Recently I received a ‘letter to the editor’ in response to my article in The Australian: Role models key to end gender imbalance
Goals for women
IF Naomi Simson‘s goal is to get more women on boards, she should start by not denigrating the role of parenting. ?The women’s movement has failed in what should have been a prime goal — to recognise and elevate the role of caring — whether it is for young children, the disabled, or the aged.? We have a highly feminised carer workforce languishing at the bottom of the pay scale, and capable women facing difficulties returning to the workforce after having ‘wasted’ years bringing up children.
Instead of supporting these women, high profile businesswomen such as Simson compound the problems by categorising the role of parents and carers as something that fails to contribute to society. ?I can’t think of a better way to contribute to society than raising healthy and confident children. I can’t think of a better way to hone organisational skills, to understand your own strengths and weaknesses and to learn patience and levelheadedness. ?It is time that powerful women took the lead in elevating the role of parenting, and promoting it as an asset rather than a hindrance to a career.
Brigitte Dwyer, Sandgate, Qld
I was glad to hear from Brigitte, because her letter highlights the emotions around the issue of gender and women’s role in the workplace. I do not denigrate the role of parenting. Nor have I ever said parents or carers fail to contribute to society. Parenting and teaching are one of the greatest contributions we can make, and I concur with Brigitte that the pay scales are not commensurate with the important role all carers play. What my article in The Australian was attempting to highlight was how hard it can be for women to contribute back to society through the workplace once they have had children.
The point I make is all about choices. The reality is – currently – after the birth of a second child it becomes even more difficult for parents to manage the expense of childcare and maintain a career. Not everyone has the financial freedom to choose not to take paid work once they become a parent. And while parenting teaches you so many valuable lessons about yourself and your organizational skills, it may not give you the outlet to practise the vital medical skills you studied long and hard for when you specialized in oncology because that is a passion you hold outside of your role as a parent. That is the point: many parents want the flexibility of staying connected to their chosen field because they personally feel that connection helps them be better parents, feeds their passions as well as helping financially.
Brigitte – thank you for adding to the debate. There is no easy answer, and each family has their own set of circumstance. What we seek are choices that work financially. One of my most precious roles is that of mother. But I know I can be a great mother experiencing the joy of parenting as well as working – after all, I started my own business so I could do that.