It’s a community issue.

My colleague Phil, Having a great time at work - AND being a great Mum - it is possible to have it all

Last week I was posed the question by the Australian newspaper “what are the difficulties of being a digital woman?” I share with you my response which appeared in full in the paper on Monday 29 August 2011.

“Being a women in the business world (online or offline) is very normal to me – but I am kind of like an Ostrich with my head in the sand. I don’t really know what I miss out on – the rugby games or the beers after work that I don’t get invited too. When I read studies[1] that give the principle reason for gender inequality in leadership positions and pay as employers discriminating against women for “simply being female”,  it’s clear that something needs to change. And I believe that this has to start at the top – we need role models. More women on boards and in executive roles would be a first step.

This is a community issue – not a women’s issue. One thing we need to consider is “why do women choose to leave the workforce?” – I know I did – because when I had children I wanted more flexibility – and in the senior marketing role I held – it just was not possible. Women may choose to leave the workforce for life style reasons, parenting, or simply that they no longer want to work endless hours and not be appreciated. The result of thethousands of reasons of why women leave the workforce has resulted in more than 50 per cent of women over the age of 45 have less than $8000 superannuation – as a result women will be dependent in their old age, either to a partner, family or the state.

Something must be done. Flexible work places might be a start, and tax deductions for childcare.

I’m glad that at least now there is 18 weeks parental leave. But I think there is a bigger issue. Parenting is an eighteen-year job, and that’s being conservative! What are we doing to support parents for the next two decades? Paid parental leave isn’t the answer to encouraging women to return to work. It’s what we do to make childcare accessible and available to people all the time, without prejudice, whether it’s a mother, father, foster parent or guardian. I understand that women are more likely to leave the workforce after the birth of their second child…

One of my colleagues with young children who works part-time at RedBalloon and freely admits that she is a far better wife and mother because she is able to work, contribute and exercise her creative brain with her peers each day.

RedBalloon thrives because of its great team. Part-time roles, the flexibility to work from home or take time-in-lieu are not ground-breaking or innovative on our part. Yet the spirit in which all these are offered may well be. Right now I am on the hunt for child care places close to the office. Everyone’s contribution here is valued equally as highly, no matter the hours they work, or whether they are working virtually.

So we need leadershipfrom the top, from government and with more women on boards. How do we create truly family-friendly workplaces? Many women are missing out of the non-critical, yet still beneficial, aspects of work – the seminars, the conferences, the networking events, the breakfasts – because who is going to do the childcare and get the kids to school?

It’s important to recognise that it’s not simply a women’s issue, it’s a community issue and one that needs structural economic reform. We’re number one on the planet in terms of educating women in tertiary institutions – yet the participation rate ofthose women in leadership roles is dire. Simply, we’re not getting the return out of our highly educated people because these women are not able to easily contribute back to society, no matter how much they wish to.

We can’t all run online businesses so we can have the lifestyle, flexibility and fun we need to fulfill on the varied roles we play – as parents and business leaders.”

[1] National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM)

This entry was posted in Articles

2 Comments

  1. Posted September 5, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Yes you’re right Naomi, it is a community issue but you wouldn’t think so by the societal attitudes AND government funding that is allocated to childcare. It’s still seen by most as a WOMEN’S issue and that’s holding a lot of women back from paid work and career progression. That’s why I’ve started the MAKE CARE FAIR alliance – to get childcare onto the public agenda. The first goal is to collect 20,000 signatures to present to Canberra confirming that this IS an important issue for Australia. Please sign the petition at http://www.makecarefair.com and help spread the word – something needs to happen on this or we’ll be having the same conversation in 20 years time!!!

  2. Posted September 23, 2011 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    Hi Naomi,

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I have three children all under 9 (only one at school).

    I left the workforce after my third child and started my own business so that I could have a bit more flexibility.

    As we have a big enough house I discovered that a live in au pair is cheaper than child care – but as it is not approved child care my child care rebate is reduced to 10 cents in the dollar – so is not worth filling in the paperwork AND I am no longer eligible for the other up to $7000 a year for out of pocket expenses. Child care centres are not always the answer. Due to my early morning starts some clients are interstate and I fly early so I can be home for dinner.

    I made the decision that I would pay for it all out of pocket. I am a better person for it. I get to use my brain and mix with different clients. But I have the confidence that my au pair will be there for the pick ups and drop offs, the sick days and the after school.

    She has taken the pressure off me – it is almost like I have a wife! But this type of child care is not recognised anywhere so I had to balance the cost v’s the potential earnings. I know that I am lucky as my business makes enough money that it all balances out in the wash, but there would be lots of women that it would not be as cost effective without the government contribution. But it is so much more convenient. I no longer have to drop the kids as soon as the centre opens and rush to get there for final pick up (some days this was a struggle).

    Maybe the government needs to look at the childcare models as centres are not always convenient (hours, location & places), but I also understand they want to deal with as few companies as possible to minimise their work.

    More women on boards is great, but without the child care right you can’t attend all of the things that the blokes do – it is the footy games, dinner and drinks that gets you accepted as part of the board. The men do it as they have wives at home running the house. I think that Janet Holmes a Court is one of the most amazing women I have met. But I always wonder if she would have been able to run the company the way she has if Robert had died when the children were still home. Would she have been where she is, or would she have sold the business to stay at home with the children?

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