Career vs Family life

I recently came across an article in HR magazine claiming that more than a third of women do not think they can meet their career goals while still paying enough attention to their personal lives. We recently blogged about the lack of women on the board of UK firms – are the two connected?

Kenexa Research claims ‘traditionally, women play a larger role in managing their family responsibilities and, therefore, they are likely to feel pressure in trying to balance both work and family demands’.  Kenexa carried out a survey of over 1000 employees asking for their views on work-life balance; just over fifty per cent believed their employers supported their efforts to balance both their work life and personal life. Does being successful both in the workplace and at home depend then on the support you get from your employer? Read the rest of this entry »

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Are women bad networkers?

Here is a post I wrote recently for Computer Weekly’s WITsend blog:

Are women bad networkers?

In my opinion the answer to this question is, of course, no. At womenintechnology we organise lots of networking events which are always very popular. There was a piece in the Times recently entitled ‘why are women such bad networkers?’ that, understandably, grabbed my attention! Its overall message is: women aren’t confident enough to network, men are better at it, women don’t think it’s important and are therefore to an extent ‘invisible’. There is obviously a bit more to it than that though, you can read the whole article here: http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/article7057300.ece.

A few parts of the piece I agree with. Women are not the best at shouting about their talents and achievements in comparison to men, and that is something that we need to improve on in order to get ahead in our careers. However I don’t agree that women are bad networkers; in fact I think women are the ultimate networkers and realise how important it is today.

The article also says “in a business world still dominated by men, networking solely with other women is not much use” – but I don’t think that’s true either. It’s obviously best to network with as many people as possible but networking with women is a great way to gain support, confidence and advice from people who are, or have been, in the same position as you. What do you think?

Daily Mail strikes again

The Daily Mail strikes again. And the title says it all: “Can love survive when a woman earns MORE than a man?” You can find the piece here http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1249768/Can-love-survive-woman-earns-MORE-man.html

It starts by saying: “It’s a seismic social shift: nearly half of women are paid as much as or more than their man”. ‘Hooray!’ we think – finally all the fighting for equal rights is perhaps beginning to pay off. However according to the Daily Mail, “it could all end in tears” and “the truth is that we don’t know whether to feel triumphant or dismayed”. That’s certainly news to me!

Here are some other gems of information:

“Many [women] are working simply because their families need their income, and increasing numbers are finding themselves accidental breadwinners because men’s jobs have been hit far harder than women’s in the economic downturn – a phenomenon dubbed the ‘mancession’.”

“If the past 40 years have been all about women entering the workforce and boosting the economy, the next 40 will be spent dealing with the social, personal and family consequences. And that may be the hardest part of all.”

With the struggle of breaking the glass ceiling that women still face, it’s disappointing that articles like this are still written. All it does it turn women’s success into a negative, when it’s an achievement we should be celebrating. What’s more the article states that only 19% of women earn more than their partners with another 25% earning the same – that means that around half of the women in the UK still don’t earn as much as their partner.

As the article states, “social attitudes are still trailing far behind”. But they won’t improve when we’re still reading pieces like this.

Female bosses

Whenever we run an event at womenintechnology, we always ask the women (and the few men!) who sign up, a few questions – and they never disappoint. We always get interesting statistics, quotes and anecdotes to share, so we thought we’d create a poll here on our blog. Once again our network didn’t let us down and we got some great information!

We asked a simple question – do you prefer a male or female boss? With all the stories about female on female bullying and the lack of women in leadership positions, I thought this was a very relevant question. The result? Almost half (44%) said they preferred a male boss. So does that mean the majority preferred a female boss? No. 38% said they had no preference and just 19% favoured women.

However I wasn’t at all surprised about this because we’ve heard this before – see our previous blog post on women vs women. It seems that when it comes to supporting other women, we’re just not very good at it. Or do we just need to give more women the opportunity to have these positions of leadership?

So we have the stats but we’d love to hear the thoughts behind them – why do you prefer men as bosses? What experiences have you had with female bosses? And what do you think about these results? Please leave your comments below!

Women’s networks

Is it the end of the road for women’s networks? Elizabeth Harrin from The Glass Hammer blog wrote an interesting piece last week based on this question after attending an event hosted by Morgan Stanley, which I also happened to go to. It’s certainly an interesting question – women’s groups, networks etc always seem to be a controversial topic as many query whether they do more harm than good.

See Elizabeth’s post here for the full story, but in a nutshell it revolves around this quote: “We have to stop bringing groups of women together to talk about what we know is going wrong….We have to convince our companies to stop fixing the women. The underlying assumption with all of those programmes [mentoring, executive coaching, etc] is that there must be something wrong with women.”

Being a women’s network, of course we are going to defend them! But, with good reason. The first point I would make is that the woman behind these words, Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, seems to be referring to “women-only” groups. And I would say I agree that these are not the most constructive ways of encouraging progress. Womenintechnology is women orientated but not exclusive – in fact we always encourage men to attend our events and love it when they do! I also agree that women discussing what is going wrong is not a particularly helpful activity. Our events and training courses often do discuss the problems that women face and allow them to share experiences, but we then provide advice to help these women tackle these problems in the future. We often gear them towards skills we know that women – in general – struggle with.

Then comes the ‘but’. I don’t think it’s true that the underlying assumption is that there must be something wrong with women. Networking groups, mentoring, coaching and other female orientated groups and networks exist because it is no secret that there are inequalities in the workplace. Their aim is to provide support to women who often feel isolated in a male dominated environment and help them feel more confident and happy in their work. What’s wrong with that?

There are many interesting responses to Elizabeth’s blog that are also worth a read. What do you think? Leave your comments here.

The gender pay gap – again!

And so another story on the gender pay gap. The good news? The gender pay gap has narrowed over the past year and is apparently at an all time low. The bad news? It has only dropped by 1%. Let’s look at the main stats that the ONS has published:

  • Hourly wage rates have increased for full time female workers by 4% to £13.43
  • Hourly wage rates for full time male workers have increased by only 2.8% but are still higher at £16.07
  • Gender pay gap is in favour of women working part time who earn an average of £156 a week as opposed to £144 for men
  • Pay gap is now 16.4%
  • Public sector pay increased by 3% compared to 1% in private sector

Despite the fact that I know there is definitely a gender pay gap, I am always a little skeptical about the accuracy when looking at these figures – because I wonder if they compare like for like. For example – do they compare salaries of a male computer programmer with their female equivalent? Or do they compare a CEO with a receptionist?

However when reading this article I noticed the point that was raised by Harriet Harman, who is quoted as saying “Most women work part-time because they juggle the important work of looking after children and older relatives. That’s where the discrimination really bites.” The article then states: “The TUC calculates that there is a part-time gender pay gap of 35.2%, based on comparing the hourly earnings of men working full-time (£16.07) with women working part-time (£10.40).”

I thought this was really insightful . Yes a lot of women are getting paid less because they work less hours and yes the gender pay gap here is positive. But there is an inherent problem with this setup –the fact is that the corporate world makes it difficult for many women with family responsibilities to return to work, leading them to part time roles which pay them substantially less than they’d get if they returned to work full time. Once again it links back to the same issues: maternity and paternity leave and more support in the workplace. But as Harriet Harman says herself, the Equality Bill will help women progress even further. Let’s hope she’s right.

Why employ a woman?

This probably isn’t the type of question that you’d expect the Editor of Vogue – a woman that employs a 90% female team – to be posing. But it is! This article only appeared online this morning and already has almost 200 comments as it’s an issue that always seems to divide people. The main point of the article seems to be: is all the legislation surrounding maternity designed to help women actually doing more harm than good?

It’s a controversial, but very topical, issue. Author Alexandra Shulman raises some good points and it’s quite a brave article to write – as she observed herself: “It’s barely acceptable to write this piece at all – and probably impossible for a man.” She discusses many issues – women expecting to return to their old jobs but working less hours and employers saying that they can promote younger women to take over the jobs for less money. But her main point is this: let’s not make women so difficult to employ that it actually prevents progress.

We could be heading for trouble, as firms – especially SMEs – might think twice about employing women who could at any time announce that they’re taking a year off. So what can we do to make sure this doesn’t happen? The obvious answer seems to be to extend paternity leave. If both men and women were entitled to the same amount of leave, the prospect of employing a woman would be a lot less risky. But as it stands, women get 52 weeks and men get just 2 – for many employers, it’s a no brainer.

What do you think? Leave your thoughts below!