Family matters and the working environment

Seven out of 10 young women (average age 29) say that they want to take it easier than their mothers did, and one in four would like to give up work altogether to raise a family. Many said they found females who combine a lucrative career with bringing up a family both ‘irritating’ and ‘unhelpful’.

Contrast that with the results of this spring’s Accountancy Age/Robert Half salary survey. Though our questions were very different to those polled by New Woman, it’s difficult to see how the results tally.

Some 75% of you believe your organisation supports working mothers – and there is implied support of the policy. It’s a figure that’s relatively uniform whatever level of the organization you work in, whatever the organisation’s size and whichever part of the country it’s in. Flexible hours and home working are the most common solutions.

So are female accountants more career-minded than the readers of a women’s magazine? Perhaps. In fact our results seem to chime more with an article by Patricia Hewitt in Accountancy Age earlier this month.

‘Family and working life is changing,’ wrote Hewitt, who is also minister for women. ‘Today both parents often have to work and greater flexibility is needed. Getting flexibility right can work for employees and for employers as well.’

But how much do family-friendly hours matter to accountants? Perhaps not as much as Hewitt makes out.

Most of you would rather receive mortgage relief, share options, leisure facilities or heathcare than enjoy flexible hours. (That said sabbaticals, home working and extra holidays rank higher than a bonuses and pensions).

But perhaps it matters less because the 50-60 hour working week seems to be a thing of the past. The average number of hours worked by accountants each week is a shade north of 42, though partners and finance directors typically work more than 46 hours. Geographically, Glasweigans work the longest hours, while thsoe in the southwest and those working in SMEs feel most guilty about not working longer.

Interestingly it’s partners who are most likely to have experienced complaints about them not working longer hours – at 14% this is twice the average.

And not surprisingly it’s partners who are the most likely to argue that their organization is not understaffed – only one in three believe it to be the case. In Glasgow almost twice as many believe that to be the case.

Still with understaffing a concern across the board – a phenomenon forcing up workloads in the Midlands and fuelling stress in the City – flexible working will continue to be a gender-neutral issue for some time to come.

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