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I was recently listening to Susie Babani – Group MD, HR, ANZ speak on Workforce Diversity as a driver of business performance. She has such a rich and diverse background herself after working on most continents. The way that she described the program at ANZ was fascinating. People come together organically to support the community they represent and then present a case to the bank for additional resources to market to that community or provide unique product.
Susie ensured that the audience understood that diversity was in no way a Women’s issue – diversity of cultures, sexuality, ages, disabilities, it is a far-reaching program.
In question time Susie was asked, ‘Given your experience in working in many cultures – what do you think is the number one reason why women are so under represented in senior roles in Australia?’
She responded (and I paraphrase). ‘There are of course many reasons, but as far as I can see a significant contributor is the access families have to affordable childcare’. She went on to say that in the Asian cities she has worked in, there are many more women in senior roles. She said ‘I know that this will be controversial but – the reason is – they have live-in Ahmar’s at home looking after the children.  Women in Asia don’t need to take as much time out for parental leave– also it gives them the ability to attend other activities that are not in work hours – such as networking or educational events.’
This is an interesting notion.
She said most Australian’s are aghast at the thought of ‘cheap labour from Asia’ and we could never do this here… have a different ‘class’ of citizen. She says quite to the contrary. Those people would be able to work in Australia under Australian law and the relativity of the wage (plus having good accommodation and food) is significantly better than that person would have in the Philippines for example. Most of them are likely to send the majority of what they earn home – which supports a community in need.
It got me thinking. We have student visa’s for people under 26 to work in casual jobs for up to 3 months for a total of a 12 months stay. What if there was a ‘Carers’ visa type – valid for work in Australia for up to 5 years – with restrictions and minimum conditions to ensure that this community is well looked after. (She noted that most people by nature will look after the person who is looking after their children – it is human nature).
Perhaps it is not just the fact that women (or men on parental leave) are disadvantaged for taking time out of the workforce and don’t therefore have the same level of experience that limits their career opportunities and the equality of pay. But also as his or her young family grow they are under constant pressure to ‘get home’ because of child care restraints – so they cannot ‘network’, travel for work as required or attend educational or other events pertinent to furthering their career.
Food for thought…
What are your thoughts on how families can be better support – not just maternity leave but juggling work and family responsibilities after returning to work?

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