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Apparent Gender Bias Hampers Women’s Career Progression in the Salesforce Ecosystem

by Zoë Morris

Flexible and home working are the most desired employment benefits among women working with Salesforce, but their entitlement to these benefits is actually lower than their male counterparts. This is having an adverse effect on gender representation in the Salesforce ecosystem.

Mason Frank’s annual salary survey is the largest independent exploration of Salesforce culture. As well as being useful for benchmarking salaries and learning the best education and certification routes into specialist roles, the report is also a great source of information for identifying professional trends and habits, particularly when drilling down into specific segments such as job roles, technologies, and even gender.

Ahead of International Women’s Day 2020, we looked into the
differences between men and women in their professional life; how they feel about their current role, what kind of workplace incentives or benefits would make them feel more supported, and which of these desired benefits they’re actually entitled to.

Gender differences in desired benefits

In our survey of over 2,500 Salesforce professionals, of which 30% were women, we found that while male respondents generally preferred financial incentives such as performance-based bonuses or shares in the company, women had a greater desire for home and flexible working. Of overall female respondents, 22% indicated home and flexible working were important to them, compared to only 19% of men.

Access to these benefits would even influence a woman accepting a job offer in Salesforce, with 24% indicating flexible working hours were important to them, and 39% feeling the same about home working.

It’s to be expected that women would have a greater desire for flexible and home working. After all, they can perform up to 60% additional unpaid work a week on the likes of cooking, cleaning, parental and elderly care, so flexible hours and working from home could have a huge positive impact on a woman’s work-life balance. These make the risk of career burnout far greater in women.

Entitlement to flexible and home working lower among women

Despite this greater desire for flexible and home working among women, their actual entitlement to these was lower than men’s. Only 58% of women reported receiving home working as a benefit, compared to 64% of men. The deviation was even greater when looking at flexible working, where 54% of men had access to it compared to just 42% of women.

There’s no logical reason why entitlement to these benefits should be different across the sexes, but what we did discover was a phenomenon called the flexibility stigma: discrimination and negative perception towards workers who work flexibly, and consequently the negative career outcomes experienced by them.

A recent study measured sentiments towards flexible working, as well as feelings from those who has worked flexibly. Of the workers surveyed, 35% believed that flexible working created more work for others, while 39% associated negative outcomes with it. Of those who had previously worked flexibly, 39% experienced negative consequences as a result, and 18% believed it affected their career negatively.

Given this stigma, it’s perhaps unsurprising that roughly one in three flexible working requests are turned down. These archaic attitudes are also at odds with research into it, where the optimum level of engagement in the tech industry is considered to be when an employee is working from home three days a week.

The impact this has on the Salesforce ecosystem

These themes aren’t exclusive to Salesforce technology, of course. In fact, the number of women working in Salesforce (30%) is actually a lot higher than the tech industry average of 20%. This is a wider issue that plagues the tech sector, and adds to the conversation on why the gender bias is so apparent.

Businesses have worked to close the gender pay gap and introduce more females to management and board level, but these findings suggest that women aren’t receiving the benefits and support they need to sustain a healthy career.

We as employers need to do two things: have clear communication with our staff on which benefits they’re entitled to, considering all benefits that could optimise individual performances; and educate people on why these benefits are so beneficial. If we can use success stories from our own organisations on where these benefits have been utilised to success, this will go even further in dispelling the flexibility stigma.

Making these changes to the culture of staff benefits in businesses could be a massive factor in improving the representation of women in Salesforce, and in the tech sector overall.

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Zoë Morris

Zoë Morris is President of Salesforce staffing firm Mason Frank International. Zoë has played a vital role in building Mason Frank International into the global, award-winning niche IT recruitment firm that it is today; under Zoë’s leadership, the company has consistently achieved substantial year on year growth as well as winning many industry-based awards.