Zoe Morris, Mason Frank International, explains the benefits employers need to look at if they want to retain female talent.
In an industry that’s long held a gender representation bias, and has taken steps to try to shed that image, employment benefits such as flexible and home working could hold the key to attracting and retaining female talent. While right now working from home is a way of life for many, traditionally there are major problems with these employment benefits.
Research from Mason Frank’s annual tech market report tells us that while home and flexible working are the most-desired employment benefits among women working in the tech industry, their entitlement to these benefits is actually lower than mens.
The benefits imbalance
When asked which benefits they desire most, 22% of female respondents to our survey indicated home and flexible working was important to them, compared to only 19% of men. Over a quarter indicated these perks would influence whether they’d accept a job.
Despite women having a strong desire for home working, only 58% are offered this employment benefit, compared to 64% of men. There’s an even greater difference when looking at flexible working hours; the benefit is enjoyed by 54% of men, compared to just 42% of women.
While staff should be equally entitled to benefits that optimise their performance, research shows that not offering these benefits can have a greater impact on women’s careers due to the traditional work-life balance of females being more strenuous.
A woman’s work-life balance
As women are more likely to be juggling cooking, cleaning, and parental and elderly caring responsibilities, totaling at around 60% more unpaid work a week, how work fits into a woman’s life can be completely different to that of a man. We also often neglect the additional challenges created by menstrual and menopausal issues, which women face all their lives.
What’s more, as more women in tech comparatively work in roles with less scope for decision making or showing off their skills than their male counterparts, this already makes them more susceptible to burnout through demotivation.
Given burnout is already prevalent in the tech industry, businesses could be creating additional hurdles by being rigid in their working policies. This offers some explanation as to why the number of self-employed women in the UK doubled between 2001 and 2016; many women go out on their own for a better work-life balance, but this can lead to financial insecurity. It’s also complicated for those who do have access to flexible working.
Attitudes towards flexible working
A ‘flexibility stigma’ exists in some work places — the idea an employee is creating more work for others by working flexibly. Of those who admitted to feeling this flexibility stigma, working mothers were the most prominent segment. So it’s not just entitlement to employment benefits that needs an overhaul, it’s also attitudes towards them.
Employers should seriously look towards letting staff lean on benefits that improve their work-life balance. Even the slightest improvement to an employee’s daily routine can make them far more productive, which yields huge results in the long term.
If these benefits are offered, they need to be communicated clearly with examples of how they can be used and why they’re good for the business. If employers can measure the success of flexible and home working using success stories in the business, this goes a long way in dispelling the myth that an employee needs to be physically seen to be perceived as doing a good job.
With these benefits in place, and a working culture that supports employees based on their individual circumstances, the chances of attracting and retaining women will be far greater. This time of home working from Coronavirus is proving that it can be done. If we are to attract women to the tech industry, it has to be embraced beyond a national emergency.