Everyone’s contribution is equally as important

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.

Mixing business and family - sharing the journey with my daughter at the EY Entrepreneur of the Year 2011

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.

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2 Comments

  1. Posted October 13, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Naomi for a great response to Brigitte’s letter. I too started my business with the anticipation of having children in the future. I now have a 9 month old and work part time whilst trying to run the business. Luckily (although sometimes challenging financially) my husband has come into the business full time so I have that extra support. We can also juggle looking after our baby and share her care and work. This however does not mean it is not a struggle, and I personally will be investigating the use of a nanny at some time in the future. I am however cautious of the cost of this, and the lack of subsidies available. I also started my business with the vision of supporting other mother’s in the same situation, and hope that our work place can go some way to providing the flexibiilty we all need (not just mothers). I am the guinea pig at the moment! I have also seen how difficult it is for my friends and past colleagues and the tough decisions they have to make between their children and their career as an employee with pressures from all sides. I too agree we should be able to pursue the career interests that inspire us, as well as being parents, grandparents, aunties, uncles etc. It seems the Australian working environment has some catching up to do.

  2. Posted October 17, 2011 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    Great response Abbie, I agree with you. I definitely think the Australian working environment has some catching up to do.

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