A huge part of bringing more women into the IT sector is campaigning for flexible working conditions and shared parental leave. So I was interested to come across a survey entitled “Working Parents & Carers Flexible Working Survey 2011” by myfamilycare.co.uk which shed some light on what working parents and carers honestly think about their options.

The full survey can be found here, but here is a summary of the pertinent points:

  1. Over 1,400 parents and adult dependent carers took part in the survey.
  2. For several years, employer flexibility has topped the wish list of respondents.
  3. A relatively low 40% of respondents answered that they were happy or very happy with their work-life balance based on their current circumstances.
  4. The research found strong links between staff loyalty and work-life balance satisfaction, suggesting that companies that provide flexible working are at a large competitive advantage.
  5. Trust and autonomy were two important factors to happiness – these two requests were largely dependent on direct line managers, who also had a strong influence on job satisfaction.

These facts demonstrate what my business has been arguing for several years. While women are widely believed to be more loyal than men, this loyalty appears to be tested by a lack of flexibility or understanding by employers. This is evident in the following response from a female participant:

“In exchange for the excellent treatment I have received I am extremely committed to my employer and put in whatever is needed to get the job done, I never take sick days etc and am determined to show my commitment wherever possible.”

However, those who answered that they were ‘happy’ or ‘very happy’ with their work-life balance were also concerned that the flexibility provided by their employers may negatively affect their career prospects.

Simply offering flexible working conditions is not the solution. Whilst it is commendable, and could perhaps entice employees to a business, HR departments need to ensure that, in doing so, they are also finding ways to provide a clear career direction and progression path.

About Maggie Berry