. I’m trying to be sensitive to when they’re awake and I’m not, and vice versa. Right. So, like, I message you sometimes. I’m like, I hope she didn’t hear that.


I message you when I think of it, and I’m like, oh, I don’t want to. I know that now. Now that I’m in her slack, she’s gonna be like, oh, I heard it. I’m gonna look like, no, don’t look at it until tomorrow because we’re so far off. I think we’re about 6 hours difference between us.


[00:19:22] Samah: Yeah, I’m a night owl. Just feel free to text me anytime.


[00:19:29] Michelle: I’ve discovered I’ll message you, like, at 05:00 in my time. And you’re like, okay, no problem. I got that. I’m like, you’re supposed to be on your own time right now or sleeping, but never.


I understand because, you know, I am a workaholic myself.


[00:19:47] Samah: I don’t want to correct you, just want to say differently. In the past, before COVID, we had a lot of remotes, but it was mostly they were in the support team. But of course, when COVID hit, and I love how we, as your company developed so fast then, now we have a lot of colleagues in other teams are working remotely, even in our leadership team. Our CEO, Kimberly is like, she’s working between Netherlands and UK and Hong Kong. Before, it was very difficult. You need the person to be physically there, but now not at all. She’s like so present with us on Slack, she’s so present with us on Zoom meetings, so it feels she’s there. Also, we have our Product Manager, Niko. He’s living in Germany, Germany, and the Netherlands are neighboring countries. And it’s close by. But 6 or 7 hours where he lives to come into the office. Come on, it’s too much.


[00:20:48] Michelle: It is, yeah.


[00:20:49] Samah: To come to the office every day. But also we know that he’s there. We also have a leadership will from the States also. And now, this is what I love. You can have all of those great minds from around the world, plus the great minds that you already have in the Netherlands, working with us. It gives you this amazing culture, this amazing product, this amazing vision of the company. And I wish more and more companies do it and not force their employee to come to the office.


I don’t like it. Yeah. But also imagine if me and you, we’re having our podcast from Costa Rica or from nice tropical weather.


[00:21:32] Michelle: We should make that happen. One year. I don’t know when.


Wouldn’t it be nice if, like WordCamp US was in Puerto Rico? We could do that. It’s part of the States.


We could meet. We could go to WordCamp there and then we could also record the podcast while we were there. It would be okay.


[00:21:52] Samah: It’s so not me. I was, of course; Taco doesn’t know about it yet, but I think I will; maybe I will ask him to. I want to work at the end of the year, like one month away, because then you become more productive. Also, my husband, is working with the Red Cross, so he goes to places every six weeks. He comes to the home one week. Now I can go stay, visit him for three weeks and work from there. So now he’s going to the Congo in September. So for me, I hope I can visit him. 


I’m joking. So, yeah, I hope all of the companies give the freedom and also take it as their policy to hire more remote, remote colleagues to enhance their diversity at the company, it’s really enhanced.


[00:22:46] Michelle: Yeah, I agree. I agree. Absolutely. So if you are out there thinking about building your team, think about remote workers. I mean, you get some of the cream of the crop when you’re willing to look outside of your geographic location. Not that there aren’t good people everywhere, because I’m sure there are. But maybe that perfect, that one person that’s such a synergy for your team is further away than you know than being able to come work in an office with you. And also, man, reduce your overhead, and get out of office spaces if you can. If you’re a small business and you don’t need to pay for that work remotely, just go for it. So anyway, and for the managers.


[00:23:26] Samah: Yeah, and for the managers, really avoid out-of-sight, out-of-mind syndrome.


[00:23:31] Michelle: Yes.


[00:23:32] Samah: And so it will be life-changing for everyone.


[00:23:36] Michelle: Yeah, I agree. Maybe some week we’ll talk about remote tools that work really well for us.


[00:23:41] Samah: Definitely.


[00:23:42] Michelle: Yeah, a good one. So. All right, we’ll see everybody next week on Underrepresented in tech, the podcast.


[00:23:49] Samah: Bye-bye, everyone. Bye bye.


[00:23:53] Michelle: If you’re interested in using our database, joining us as a guest for an episode, or just want to say hi, go to See you next week.


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Michelle Frechette

Michelle Frechette


Samah Nasr

Samah Nasr