Woman typing on laptop, flexible working, gender bias

Gender bias in employment benefits is holding back women in tech, according to new research from Mason Frank International.

The report found that there are key gender differences in desired benefits and actual benefit entitlement in the tech industry.

Flexible and home working are the most-desired employment benefits among women in the tech industry, but the stigma attached to these is having a negative impact on work-life balance and career progression.

These findings are now being discussed as part of a wider issue of female representation in the technology sector, with employers being challenged to review not only the employee benefits they offer, but also attitudes towards those benefits throughout the business.

Over 2,500 tech professionals were surveyed in Mason Frank’s study, of which 30 per cent were female.

When asked which benefits they desire most, 22 per cent of female respondents indicated home and flexible working were important to them, compared to only 19 per cent of men. This is significant when compared to actual entitlement, where there’s a great disparity between the genders.

Despite women having a strong desire for home working, only 58 per cent are offered this employment benefit, compared to 64 per cent of men. There’s an even greater difference when looking at flexible working hours; the benefit is enjoyed by 54 per cent of men, compared to just 42 per cent of women.

As women are more likely to be juggling caring responsibilities, totalling at around 60 per cent more unpaid work a week through parental or elderly care, the chances of career burnout is far greater in females, signalling a greater need for flexible working.

While entitlement to benefits like these is disproportionate across the genders, there’s also a sentiment that flexible and home working creates more work for others, or will lead to negative outcomes.

This is not only reducing the number of people making flexible working requests, but also potentially holding back those who do, with working mothers the largest segment who’d felt this negative impact.

These attitudes are at odds with research around flexible working, where employees have shown increased engagement and productivity by working remotely. Nevertheless, it offers an explanation as to why more and more women are going part-time, self-employed, or even taking career breaks.

With Mason Frank’s research also showing that flexible and home working would make a woman more likely to accept a job role, not offering these benefits to all staff could be handicapping gender representation even at the initial intake stage.

Speaking about the research, Zoë Morris, President at Mason Frank International, said, “It’s incredibly important to drill down on all things that could inhibit an employee’s development.”

“Particularly in the tech sector, where female representation is so low and the skills gap is so vast.”

“Exploring feelings towards benefits and entitlement is a good way to measure what support employees want against what they’re actually receiving.”

“It’s disappointing to see that fewer women have access to flexible working than men, even though it’s a benefit they prioritise higher.”

“But given the attitudes held towards women who work flexibly, particularly working mothers, it’s unsurprising that some choose not to use it even when they have the option.”

James Lloyd-Townsend, Chairman and CEO at Mason Frank International added, “I think the most eye-opening part of this research is the negative attitudes held towards flexible working.”

“Clearly employers need to take steps not just to offer these benefits to all staff members, but to educate them on why they’re availabe and how they can help the business.”

“Only when employees feel supported in working flexibly, and have no concerns around how it will impact their career progression, will they truly being to flourish.”