Categories
Careers Flexible Working Future of work

Working From Home: Are Employers Biased About It?

The term Working From Home or WFH, has been used a lot in post-lockdown times. Maybe too much? What I mean is; when a phrase or title is used so often, we can forget it’s literal core meaning.

Because of that, Working From Home has been a talking point as of late. And it is always referred to as a form of flexible working, which it is. But how flexible is it really?

Honestly, there are variables which mean that this question has a number of different answers and there inlies the problem. There is no solid answer to that question and yet there seems to be bias about the flexibility and freedom Working From Home offers.

What is the bias against people who Work From Home?

This all started when I saw a post on LinkedIn. A woman was calling out her husband’s employer for questioning why he needed a shift change to perform parenting duties. When his wife Works From Home…

This alone shocked me. But what shocked me more was the number of people commenting who related to this story. Which led me to question if there was a bias from employers about employees who Work From Home. I set a poll asking this question on LinkedIn and Facebook and 80 people responded.

Only 2.5% said they believed there was no bias against people Working From Home and that businesses understood the limitations. 42.5% said they felt some businesses understand and others don’t. While 55% said that they felt employers have the bias that Working From Home offers far more freedom and flexibility than it really does.

To add to this I saw even more shocking stories in the comment section of what this stereotype has done to people, their living situation and their families, some of them are extreme.

But what surprised me the most is how brazen employers are when questioning the working arrangement of other people who live in their employee’s household.

I fail to see how anyone cannot appreciate how inappropriate and unprofessional that is. If an employee is asking for any kind of leave or change in shift, it is no business of the employer to question why a person outside of their employ cannot perform the task needed.

What flexibility does Working From Home actually offer?

As I said before, it depends on the individual employer how flexible their form of Working From Home is. And the range of that is as long as it is short.

However, if we take it for it’s core definition, this way of working only refers to one thing; the location of where someone does their work.

So in theory, Working From Home in terms of flexibility only really impacts one aspect of someone’s working day. And that is the need to commute into work. This is the only solid difference between an employee who works in an office and one who Works From Home. Every other aspect is completely subjective.

Yet some businesses seem to think that employees who Work From Home have all the free time in the world. I have seen first hand this is not the case.

I know of people who WFH, whose shift patterns including; start time, break times and shift end are just as strictly regimented and monitored as if they were in an office.

Then, I know of people who used to commute to the office and are now casually expected to use the time they used commuting as extra time to spend working.

WFH, Parenting Roles and Unconscious Bias

A point was made by one of the commenters on the poll, questioning whether (when it comes to parents) employers’ attitudes differ depending on which parent is the one Working From Home.

This comment got a fair few likes. Then when I looked further, I realised the majority of people who voted were women and everyone who shared a personal story on the subject was female.

This does beg the question of whether this is a bias on WFH or more unconscious (or perhaps even conscious) bias against women in the workplace who WFH?

This could be yet another insight into the ongoing existence of gender bias and inequality in the workplace. With a bias against mothers Working From Home adding yet another layer to this.

Do I think that this is in actual fact the case? I don’t see the two as mutually exclusive. I believe there are employers who still have gender equality issues and I believe there are employers who have an unfair bias about people who Work From Home. Some of these will overlap and become mixed with one another, but both need addressing.

FTDAWWFH (Free To Do Anything While Working From Home)

Clearly in extremes, this is what some believe Working From Home actually means. There needs to be a serious crash course on what WFH actually is.

Lesson 1 for businesses is reminding them what the ‘W’ stands for. Just because the location of where it is being conducted happens to be home, that doesn’t give the employees the magical ability to be able to take care of all domestic responsibilities while they are at work.

That insinuates that the work they do is less important or easier because they happen to be doing it at home, which clearly isn’t the case. Lesson 2 should be on further flexibility.

It’s clear from our data that some businesses believe WFH is all the flexibility anyone needs. First and foremost, if someone has 8-10 hours worth of work to do in a day, where are they supposed to find time to:

  • Clean the house
  • Do the laundry
  • Pick kids up from school
  • Look after children at home
  • Drop kids off at football, dance, karate etc.
  • Cook meals
  • Look after a sick relative
  • Deal with an unforeseen emergency
  • Go to a doctors, dentist or vet appointment

This list could go on and on, for some people their daily lives consist of this and more. So between all that which they apparently have full availability for, where are they finding the time to complete the 8-10 hours of work that has been set for that day?

Are they expected to work into the early hours of the morning? Because that sounds flexible. So why should they or their wife, husband, partner, mother, father etc. be denied any kind of flexibility to help with any of these responsibilities?

The Solution

Honestly, I think if there are any businesses suffering from any of the aforementioned bias I think they need some serious HR consulting. Working From Home is purely about location, what flexibility comes with that is a totally separate conversation for individual employers to have with their employees.

Although, no employee whether they WFH or not should feel unable to ask for certain needs to be met. And this certainly should not be the case for people who happen to have a member of their household who Works From Home.

There is no other way to put it: that it is not an employer’s business. It is quite literally someone else’s and that business just happens to have their employee Working From Home. And their work is every bit as important, time-consuming and attention requiring as any employee who does not conduct their Work From Home.

Either way, there is definitely a misconception about Working From Home and how flexible it is. The same could be said for the 4-day week which is another hot topic right now. See what John Adams has to to say on the subject and how flexible it really is.

Categories
Equality and Diversity Future of work

Transparent Salaries Scheme to close Gender-Pay Gap

On International Women’s Day 2022, a government pilot scheme was announced aiming to lessen the gender-pay gap for women. By having employers have totally transparent salaries in job descriptions.

This is definitely a step in the right direction. Find Your Flex have participated in research and are always aiming to be a driving force in eradicating the gender-gap. This will undoubtedly make a positive change in this area, but in other areas as well.

The main aim of this scheme is to remove barriers for women, which is excellent and more than needed. But transparent salaries will have other positive impacts too on job seekers in general.

Although this is a positive step in the right direction, there are questions that this raises. Such as; should this only be a pilot scheme? What are the all round impacts of transparent salaries for employees and job seekers? And what more needs to happen in this area?

How will the Transparent Salaries Scheme affect the Gender-Pay Gap?

First and foremost; transparency in general within the workplace has a positive affect on the removal of all inequality. However, in terms of the gender-pay gap, transparent salaries put men and women on an equal playing field from the get go.

If the salary is transparent in the job description, that means there is little to no chance that the employer is going to pay a man more than a woman for the same role. Whereas, if the salary is advertised as Negotiable or On Application, there is no telling what an employer factors in when deciding what your salary is going to be.

By being transparent, everyone who applies knows they will be getting paid the same regardless of gender. Information is key, and Minister for Women Baroness Stedman-Scott appears to take this stance during her announcement of the scheme:

The UK can only grasp its full potential by championing its brightest and best, and ensuring everyone, regardless of their background, has the opportunity to succeed.

We believe that increased pay transparency will build on positive evidence of the role information can play when it comes to empowering women in the workplace.

It certainly empowers a woman to know what they are going to be paid if successful when applying for a role. If an employer offers less than what was advertised, the applicant is in a position to challenge that.

Though positive, should this have happened sooner?

While we all recognise this is a positive move in the right direction towards gender-equality in employment. Not to put a negative spin on it, but it is important to point out that this is a move that should have happened long ago.

Why is it important to point this out? Because we measure the speed of progress by how long it takes to achieve certain milestones in the present. In reality, making salaries transparent in job descriptions is a really simple yet effective move. One that could have been implemented much sooner.

The conversation on transparent salaries decreasing the gender-pay gap and discrimination has been ongoing for years. Many employers who adopted a transparent salary policy have advocated it’s use to eradicate discrimination.

In 2016 Huffington Post spoke to several business leaders and owners who advocate transparent salaries. Ian Pearman, who at the time was the CEO of one of the UK’s biggest advertising agencies and he put it in the simplest terms:

Nothing is more corrosive than the sense that there is inequality in the system. And layered on top of that may be specific concerns relating to gender and race – ‘Am I paid less because I am a woman? Or from an ethnic minority?’ With transparency, these questions don’t even occur.

When you put it like that, it seems obvious that all organisations should have transparent salary policies. And if you think 2016 is as far back as this goes, you’d be wrong.

In the same article the global food shop Wholefoods stated they have been making the salaries of their employees public since the 1980’s! Yet in 2018 there were still arguments being made against all companies implementing this.

Is there an argument against transparent salaries?

That depends on your point of view. In an article by Time which was published in 2018, with the pros and cons were being weighed up. With the pros still being the eradication of discrimination, closing of the gender-pay gap and employee benefits.

Some of the supposed drawbacks included; risking pitting employees against each other due to jealousy and businesses struggling to hire people to lower rate roles.

In response to the latter; if a business is really struggling to secure applicants, the role must be extremely unappealing and not just from a salary standpoint. If increasing the salary is not possible then there needs to be other benefits to the role that will make up for the lower salary.

As for the former; jealousy and resentment in the workplace is a whole separate issue. If it exists within your organisation there will likely be more to it than just salaries alone. Sadly this is sometimes unavoidable whether employees know each other’s salaries or not.

Though these are challenges, they really cannot be used as excuses in the face of eradicating discrimination and closing the gender-pay gap. It may mean more work for HR department and recruitment but in the long term every company would be better off.

Why is this only a pilot scheme?

Judging from what we have laid out already, you may be wondering why the government is only rolling out a pilot scheme. If the pro’s are so vast and con’s are so minimal shouldn’t a full scheme/legislation be implemented?

That is certainly the hope for the future. However, because this scheme has been planned to achieve a certain goal i.e closing the gender-pay gap, a lot goes into this.

Existing policies, practices and processes may need to change and then if after a set amount of time has past, the scheme will be reviewed. If the objectives have been achieved and the overall outcome is positive then it may lead to a wider scheme or piece of legislation being implemented.

So what could this lead to? If a wider scheme is introduced many big companies will ensure their salaries are transparent. Any companies that don’t will look increasingly unethical. Possibly gaining a bad employer reputation if they don’t make the shift.

Of course the main hope is that a major piece of legislation is passed which will require all UK businesses to be transparent and state salaries on job descriptions. Then they will obligated to do so which would be a major victory for employees and job seekers alike.

Transparent Salaries will not only help close the Gender-Pay Gap, but benefit job seekers in general

Although this scheme is being piloted in an attempt to close the gender-gap. The fact of the matter is that it is a huge step in the right direction for job seekers in general.

In August of last year, Find Your Flex conducted our own research into this topic. We asked whether job applicants are put off applying for a role where the salary is not stated in the job description. Over 4,000 people voted and the overwhelming majority said they would be put off.

They expanded on their reasons providing view points that gave us an understanding of what is important to job seekers.

So why are transparent salaries vital in job descriptions? The most obvious answer is that pay is one of the most important parts of the job for applicants.

What we are paid is what facilitates our lives, so we need to know if the role we are applying for will continue to do this. Not stating a salary from the beginning puts the applicant at a disadvantage.

If the salary is stated as negotiable or on application, the employer holds all the cards. Offering applicants different salaries for whatever criteria they see fit. This is why transparent salaries are not only a tool to combat a gender issue, but discrimination in general.

For all an applicant knows, they are being offered less because of their gender, age, race, experience-level, who knows? If the salary is not stated only the employer knows, how is that fair or right?

Now job applicants will know from the beginning what their salary will be. They know it will be based on their ability to do the job and nothing else. And they will know whether or not the job is worth applying for without wasting their time.

A step in the right direction

All in all, this is a step in the right direction to close the gender-pay gap, erase discrimination from the workplace and empower job seekers.

Should this have happened sooner? Yes it absolutely should. And it does show that as far as progress goes, both the government and employers have a ways to go. We know what the issues in both the workplace and in the employment process are, so it should not have taken this long for this scheme to arise. The time for action is now.

Although, as the old cliche goes: better late than never. And we do want to stress that this is a positive development, if not only for the scheme itself but hopefully the domino effect it will cause.

We are looking forward to what effect this scheme will have on the future of working and we will be watching this space very closely in the meantime.

Thank you for reading, if you would like to find out what more Find Your Flex has to say on this and other topics click the link here.

Categories
Automation Career Change Careers Digital Skills Equality and Diversity Future of work Technology Industry

Cyber Security: Filling the Gender Skills Gap in Tech

Living in the digital age brings with it a whole new host of threats. 

The ever looming threat of automation and the number of job roles it will render as obsolete in the not to distant future. We can already see this in retail and hospitality industries, how many have replaced manned tills with self-service kiosks? The implications are there and to be sustainable, automation must create the same number of jobs it takes away. 

But there needs to be a learning curve to bridge the digital skills gap created during this process from now until 2025 when 10M jobs will fall out of the UK economy.   

People need to have the opportunity to learn the skills to be eligible for the new emerging roles, created by automation. 

This is why Skills City and Find Your Flex are stepping in; so we can provide these opportunities to those most in need of a “step up”. 

One of the main issues of the digital age is safety. 

Fraudsters don’t need to speak to you directly to steal from you, children cannot always escape school-bullies even in their own homes, wars these days are not always fought on land, sea or sky. 

All of these threats and many more take place online. Cyber-bullying, Online Fraudsters, Cyber-terrorists, Hackers etc. 

In the digital age, our lives are online, therefore the threats are too. 

So what’s the answer? 

Our physical safety is protected by the police, security guards, firefighters, paramedics, military and so on. 

Our online identities are protected by Information Security Administrators, Social Media Moderators, Security Software Developers, Cyber Intelligence Analysts and more. These roles have become just as vital to our protection as the former mentioned roles, all they require is the right tech skills to really set people on the right path.

Women in Tech

White males largely dominate the physical security roles mentioned previously. Unfortunately white males also dominate most roles within the technology sector. Currently only 23% of people in STEM occupations are female, including tech and this has to stop.  

The world is full of talented and intelligent women that could easily make a successful career within technology. And yet males dominate the industry.

It almost feels ridiculous to say this in this day in age; women are just as clever and technology minded as men. 

Why do I say that? 

Because clearly the message isn’t sinking in. 

This is why Skills City are adamant that women in the North West, whether they be graduates or career changers, need to consider a career in tech. 

We need to change these statistics and these online courses are the perfect way to do that. 

Every single student is guaranteed a job interview upon completion.  

The pandemic and the process of automation provides the perfect opportunity for us to see technology savvy women, recareer and make a HUGE DIFFERENCE to the technology workforce. 

GIF sourced from eloquence-of-felicities.tumblr.com

Cyber Security: We need our Cyber Soldiers

Cyber Security has become a vital part of national security. 

We hear about it all the time on the news, cyber terrorism and hackers are just as much of a threat to our personal safety and security as any physical threats.Often these things even hint at an act of war, and why wouldn’t they? 

With everything being online these days, a war can happen from the keyboards in your office and more easily than weapons could be mobilized on a battlefield. And the people sitting at those keyboards are becoming just as much our protective force as people in the military. 

The military have the stereotype of being for “big strong men” 

(although have you seen the Army’s latest recruitment ad to attract women? Check it out and Google Army + Emma). 

 The tech industry has developed a similar stereotype. 

Yet there was a supposed reason that women didn’t want to join the armed forces (and still do, especially in some divisions). The reason being that they weren’t thought to be as “physically capable” as men, which is bulls*#t. 

Yet even if that was true, there can be be no such reason for women not joining Cyber Security roles. 

Women are just a clever as any man. 

Just as capable of developing protective software and analyzing cyber threats. 

In this industry no one can deny that women are on any equal footing in terms of their capabilities and have a right defend their families and country as much as any man.

GIF Sourced from tenor.com

Ensuring our kids have Cyber Security

The world has had to accept that the majority of children spend a lot of their time online. And this of course brings threats that have already been plaguing us for years now. 

Our kids are not always safe from bullies or predators when they get home. This is a scary and uncomfortable topic that’s not nice to hear. 

But it’s real and we must discuss it in order to combat it. 

As adults we recognise that cyber bullying has caused many grown adults to leave social media and in the worst cases, cause depression, anxiety or even contribute towards someone taking their own life. Some have even had the terrifying experience of being stalked or threatened online.

So it’s completely understandable why there are many parents who don’t allow their child online because of these threats. 

While we’d never tell anyone how to raise their child, what we do know is as this is without question “The digital age”, preventing them from going online is likely to be a losing battle.  

Yes there are threats online but would you stop your child going to school to avoid bullying? 

Or prevent them going out with friends because there are ‘bad’ people out there? 

It’s the same basic principle here. Plus, so much social interaction between today’s youth is online. Keeping your kids away from it could affect them in other ways. 

So you might be thinking: “What can I do to help resolve this then?”

Like everything, nothing is black and white. You don’t need to either just let them go online and hope for the best or ensure they’re never on it at all. If you are a mother or father who is concerned for your child’s online safety, be a protective force for them and all children. 

You don’t have to be a techno genius who develops security software. With the basic tech skills taught in these courses you could become a Social Media Moderator or a Security Administrator. 

These are roles that actively seek out offensive, threatening or suspicious online behaviour and put a stop to it. 

If this is something you feel passionately about, equip yourself with the skills to do it.

In just 14 weeks, you could have the Cyber Skills to help keep our future generations safe. 

GIF Sourced from Pinterest

Cyber Security Online Course

Just like with any industry, the roles within Cyber Security vary and there has never been so much demand for all manner of commercial businesses looking for people like you NOW. 

The base skills for most cyber roles are taught at Raytheon Cyber Academy. Plus  it provides many transferable tech skills that would benefit another role within the sector.  

Automation will soon render many jobs obsolete. To create a new income in a sector that can offer flexible working, it’s imperative women join and participate in the tech workforce. We have to be the change we want to see. 

What if Cyber Security isn’t necessarily the tech avenue for you? 

Then you should definitely look at one of the other Skills City courses such as creative 3D Graphic Design and cloud engineering. Take look at courses from Unity Centre of Excellence and AWS re/start respectively. 

A career change may is both a smart choice but also an inevitability.

Check out all of Skills City tech boot camps here

Categories
Careers Equality and Diversity Future of work

Are We Doing Enough For Women In STEM Roles?

There’s no denying the gender gap that exists in so many industries, women in STEM roles are sadly no exception to this. But research into this has raised some concerning questions and even more concerning answers. There are not enough women in STEM roles, that much is clear but is enough being done to change that?

With the Edinburgh Science Festival coming up, we at Find Your Flex thought this is a topic we want to discuss. Exploring why this is still an issue and the possible solutions to this and why change in this area is so important.

Is there a gender gap in STEM industries?

Naturally we don’t just want to state there is a gender gap without backing it up. But the short answer is yes; there is a significant gap when it comes to women in STEM roles. This is proven by the PwC’s Tech She Can Charter and their report on Women in Tech in the UK. In 2017, WISE conducted research that showed that only 23% of people in STEM occupations were female. This makes over three quarters of the workforce in these roles male. Whats worse is that a separate study in the US shows that only 5% of women were in STEM leadership roles.

Now it would not be fair to say there has been no progress. As the research of WISE revealed that the number of women in STEM roles had increased by 2% from the previous year. Is this progress? Yes… is it enough? No. If this increase per year holds steady it would still be over a decade before there is an equal number of men and women in STEM roles. That is also not taking the pandemic into consideration, this could have had an impact on that increase percentage one way or the other. Either way it is not good enough, the gap needs to be closed at a far quicker rate. So, where does the problem begin?

The Lack of Girls Studying STEM Subjects in School

There are a lot of employment issues that when traced back to their source can start in education. PwC’s research shows that this issue may be no different. They conducted a survey that of over 1000 school students; 83% of the males were studying STEM subjects, compared with only 64% females. Now 19% may not seem like much of a difference however, when you take into account the number of STEM subjects and the number of students, this is still a concerning gap.

A similar statistic in university students studying STEM subjects shows a 52% male versus 30% female difference. But when you break it down the results are more shocking. For example Engineering takes 13% of male STEM students but only 2% female, which says a lot. But it still doesn’t answer the question of why? During interviews, young women stated they didn’t want to study STEM subject as it does not factor into the career they want. Though what is worrying is the response when asked if at any point during their education (including careers advice) a role in technology was suggested. Only 16% of girls had technology careers suggested to them, whereas 33% of males were given these suggestions.

This goes hand in hand with the fact that during interviews many of the young women indicated that many STEM subjects and roles are male dominated which is why they did not wish to study them. And they are right, these statistics prove that. But they also sadly prove that schools are not doing enough to encourage otherwise. And this needs to change.

Early years education and STEM

As signatories of The Tech Talent Charter we are aware of such organisations such as Tech She Can. A charter in which signatories pledge to work with  schools across the UK to educate and inspire pupils and teachers about technology careers.

Let’s not forget the importance of early years education. These children are our future. A future that needs the brightest and most imaginative individuals to be able to flourish, regardless of gender or background. This is the point when children absorb information like sponges. The formative stage where children learn more quickly that at any other stage in life. It is at this point we need to inspire our children. Our young girls need role models and a complete removal from gender bias in STEM. Perhaps the focus should be on our teachers and equipping them with the tools needed to do this.

Women in STEM roles in the Media and Pop-Culture

In PwC’s study, only 22% of students could name a well-known female working in technology. The truth is when you think of famous people in STEM roles, the vast majority are male. There are of course many pioneering women in STEM roles throughout history. Women like Ada Lovelace or Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and many more. Yet despite the numerous women who have revolutionized the world through their work in STEM roles, their names don’t immediately spring to mind. We tend to think of the Steven Hawkings or Albert Einsteins, but why? It could be down to the fact the media over the years have recognized and celebrated the male figures over women. Perhaps the media should be doing more to promote women in STEM roles. Especially during the pandemic, both men and women dealing with this issue have given information and opinions via news channels and in print.

In terms of pop-culture, there are women portrayed in STEM roles in film and particularly television. One that comes to mind is The Big Bang Theory, a comedy that originally started with a cast in which all the scientists were male. Though this changed as the series progressed with female scientists being showcased and two becoming mainstay cast members. Dr. Bernadette Rostenkowski-Wolowitz with a Ph. D in microbiology and Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler a neurobiologist, the latter of whom’s actress has a Ph. D in neuroscience in real life. The show and characters are to this day extremely popular. The two showcased how the females of the group were just as intelligent and successful as their male counterparts and had equally large personalities.

Though other hit television shows have also portrayed STEM female role models. Shows such as Body of Proof; featuring a female protagonist Dr. Megan Hunt; a former Neurosurgeon turned Medical Examiner who has a straight-talking, never-back-down attitude. Even featuring a female in a STEM leadership role as Dr. Kate Murphy is the Chief Medical Examiner. Though there are other shows that showcase females in STEM roles: Grays Anatomy, Casualty, Holby City, Doctor Who etc. So in terms of pop-culture there isn’t a lack of fictional females in STEM roles, so why is there still a lack of non-fictional females in these roles? Its high time life started imitating art on that score.

How to get More Women In STEM roles?

PwC believe that the technology sector must take steps to deal with some of these highlighted issues. However, this should be the responsibility of all STEM industries to get more women into STEM roles as a whole. First and foremost it is the responsibility of STEM organisations to get more involved in the education of young people. They need to do more to raise awareness and showcase the importance of these roles. Make them attractive to young women as well as men. Many students did indicate the reason they wouldn’t consider a role in technology is they don’t know enough about it. STEM organisations should also look inwards to ensure they are providing the women in their company with the same opportunities as the men. More women in senior STEM roles creates more role models and inspirations for future generations.

Schools also need to do better in encouraging girls to study STEM subjects and pursue STEM careers. The statistics above show there is not enough encouragement or access on either front. If girls voice concerns on entering male dominant industries, there needs to be encouragement to overcome this. The research showed roles that make a difference were appealing to young women. Therefore there should be encouragement from both schools and STEM organisations that pursuing these roles makes a difference. A shift in perception is the first and arguably most important step.

The media need to do better at portraying female STEM role models. Make a bigger splash about the life altering contributions females make in STEM fields. Its important that these women are at the forefront of STEM fields to give young women something to aspire to and show them that they are just a capable as any males in this area. Pop-culture is doing a good job at presenting women in these roles, however there is room for improvement. Perhaps television, film and books aimed at a much younger audience should feature more STEM characters. This very well could plant the seeds of girls pursuing STEM fields when they are older.

Hopefully when young girls are grown up enough to make a decision whether or not to pursue a STEM career, the world will be a different place. One where there are just as many female role models in this sector and no obstacles. Its up to society to drive these changes, we need do our best now to set the wheels in motion.

If you want to read more about inspirational women in this and other fields click here! Or more about The Tech Talent Charter then click here.

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