Supporting women at FreeAgent

You should be able to be yourself at work. We don’t think this is a particularly radical vision - but part of this is supporting all employees, to help them feel included and valued. However, there are particular challenges standing in the way of women in the workplace - especially within the tech industry. The Tech Talent Charter estimates that women make up just 28% of the tech workforce in the UK and also only occupy 22% of senior roles in tech. 

As a tech company, we know we have to take action to support women in our company and the wider tech landscape. Here are a few of the ways FreeAgent aims to create a more inclusive space for women. 

Reducing the gender pay gap

The gender pay gap is one measure businesses can use to assess inclusivity by tracking the difference between average earnings of men and women. It may not necessarily mean a business is paying unfairly or unequally, but might highlight an imbalance of men and women in more senior positions or barriers to one gender accessing work with additional payments or bonuses. As a company, we have to report on it, and once we have this information, we want to take action to reduce it. 

Inclusion has always been important at FreeAgent - but we can’t stand still. We’ve evolved quite a lot in the past few years to continue to improve inclusivity. We’ve made the reward process transparent, improved partner leave, introduced inclusive management training, offered support to people interested in upskilling, amongst many other initiatives.

The good news is that we've got more women in the two upper quartiles than we did last year! Overall, we've seen an almost 10% increase in the upper middle since 2021, which gives us some confidence that we’re moving in the right direction. 

After all, closing the gender pay gap isn’t something that will happen overnight. In some cases, the actions we take increase the pay gap in the short term. For example, many women in the tech industry are earlier in their career, which means we tend to hire more women for junior roles. In the long term, we hope these women will progress into higher-earning roles.

Coaching for women in leadership

Supporting women goes far beyond inclusive hiring, we also aim to look internally and help our women at all stages of their career develop. We introduced one-to-one coaching for women in leadership last year and so far the uptake has been fantastic. 

Katie Shaikh, Senior Talent Team Manager, delivers this coaching and she said: “A lot of the coaching is about tapping into existing talents and ideas, and encouraging people to believe in themselves despite being a minority within the industry. Imposter syndrome is a very real challenge that can hold people back.” 

There’s a famous statistic from Hewlett-Packard which sums up the confidence disparity - women would only apply for promotions where they met 100% of the requirements while men would apply as long as they met 60%. “So, if we can give women 90 minutes a month to explore ways to personally progress, we might see more women going for more internal opportunities,” added Katie. 

Partner leave policy

After feedback within one of our internal surveys, we have updated our partner leave policy to six fully paid weeks. Previously, partner leave had been just two weeks, but we knew that the partner’s role is vital and thought about how we could offer more. 

New parents at FreeAgent can also use our enhanced Shared Parental Leave and Pay to share 50 of the 52 weeks of parental leave between themselves. Both parents can choose to take the leave at the same time - providing more support in the early stages of parenthood. The shared parental leave pay matches maternity leave pay - there’s a total of 37 weeks pay to be shared, weighted the same as maternity pay

Since its introduction in August 2023, five individuals at FreeAgent have used the six weeks of fully paid partner leave and the feedback on their return has been really positive. And on a fun note - our Summer Party is always family friendly! It’s been fantastic to catch up with colleagues who stop in during their parental leave for a picnic in the sun. 

Menopause awareness

Considering that the majority of women go through menopause, it’s a taboo topic in many offices. And that’s a problem! Research has found almost a quarter of women have considered quitting due to the impact of menopause or menstrual symptoms at work, and over one in ten are actively planning to quit. At FreeAgent, menopause wasn’t widely discussed until a brief mention in a wellbeing post sparked a dynamic discussion about what more FreeAgent could do. 

Victoria Brodie, Senior Marketing Automation Manager was part of the initial focus group. “It was great to be part of an open and honest discussion for people going through menopause, supporting someone else or looking to understand more - let’s face it, knowing the difference between perimenopause and menopause can be confusing, even when you’re going through it!” This group then set up a support network centred around a new Slack channel (the excellently named “meno-pause-for-thought”) where people can share their experiences and ask questions. 

As part of the conversation about the best practice for company-wide menopause support, we hosted an interactive training session with Miss Menopause. This session was open to anyone and we were delighted the session was made up of 63% women, 37% men. The results were fantastic: 100% of the attendees said they felt more confident having conversations about menopause after the session. 

Georgina Allan, Senior People Consultant, said: “We wanted the discussions about menopause to be more than a single awareness day and make them a part of FreeAgent’s everyday.” 

“It’s clear that FreeAgent isn’t afraid of talking about menopause,” said Victoria. “The People team regularly promotes the wide range of support available through our company benefits and I think you can tell that people feel more confident in having these conversations with their managers.”

Careers initiatives

We have some fantastic external partners who we work with to both improve our own processes and do that all-important outreach. Inclusive Employers helped us with our inclusive management training. 

We’ve also worked with partners like Women Who Code and STEM Ambassadors to reach underrepresented groups in the tech sector. “I didn’t get many opportunities at school to see women in engineering,” said Carly Amos, Group Engineering Manager. “I wanted to show young children that women can be STEM role models too.” 

Carly has volunteered with STEM Ambassadors for several years now. “I currently mentor 15-18 year olds in STEM subjects, but in the past I helped at a code club and ran hands-on sessions at a couple of primary schools. There’s been so much encouragement internally for engineers to get involved in opportunities like this - and because FreeAgent gives us paid volunteering days, it makes it easier to find the time.”

There’s lots more our engineering team does to create a supportive community for women - take a look on our blog

Are you looking for a new role in a friendly, supportive company? Have a look through our current vacancies - we’d love to hear from you.

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