UNE - University of New England

06/14/2024 | Press release | Archived content

UNE research investigates how career breaks impact tech empl

UNE research investigates how career breaks impact tech employees

Published 14 June 2024
UNE Business School PhD student, Anastasia Prikhodko, is hoping to shape future workplace practices and policies through her research that's investigating the impact that career breaks can have on career progression in the rapidly evolving tech industry.
Image: Source: arturmarciniecphotos

In July, major changes to the government's paid parental leave scheme will come into effect, meaning Australian parents will be entitled to up to 110 days of paid leave that can be shared between carers.

While this positive step forward will provide families with more flexibility and equity when it comes to caregiving responsibilities, for some, it raises the question of what impact extended leave from work will have on their careers, especially for those in the rapidly evolving tech industry.

UNE Business School PhD candidate, Anastasia Prikhodko, is hoping to examine the effects that career breaks, including parental, sabbatical, long service and carers leave, have on career progression in technical fields.

Having spent the past year combing through the current research on the topic, Anastasia is now looking for professionals working in the industry to provide their insights and first-hand experiences.

"Technology is such a fast-changing and innovative environment, so I think it's interesting to examine people's professional journeys in a field where the needs and demands are continuously changing," she says.

"Also, there's been a lot of change in the workforce since the COVID-19 pandemic and new government parental leave schemes - for women and men - coming into place."

Anastasia's literature review has revealed there to be significant road blocks for people, particularly women, who have chosen to take a break from work, regardless of length.

"This is due to the lack of support for flexible working, insufficient training and cultural constraints," she says.

"Research also shows that a break in IT often results in a knowledge gap and loss of confidence, self-belief and networking opportunities, making career re-entry difficult."

Anastasia explains that according to the literature, when women return to the workforce they are often given more junior positions and feel that progression and development opportunities are no longer available to them.

"Instead, they're offered positions thought suitable for women with caring responsibilities, a process that sustains vertical gender segregation within the business," she says.

Image: Anastasia Prikhodko

This inequity can lead to less women working in the tech space, especially at the senior level, which can have broader societal impacts, particularly in the age of artificial intelligence.

"Encouraging more women into the tech space is crucial for shaping the design of our world and ensuring it serves the needs of a diverse range of people, reflecting society appropriately," says Anastasia.

"To put it simply, with fewer women in the industry, technical fields are deprived of a workforce that can contribute different views on system designs, development and use. So, the more diverse the talent, the more likely IT solutions will address a range of problems and needs."

Anastasia has observed there are a few ways to overcome some of the challenges people face when returning to work, which if implemented more widely, could encourage better gender equity in technical fields.

"The literature shows that upskilling was one of the enablers that facilitated re-entry of women in IT," she says.

"Some technology organisations are taking steps to improve the culture and curb the exit rate by introducing family-friendly policies, flexible work arrangements, policies to stop harassment and bullying, and transparent practices."

A number of organisations are also introducing employment returner programs to better support women returning to the workforce.

"Researchers have also suggested that IT employers need to provide a longer career ladder with greater ability to pause in terms of progression without the risk of being written-off by senior management as uninterested in advancement."

Anastasia's research is due to wrap up in 2029.

If you're a technology employee based in NSW or working for a NSW company, have taken a career break of any kind, and would like to participate in Anastasia's research, please contact [email protected]. All personal details, including names, places of work, and exact roles, will remain anonymous.

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