Category Archives: Family Friendly Working

Bridging the gender gap: Why are there still so few women in IT roles?

If you had asked the graduates of 1993 how they imagined the gender gap would look in a quarter of a century’s time, the chances are they would have laughed in your face. The girls were outnumbering the lads in the traditionally male disciplines of engineering and technology, and it would have been reasonable to assume that by 2018, this would have spread to all sectors and management levels.

Yet here we are, and things do not quite look that way. Gender diversity remains as much of an issue in technology organizations as it was at the turn of the millennium.

Career breaks?

In part, it is down to the fact that more than 50 percent of women who begin careers in technology leave their jobs mid-career. However, there must be more to it than that. The pattern is not seen to the same extent in other sectors, and to the best of the researchers’ knowledge, technical workers are not the only women on the planet who have babies.

A normalized career path

The question is one that was recently studied by Girls Who Code (GWC), a non-profit organization that provides computer-science education and training to girls and young women aged 11 to 17. Their after-school and summer camp style programs have gone a long way to normalize technology as an educational path, and to foster a sense of curiosity and engagement in technology among teenagers.

The real trick is to keep that momentum going into the world of work, and the recent trend towards outsourced IT services could be key. It is no secret that there is still something of a “boys locker room” mentality in the archetypal corporate IT department. But with internal IT teams rapidly going the way of the dinosaurs, so are the attitudes.

Today, businesses are increasingly looking at third party providers to meet their IT needs – that means companies like Probrand, that provides third party solutions ranging from technical support to managed services to a whole lot more. With the new style of service provision have come new attitudes, and the whole sector has a feeling of fresh air about it.

Identifying the talent

Of course, not every major organization is outsourcing its IT. What can those who keep their technical departments in-house do to improve gender equality? Jane Chwick, a senior advisor at Goldman Sachs, is a speaker for GWC and a member of its board. She feels that the major corporations can and should be doing more to identify, develop and retain the most talented employees and cited a project that she led at Goldman’s 15 years ago.

By creating leadership training programs for the most talented and high-potential female employees in the technology departments, she raised their profiles, allocating real-life projects that would have tangible deliverables. She said: “Within five years, 70 percent of those women became managing directors at Goldman. I think that particular program started a movement at the firm.”

Using your intuition spiritual and emotional intelligence in business

Do you rely on facts to make your business decisions or do you follow your gut instinct? I’ve noticed a big interest in articles on the Family Friendly Working site about using your spiritual intelligence so I decided to find out more.

According to Wikipedia, Spiritual intelligence is a term used by some philosophers, psychologists, and developmental theorists to indicate spiritual parallels with IQ (Intelligence Quotient) and EQ (Emotional Quotient). Danah Zohar coined the term “spiritual intelligence” and introduced the idea in 1997 in her book ReWiring the Corporate Brain. There are ongoing debates about Emotional Intelligence – does it exist, can we measure it, and how? The same debate is very much starting around spiritual intelligence. I wonder, though, if the need to define and measure is ignoring something fundamental, as well as being promulgated by those who might not rely on their instincts!

There’s a place for scientific investigation, but I think that it is also interesting to look at what people do every day. I had been thinking about doing a masters for a number of years, but I was always too busy, with family and business vying for time. Some problems with my health coincided with closing part of my business, and all at once I had time to spare, and a reason to reorganise my priorities. I started a course with the WEA which gave me the confidence to apply for an MA in Critical and Creative writing. I’ve been on the course since September and it’s great, giving me loads of new fuel for thought as well as opening up whole new areas of writing. If I hadn’t followed my intuition that the time was right for a big change, I might be struggling to grow a business that wasn’t really working for me anymore.

Joe Gregory runs publishing company He says, “I definitely use instinct when deciding who to partner with. I think we humans are amazing at spotting incongruity when we trust our gut. When buying product and services though I usually check the data.” Small business blogger and trainer Helen Lindop says, “Yes, big life decisions I tend to go with my gut (then justify it to myself with the facts), smaller decisions I tend to go with the data.” Joe recommends Robert Cialdini’s book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, to understand more about how we make decisions. Lucy Carraher is Managing Editor of Rethink Press. She advises, “Consciously seek out facts then wait for intuition to process and give a definitive response. “Gut” or intuition is not irrational or non-factual. It’s our subconscious linking all information, knowledge and emotion in a broader but less visible way than our conscious thinking processes are able. “Gut” is bigger than but includes “facts”.”

But when it comes down to it, when faced by a decision, what do you actually do? In my own experience, I’d say that at the final point of making a choice, you can only follow your instinct, however many facts you have consumed before that point. You will be able to make an informed choice, the facts may seem to point in one direction, but it is your instinct that tells you whether the time is right, and whether that is the right direction for you and your business.

This article first appeared in Business Rocks magazine.

Quick Tips for Freelancers: Working with a Young Family

If you want to work as a freelancer and have young children you will need a double dose of dedication to your work, as you will have more obstacles to deal with. Before starting out on a freelancer career, decide what you want out of life and make sure your work fits in with it. Think about how you wil balance client deadlines and sick kids or broken nights. You may find yourself working late into the night after the day has not gone as planned. Small children do not always understand when ‘mummy is working’ or ‘daddy has to get this finished right now’.

I get a big buzz out of my work: I love seeing clients’ news being covered in the media or my books in print, and really enjoy the great variety of work I do. If I didn’t have a passion for it, it would be very hard to stay motivated. In a lot of ways my work is a far more tangible thing than raising children: the visible outcomes are easier to measure, so it makes a nice balance. I found it incredibly hard having 6 months of maternity leave after the birth of my daughter: just thinking about feeds, nappies and baby groups wasn’t enough. With my third child on the way I really value the chance to balance work and family in the way I want.

Antonia Chitty is author of Family Friendly Working(, A guide to Promoting Your Business ( and a number of other parenting and health books. She has a book on earning a living from writing, The Commercial Writing Guide coming out in July 2009. You can find out more about her own freelance writing career at and her PR business at

No Regrets Say Parents

A new survey for Family Friendly Working and mumandworking to launch the mumandworking Awards shows that parents are leaving the world of employment despite seeing the family income fall. The survey also shows that parents prize time with the family and flexible hours over job security and the amount they earn when choosing a job.

80% of parents have changed their working pattern since having children. The main reason parent change the way they work is to spend more time with the family. Just over half of parents explained that their priorities have changes, while nearly 3 in 10 found that their work hours didn’t fit the childcare available, and 3 in 20 found that it was financially no longer worth working due to the cost of childcare. Overwhelmingly, parents are happy with the choice they have made. Not one respondent wished they had never resigned, while 4 in 10 say that is has been the best decision they ever made, and nearly 6 in 10 describe the experience as ‘hard at times but worth it’.

Only 43% of parents who responded are now employed with the rest self employed, seeking work, studying or taking a career break. And only 17% are working full time. Director of mumandworking and Practical Parenting Business Parent of the Year 2007/08 Sam Willoughby says, “This shows how traditional employment patterns are no longer normal. The 2010 mumandworking awards which are supported by Sarah Beeny reward and recognise the companies and individuals that make flexible working possible and show that family-friendly employment not only supports family life but give real benefits to the companies involved.”

Changing the way you work after having children has a big financial impact – seven out of 10 families have seen a drop in income and for nearly half of those this reduction is between £10-£40k a year. Three in 10 feel they are financially ‘fine’, while four in 10 are ok most of the time but struggle sometimes. Nearly a quarter struggle financially more often than not, with just under one in 10 finding they never have enough money or even have serious debt problems.

Money is not the top priority for parents, however. When asked to list their top three priorities, time with the family came out first for a massive 17 out of 20 parents, while flexible hours were a priority for three in four. Seven in twenty prioritised how much they earn and three in ten prioritised job security. Career progression was a priority for just one in 10. Director of Family Friendly Working and Inspirational Mumpreneur of the Year 2009 Antonia Chitty says, “Employers need to take this message on board to attract and retain employees. I’m pleased to support the 2010 mumandworking awards that recognise outstanding companies and individuals who are committed to flexible and family friendly work.”

To enter the awards or nominate someone go to Nominations are open now and there are a range of exciting prizes for the winners.

Wake Up Call: Parents Walking Out Through Lack of Flexible Work

UK parents are leaving work due to the lack of flexible working opportunities available to them, according to a new survey for Family Friendly Working. The cost of childcare is also forcing parents to stay at home.

The survey reveals that just over a third (34.6%) of parents who had left work after having children had done so because of lack of flexible work opportunities. Three in 10 (30.7%) cite the cost of childcare as a key reason to quit.

The Employment Act 2002 introduced legislation designed to help working parents. Since April 2003 parents with young and disabled children have had the right to request flexible work. This right to request was extended in 2009 to anyone with parental responsibility for a child aged 16 or under or a disabled child under 18 who receives Disability Living Allowance. People can ask to:

  • change the hours they work;
  • change the times they work; or
  • work from home (for all or part of the week).

Director of Family Friendly Working Antonia Chitty says, “This survey indicates that parents are not getting the flexible work that they need. More work is needed to see whether parents are unclear about their rights, whether bosses are saying no, or whether the flexible work available just isn’t flexible enough. The current provision of funding for 2.5-3hours pre school per day can be nigh on impossible to fit in with most employment: the Government needs to look at the way this is delivered and increase the flexibility of ways that parents can use the funding.”

Parents completing the survey commented:

“My boss was being very demanding, insisting I would get no special treatment and that I had to be in the office from at least 9am until 6pm. This was not an option with a three month old baby so I didn’t return.”

“My daughter was about to start infant school. There was no way I could shorten my hours enough to be there for her before & after school (especially as she was only doing 5 morning a week initially, and I was then working 3 days a week).”

“Working and so many school holidays makes it difficult, especially as a single parent.”

Further results

The survey also found that around one in 10 parents (11.5%) are forced to quit because of lack of childcare. A similar proportion (10.7%) left work because having children changed their priorities.

Britain’s Bosses Missing Out on Talented Parents

A new survey for Family Friendly Working shows that talented parents are leaving the world of employment.

Britain’s bosses are missing out on skilled employees due to a combination of the lack of flexible hours and the cost of childcare. And the parents who are leaving are continuing to develop their skills too both with the family, by retraining, and in their own businesses.

Unsurprisingly the top talents developed by parents are Multitasking (68.4%) and Time Management (65.3%). But more than half (55.3%) of the parents who responded to the survey have developed Promotion and Marketing Skills and almost as many (45.3%) have developed better Communication Skills.

Mums and Dads are getting better at managing money too, with nearly 4 in 10 (39.2%) saying that they have developed their Financial Management Skills after leaving work. A similar number (37.6%) have improved Project Planning Skills since quitting employment.

Parents’ people skills are getting a great workout too. Three in 10 (30.7%) parents claim to have developed better Conflict Management Skills, and one in five (20%) have better Team Management Skills since leaving employment.

Director of Family Friendly Working Antonia Chitty says, “I know that I’ve developed my skills since I left employment and it looks like I’m not alone. Britain’s’ bosses need to think hard about offering more flexible work opportunities in order to make the most of talented parents.”

Parents completing the survey have commented on their post-employment experiences:

“I have learnt a lot since then! More importantly I have learnt a lot about myself, maintaining a positive mental attitude, social networking, enterprise and more.”

“I ended up returning to education and finally getting the degree I always wanted.”

“Starting my business has meant my time management has to be good so that my children get the best of me and I still have time to put into work.”

“In 2006 I published my first book, with a five month old baby and two older kids. Truly a new start for me.”

“I retrained as reflexologist so had a complete career change. I had to learn about running my own business and marketing myself.”

Win Facepaints – Mystery Shopping Job – Case Study of Business Mum Needed

There’s lots going on at Family Friendly Working. You have just one more day to enter a competition to win some Snazaroo face paints. I have got news of an opportunity to sign up as a mystery shopper. There’s news including a report on why becoming a mum cuts your income and how being a working mum won’t harm your child. And I’m now looking for business mums and dads to feature in Family Friendly Working in December. Ideally your business will have some sort of seasonal theme. Email to find out more.

“Inspirational Business Mum of the Year” Award for Author and Entrepreneur

Antonia Chitty has been awarded the “Inspirational Business Mum of the Year” Award at this weekend’s Mumpreneur Conference in Birmingham. She says, “It is great to be recognized for the work I do to help women start and develop their own businesses. Running my own enterprise has made an enormous difference to my life and I’m passionate about inspiring others to succeed. I’m very proud to be the ‘Inspirational Business Mum of the Year’

The Sussexbased entrepreneur started her PR own business seven years ago after the birth of her daughter so that she could work flexibly. Since then, Antonia’s business has grown and expanded, as has her family. Antonia runs Family Friendly Working, a site packed with ideas for anyone who wants a flexible way to work which grew out of one of her first books. She has written eight business, health and parenting books. Her latest release is The Mumpreneur Guide, a practical workbook for any woman who wants to start a business that fits in with the family. She is mum to Daisy, 7, Jay, 3 and Kit, 6months.

September Update – What I’m Working On

At the moment I’m just embracing the challenges of being back after maternity leave.

I’ve launched The Mumpreneur Guide with plenty of online noise which has resulted in great sales – now the challenge is to keep that up! I’m taking part in three different events over Business Mum Week which should help.

Alongside that, I’m

  • providing blogging services to a couple of new clients
  • picking up some feature writing on learning disability for longstanding client SeeAbility
  • working on exciting new book idea for Family Friendly Working
  • about to start on a book about Down’s Syndrome for Need2Know books
  • meeting Everywoman to talk about the workshop I;m running at their conference in November
  • talking to Which? about future health policy work

I’ve got an appointment with a business adviser coming up too as I work on my medium-long term plan – there’s lots to do right now.