Creating a positive company culture which ensures employees feel valued and respected is key to attracting and retaining diverse talent. With so many companies on the hunt for female talent in tech, employers need to ensure they’re prioritising the right incentives to attract these women to join their companies over the others in the market. In our recent Women in Tech survey, we found out what employee incentives women in tech value the most when looking for a new job. In this article we expand on these incentives and how a company can offer them effectively to help attract women to apply.
It’s probably no surprise that top of the priority list for women was for an employer to have flexible and/or remote working policies. During the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, most employers were forced to switch part or all of their operation to being remote. The percentage of the UK workforce who were working from home jumped from 6.8% in 2019 to 22.4% in 2021. Fast-forward to 2023, and the hybrid approach to working has very much remained in place. Research has found that office workers are now going to the office an average of 1.4 days per week, a huge decrease from the average of 3.8 days per week pre-pandemic.
So, it’s clear that remote working, in some capacity, is here to stay for many businesses, with benefits being seen for both workers & employers. However, women placed flexible working as the top benefit which would attract them to apply for a job. Many people believe that flexible & hybrid working are the same thing. However, hybrid working only refers to the location of work being flexible, whereas a true flexible employer will allow employees to pick times which suit their lifestyle and responsibilities. This particularly suits women who are working after having children, as they can flex their hours to suit when they don’t have childcare restraints. For example, starting work a little later to allow time for the school run or working later at night once the children are in bed.
Many employers are choosing to adopt a flexible approach for their employees as they recognise that people have different needs and priorities. In 2022, around 4.3 million employees in the UK had employment contracts that allowed for flexible working hours, which is the most common type of flexible working. There are other types of flexible policies, for example job sharing where two people work part-time to complete the work one person would do in a full-time job. Again, this kind of agreement would suit a working mum, so is becoming more popular for women in tech. Even if an employer does not have a set flexible working policy, anyone has a legal right to apply for it (not just parents & caregivers).
Coming second on the list of important benefits for women in tech is training opportunities within the company and role. Professional training and development in a job have been found to be more important to women than to men. Women value self-development and without this are likely to become bored or frustrated, so ensuring a clear path is mapped out with upskilling and promotion opportunities is key to retaining women in tech.
Training and development also allows a woman to grow into her career. Many women leave tech roles due to not having opportunities to progress – one of the key barriers to gender equality in tech. Currently, just 26% of workers in tech are women, and females account for even fewer senior leadership roles in tech at just 16%. This creates a vicious cycle, as if women just starting in tech can’t see role models in more senior positions, they’re less likely to have the drive and passion to move up in their career.
By offering training opportunities and facilitating women to upskill in areas they are interested in, companies can expect to see much higher levels of employee satisfaction and also increase productivity and innovation levels.
From our survey results, annual leave allowance was the third most important of the employee incentives for women in tech when looking for a job. Time off is important for any worker, regardless of their job. After all, we work to live, not the other way around! However, the technology industry has historically had negative connotations when it comes to work/life balance. Long hours, heavy workloads and little ability to take time off are all things which have previously been associated with working in IT. Annual leave is an important factor not just for employees but for employers too, as without proper time off workers are more likely to suffer from burnout and decreased productivity.
The minimum annual leave allowance in the UK for employees working 5 days a week is 28 days paid leave (including bank holidays). However, with the job market being so competitive, many employees have come to expect much more than this. Approximately three fifths of employees have cited having more than 28 days annual leave as important, according to a survey by Hays. In another research survey, it was found that both men & women place ‘encouraging work life balance’ in their top 3 priorities when looking for potential employers. So, it’s clear to see that with remote/flexible working and annual leave being in the top 3 choices for women, work/life balance is important and should be considered by employers when formulating their incentives packages.
Women also placed bonus schemes highly in their list of the most important benefits, with 35% of people placing this in their top 3. An employee incentive bonus plan gives additional compensation above salary, usually based on individual or overall team/company performance. These schemes are an effective way of positively impacting employee behaviour and productivity, as it gives them a real involvement in the business results.
In tech, there are many different types of bonus schemes which a company can offer. For example, a smaller tech firm or startup may opt to reward employees with company shares rather than cash. Or, a more traditional approach is to offer a percentage of an employee’s base salary as a bonus, paid yearly or quarterly. Bonus schemes can offer a brilliant incentive to employees and are a great option for companies who may offer lower base salaries. A well-run bonus scheme allows employees to share in a company’s success which in turn makes them feel more valued and a part of the wider team.
Unfortunately, it was recently found that women in the UK are less likely than men to be awarded a bonus. In the year to June 2022, 31% of men received a bonus compared with only 27% of women. These men also received higher payments on average, showing a bonus pay gender gap issue.
The fifth most popular benefit for women in tech was found to be health insurance. Offering some level of health insurance to your employees is important as it shows you are invested in them and their wellbeing. Traditionally, larger companies have been the ones to offer health insurance due to company-wide policies. However, more and more smaller employers are seeing the importance of supporting their workforce through both physical and mental health challenges.
Having an effective health insurance policy has obvious benefits for both employees and the employer. Employees will feel more secure and supported – knowing that they have the policy as and when they need it. Policies often have some level of cover for partners & children, so this is a key factor for professionals with families, too. For employers, they know that their employees have access to private GP appointments and can skip long NHS waiting queues, meaning they will be in good health to return to work quickly.
It’s key that employers carefully select what type of health insurance policies they offer as incentives. For women, things like fertility/miscarriage support, menstrual health and mental health support are hugely important and by offering this level of support, employers can attract and retain skilled female workers.
It’s clear to see that women in tech place high importance on benefits which impact their work/life balance, with 2 of 5 of the top 5 employee incentives being related to it. By ensuring a company benefits package covers these key areas, employers can stand out amongst the thousands of tech jobs female job searchers will see every day.