Centre for Internet & Society

Details of a session proposed for the Internet Researchers' Conference 2022 - #Home.

Internet Researchers' Conference 2022 - # Home - Call for Sessions


Session Type: Panel Discussion 

Session Plan

The objective of this session is to elicit how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected work for women in India and Sri Lanka, through the opportunities of remote and flexible work (centred around the home).

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought out unprecedented changes to the way we work. Some have lost jobs, while others have shifted to remote work. Some have seen their businesses stagnate while others have grown new ones from home. Undoubtedly digital connectivity has been crucial to continuity of work for many, through remote and flexible work opportunities, often centred around the home.

But this kind of work is not without its own challenges; particularly for women.  Women are increasingly absent from the formal labour market. Women have traditionally been marginalised when it comes to digital technology, in terms of access, affordability and skills. Women have also traditionally borne the larger share of the care burden in the home. Remote and flexible work have long been argued as significant enablers of womens sustained participation in the workforce, in addition to addressing the problem of women working below their skill grade. The COVID-19 pandemic has stress tested these so-called enabling work arrangements for women.

This panel will seek to shed light on the experiences of women working remotely and flexibly in India and Sri Lanka during the pandemic. It will seek to answer questions such as:

  • Who is able to work remotely and flexibly, and who faces barriers to do the same?
  • How do women (vis-a-vis men) perceive flexible and remote (home-based) work?
  • Do they see them as benefits or does this reinforce patriarchal mobility restrictions?
  • What are the challenges that women face in these kinds of work arrangements?
  • What is the role of the platform economy in enabling remote and flexible work options for women?
  • What are the analog complements for women to successfully work remotely and flexibly?
  • Which changes are likely to be sustained, and which will not
The session will take the form of a panel discussion led by the moderator.  After they set the stage and context,  the first panelist will discuss some of the high-level trends in digital access, skills and remote work disaggregated by gender from nationally representative survey findings in India and Sri Lanka. This will include discussion of the differential perceptions on remote work among men and women. The next two panelists will then discuss findings from ongoing research in India and Sri Lanka (respectively) on how digitally enabled work opportunities for women are contributing to the empowerment of women in the two countries. They will also discuss the specific challenges and opportunities that have been experienced by women during the pandemic, such as difficulties in balancing care work with paid work in the home, changing roles and dynamics between women and men in the home due to new digitally enabled work opportunities, inter alia. The next panelist will weigh in with findings from a study of digital opportunities in home-based work in Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand. The last panelist,  who runs a job search platform for blue collar workers, will bring in an industry perspective, shedding light on how employers view women as workers and how women might overcome challenges in finding jobs that match their skills and aspirations. 
The session focuses on women, and what is needed to facilitate their participation in the labour market through digitally enabled remote and flexible work opportunities. Women are increasingly absent from the formal labour market and face a number of challenges (precarity, discrimination, etc) to equal participation. Women have also traditionally been marginalised when it comes to digital technology, in terms of access, affordability and skills, which further contributes to economic marginalisation and disempowerment. The research that will be discussed in the session brings to the conversation, the voices, perspectives and lived experiences of women in India, Sri Lanka and other Asian countries through their survey responses and in-depth interviews with them.
Session Team 
Sabina Dewan is Founder and Executive Director of the JustJobs Network, which she began with John Podesta in 2013. She is also a Senior Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research in India, and a Non-Resident Fellow at the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire. Before this, Dewan served as a Senior Fellow and Director for International Economic Policy at the Center for American Progress in Washington DC. Dewan’s research focuses on delineating strategies for job creation and workforce development. She works closely with governments, businesses, multilateral and grassroots organisations providing critical labour market information to improve interventions aimed at generating more and better employment, and cultivating employability, especially for women, youth and marginalised groups.
Mukta Naik, a Fellow at Centre for Policy Research, is an architect and urban planner. Her research interests include housing and urban poverty, urban informality, and internal migration, as well as urban transformations in small cities. At CPR, she focuses on understanding the links between internal migration and urbanisation in the Indian context. Recently, she has worked on gendered experiences of the labour market and related mobilities. She is currently involved with a project on examining the ways in which women’s platform work in India  is impacted by corporate and government policy. 
Ayesha  Zainudeen is a Senior Research Manager at LIRNEasia. Her core areas of interest lie at the intersection of technology and inclusion in the Global South, with a current focus on the future of work. She has 17 years’ extensive experience in this field, having designed, managed, and led numerous research projects in the South and Southeast Asian region for clients such as IDRC (Canada), the World Bank, the Ford Foundation, the GSM Association, inter alia. In her current research, she is documenting how digital technologies are changing work opportunities and contexts in particular for women in South Asia. She is also mapping online job portals in the Asia Pacific to understand their potential as a data source for near-real-time labour market analytics.
Gayani Hurulle is a Senior Research Manager at LIRNEasia, where she researches digital policy and regulation, digital inclusion and the future of work across South and Southeast Asia. She is currently assessing impacts of COVID-19 on labour markets in India and Sri Lanka, as well on technology adoption, platform use and education. She is also an external consultant at EY, where she is conducting World Bank Digital Economy Assessments. She has worked with varied clients such as the Ministry of Digital Infrastructure and Information Technology of Sri Lanka, IDRC, UNESCAP and Mozilla. 
Hue-Tam Jamme is  Assistant professor, School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, Arizona State University. She studies urbanisms in transition from a comparative perspective. Using a range of qualitative and quantitative methods, she focuses on the lived experience of societal transformations. Her research explores in particular whether the development of information and communication networks shapes inclusive urban spaces. Jamme currently leads a research project centred on the gig economy and women’s upward mobility and in the capitals of Cambodia, Myanmar, and Thailand. In previous research, she investigated the socio-spatial consequences of the transition towards auto-mobility in Vietnam. 

Devesh Taneja  is the Co Founder of Vyre, an innovative hiring platform that uses a mix of technologies to facilitate early talent discovery and engagement for the service sector workers. His current research interest lies at the intersection of Technology, Entrepreneurship, Financial Inclusion and Impact Investing. He has several years of experience in investment banking in India and the United States wherein he has worked in fundraising for small businesses. He holds a Masters in Business Administration from Yale University.  
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