IT industry not promoting flexible working

2004

Britain's IT professionals are clamouring better work-life balance but believe that asking for more flexible working will damage their careers.

A new report prepared for the Department of Trade & Industry (DTi) and the Women in IT Forum by flexible work specialists Flexecutive found that IT professionals are also high critical the commitment of senior management to more flexible working patterns.

The findings revealed that while more than nine out of ten women and eight out of ten men want more flexibility in their working practices, over half of IT workers don’t think their senior managers make good work-life balance role models.

Three quarters questioned fear that moving to a part-time or flexible career will harm their promotional prospects, while a third also believe that their organisation is not committed to helping them achieve a reasonable work-life balance.

According to the report, this could explain the three per cent decline in the number of women working in IT revealed in the 2002-2003 UK Labour Force Survey.

More than half of the 1,000 IT professionals surveyed said that they don’t get involved with their family as much as they would like, and almost six out of ten are unhappy with the balance between work and personal life.

Despite the fact that half of those who took part in the survey said that they already work flexible hours, there is also a widespread belief that part-time working, in particular, represents career suicide.

Three quarters say that key roles and projects are only given to full-time employees, while only four out of ten believe that senior managers can work successfully on a part-time basis. And more than seven out of ten agree that there are fewer promotional opportunities available to part-time workers, despite the fact that the majority of respondents believe that part-time workers are as committed as their full-time colleagues

Trade Secretary Patricia Hewitt called for a change in attitude by the IT industry, arguing that a greater commitment to the work-life balance agenda was in its own best interests.

"Every time a well-trained woman leaves, a company wastes time and money on recruitment and training," she said.

"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."

Flexecutive's Carol Savage agreed. "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."