Lack of commitment to work-life balance keeps women out of IT

IT
workers are demanding a better work-life balance, but more than half of those
working in the sector do not believe that senior managers are leading by
example.

That
was one of the main findings in a report, which looked at flexible working
across the IT industry and was prepared for the Department of Trade and
Industry and the Intellect Women in IT Forum by consultants Flexecutive.

The
study was carried out among 1,000 male and female IT professionals.

The
findings revealed that while 93 per cent of women and 81 per cent of men want
more flexibility in their working practices, 55 per cent don’t think their
senior managers make good work-life balance role models.

Nearly
three-quarters (74 per cent) fear that moving to a part-time or flexible career
will harm their promotional prospects. This could explain the 3 per cent
decline in the number of women working in IT (Labour Force Survey 2002-2003).

Other
findings showed that:

·
50 per cent of respondents indicated that they don’t get involved with their
family as much as they would like

·
a third do not believe their organisation is committed to helping them achieve
a reasonable work-life balance

·
84 per cent believe that full-time flexible working should be available to all

·
more than half (51 per cent) of full-time workers surveyed already work
flexible hours;

·
those that do work part-time or flexibly believe that key roles and projects
are only given to full-time employees.

Commenting
on the findings, trade and industry secretary Patricia Hewitt said: “The number
of women working in IT fell by 3 per cent last year and the sector needs to
urgently consider the reasons behind this fall.

“Every
time a well-trained woman leaves, a company wastes time and money on
recruitment and training. Yet offering women with children greater choice over
her working hours could stop her leaving, save the company money and mean she
can carry on enjoying a good career.

“I
believe flexible working offers a ‘win-win’. I strongly urge senior IT
employers to give greater commitment to the work-life balance agenda, from the
top down, to reverse the downward trend in women working in IT.”

In
April 2003, the Government introduced new rights for parents of young or
disabled children to negotiate flexible working with their employers.  

The
Government is working specifically with the IT sector to get girls interested
in IT at school, through initiatives with E-skills UK, The Women in IT Forum
and other partners.

Carole
Savage, managing director of Flexecutive, said: “In common with many other
industries, IT professionals are looking for a relationship with their manager
and their organisation that measures their performance, not their input, and
which gives them a greater degree of control over how they achieve their
objectives.

"They
in turn will be more motivated and deliver a higher quality of work. Without a
stronger commitment to work-life balance, the IT sector is likely to continue
to be unable to attract the best to the sector and to see increased female
flight.”

Rebecca
George, chair of the Women in IT Forum said: “There are not enough women in the
IT industry. Flexible working should allow more women to remain in the sector
for much of their careers. I hope this report will help IT companies to better
understand how to manage their programmes and processes in a manner which
allows both women and men to develop their skills and advance their careers.”

By Quentin Reade

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