Recent research from management consultancy PwC has revealed that the gender gap in technology starts young, with only 3% of women students saying that the sector would be their first choice for a career.
Why is this? Partly it is down to the smaller proportion of girls studying STEM subjects at school – a trend that continues throughout university and their later careers. And partly it is down to perceptions of the tech industry as being male-dominated and family-unfriendly.
Perceptions can take a long time to shift. But the reality is that the culture of any company in any industry depends on its individual leaders. And at First Line that culture is distinctly family-friendly.
IT administrator Rachael Farnsworth is back working at First Line after the birth of her second child. She agreed a part-time schedule of working 8am to 1pm four days a week. ‘It was great, but still left me with a problem during school holidays, which are much longer than the annual leave offered by workplaces,’ she said. ‘I also dreaded the times when the children were ill. John and Nim were always very understanding but it still felt awkward to me.’
In fact, it was John and Nim who came up with a solution – and suggested it to Rachael. She now works until 2.30pm, but is able to ‘bank’ the additional one and a half hours to be taken as time off in lieu – either in the school holidays or when she gets the dreaded ‘bump on the head’ call.
‘The possibility of doing this never occurred to me,’ admitted Rachael. ‘But of course both John and Nim are active parents who also have to work around their children’s activities and the weird timing of the school day. They not only understood my problem but were able to come up with a solution that suited us all.’
Maybe some technology companies have not caught up yet with the requirements of modern family life. But First Line can show them one way to go.