Despite women in the Salesforce ecosystem turning to employment benefits like flexible working to improve work-life balance, their entitlement is actually lower than that of men. Could this be contributing to career burnout?
Each year Mason Frank conducts an independent Salesforce market survey, where we analyse salaries, products, and sentiments among Salesforce professionals and employers. While these are really useful for finding out what you should be earning at different stages of your career, they’re also invaluable for drilling down into working habits and culture.
This year, ahead of International Women’s Day, we decided to dive into the data to see if we could find any key gender differences in the Salesforce ecosystem. After all, although the number of women working with Salesforce technology is greater than the industry average, there’s still a massive gender bias in the tech industry – and Salesforce is no exception.
In our 2019/20 survey of over 2,500 Salesforce professionals, of which 30% were women, we found that despite female Salesforce professionals having a greater desire for flexible and home working, their entitlement to this benefit is actually lower than that of men.
Access to Flexible Working Among Women
When asked which benefits they desire most, 22% of female respondents indicated home and flexible working was important to them, compared to only 19% of men. Having access to these benefits would even influence accepting a job offer, with 24% indicating flexible working hours were important to them, and 39% feeling the same about home working.
In terms of actual entitlement to these benefits, only 58% are offered home working, compared to 64% of men. There’s an even greater difference when looking at flexible working hours; the benefit is enjoyed by 54% of men, compared to just 42% of women.
This is especially disappointing given the average woman works puts in 22 hours of additional unpaid work a week through parental and elderly care and running a household, not to mention the additional challenges to work-life balance brought on by menstrual and menopausal issues.
Again, these figures are consistent with the wider tech industry. We’ve been trying for a long time to balance the gender bias in the tech sector by introducing more women to management and board levels, and closing the pay gap, but perhaps we’ve neglected to explore how not having access to the right employment benefits can lower both candidate attraction and staff retention.
The ‘Flexibility Stigma’
When exploring why this may be, we discovered research on ‘flexibility stigma’, the idea an employee is contributing less to the business by working flexibly or remotely.
In a study by Heejung Chung of the University of Kent, 35% of the workers surveyed believed that flexible working created more work for others, while 39% associated negative outcomes with a colleague working flexibly. Of those who had worked flexibly in the past, 39% experienced negative consequences as a result of this, and 18% believed it has impacted negatively on their career.
Interestingly, working mothers were by far the largest segment that felt flexible working had negatively impacted their careers (26%), compared to men without children (13%) and working dads (11%).
The recent Coronavirus epidemic has left business frantically reassessing their remote working policies, while others have been utilising remote working for a while to success. In fact, research suggests that the optimum level of engagement in the tech industry involves three days working from home a week. Despite this, one in three requests for flexible working are turned down.
Changing the Culture of Benefits
Clearly there isn’t a quick fix here as the problem is two-fold. Women are reluctant to make flexible working requests given the stigma attached, and may be less likely to have it granted due to that stigma; those who do work flexibly feel anxious about perceptions of their role and may even dread going back to work as a result of this. Both of these can lead to career burnout.
It doesn’t have to be that way, though. Our research gives employers the opportunity to reassess both entitlement and attitudes towards employment benefits in their organisation. We should be having conversations with our staff about the flexibility stigma and educating them on why employment benefits like these exist; they’re there to help staff optimise their performance, regardless of why they need them, so they should be encouraged to lean on them if necessary.
We have to accept there are differences between the genders and how their work-life balance measures up, so we should be looking to employment benefits to support employees in however way we can, even if that’s just giving them an extra hour to take their kids to school in the morning. The slightest improvement to a working day can make such a difference in the long run.
Salesforce has always been ahead of the curve in terms of both tech and company culture. I’m hoping our research ensures this culture of progression and inclusivity continues to trickle down from Salesforce through its Partner and Customer ecosystems, to increase the number of skilled women working in the ecosystem, and further support those who already do.