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Marg Hartley with her teenage daughters

That would certainly make headlines, wouldn’t it? I wonder the impact such an initiative would have.
On the weekend I was chatting with my friend Margie Hartley and she shared some insights into why there are not more women in senior roles in Australia. Marg facilitates women’s resilience programs and is a coach to executives. She wrote a blog recently about the disappearing pipeline for senior female executives.
As we were chatting I offered that making childcare – including qualified in-home childcare – tax deductible could be an advantage to keeping more women in the workforce. This idea was recently tabled at the Tax Forum by a group called Chief Executive Women, representing nearly 200 business leaders, including highflyers such as Gillian Broadbent, Ita Buttrose, and Janet Holmes a Court.
Of course, this does not take into account those women not attracted to the corporate ladder, but still requiring greater flexibility in childcare, for example nurses working shifts, where the usual 7am opening and 6pm close of a long daycare is no help.  Actually, nor is it much support to the corporate working- woman either, given the hours often ‘expected’ in that world (which is another blog in itself).
Another submission made to the Tax Forum by the National Foundation for Women, argues that childcare tax breaks are not the solution, as tax deductibility versus the current childcare rebate would leave some families weekly out of pocket on their childcare fees. Put simply, nurses do not have access to the tax breaks that higher earners in the corporate world can experience.
My friend Marg’s response upped the ante: “What if Australia had free, ie: publically-funded childcare? We have public primary and secondary schools – our economy is changing and public policy needs to change with it.” It’s an interesting idea: public preschools that feed into our publicly-funded primary system.
However this is not a simple issue for under school age children. Every working mother I know talks about the horror of handling school holidays and trying to find appropriate arrangements.   Plus coming back to the notion of working hours, services that run outside of school hours are also vital.
Speaking with another woman the other night at the Global Banking Alliance for Women summit – hosted by Gail Kelly – with Penny Wong presenting the 40% female representation on government boards initiative. Much of the conversation around our table at the event was about the ‘juggling’ game that parents play. One woman lamented “I work 4 days a week, I have two pre school children and childcare costs me $40k per year…in POST TAX DOLLARS – I have to earn $70k just to pay for childcare… you have really got to love what you do at work to make it worth working at all.”
That is the point!
Ultimately, as business leaders, we all need to be willing to embrace change and lead by example. Change the notion of what is an appropriate working week. Change leadership expectations and, as Margie writes in her blog: “have leaders demonstrate flexibility that is really flexibility. Not a five-day week squeezed into four days or the ability to work 14 hours a day through technology.”
Let me hear your thoughts on this one…

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