Australia, we have a big problem.
It’s 2016 and as women we’re still fighting for equality in the workplace. There’s still that pesky huge issue of the gender wage gap, we’re still the primary care givers in the home and women on average retire with 46.6% less in their superannuation than men. Ouch.
As a 29-year-old woman, I find it baffling to know that my skills, my experience, my creativity and my ideas are worth 30% less than a male counterpart, purely because I possess (which in my opinion, is nothing but an advantage) an extra X chromosome. There is a fundamental problem with our gender unequal society, and it’s time we did something about it.
Now, I know that I work for one of Australia’s most forward thinking companies when it comes to empowering women in the workplace and our fearless leader Emma Isaacs is proof that with help, you can have the business and the babies too. But what if you’re not an entrepreneur or business owner where you can create the flexibility (and cashflow) required to forge ahead with a career and consider starting a family?
Upon returning to work after maternity leave, (working three days from home with bub and one day in the office) our Editor of Latte magazine Rebecca Bodman bravely shared the challenges she faced when adjusting to working life post partum. “I’ve always given 100 per cent to everything. And that’s what I’m struggling with. It’s just dawned on me that I can’t give 100 per cent all the time to work anymore, and by going back to work I can’t give 100 per cent all the time to baby, either.”
My husband and I have always known that when it’s ‘the right time for a baby’ we will face the challenge of doing it on our own. With my family in Brisbane and his in the UK, we won’t have the support around us to make my transition back to work ‘easier’ or more affordable. There will be paid childcare involved and this will no doubt impact my decision regarding the capacity in which I return to work. I know that in no way my situation is unique; this is purely something that most women my age have to contend with in some way, shape or form. But at the end of the day, just because I’m not the only one, doesn’t make it any easier. For me, or for anyone.
For us to move forward as a gender equal society, we have to acknowledge the fact that affordable childcare in Australia isn’t purely just a women’s problem. Last week independent Sydney creative agency The Works did just that. The company launched a new HR policy (which is an industry first) offering staff returning from maternity leave $100 per day for six months to use towards childcare services of their choice. The policy will be offered to staff that have worked for the company for two years or more and the payments are not aligned to any one childcare service, allowing staff the flexibility to select what best works for their situation.
Agency partner Kevin Macmillan says, “Parents need as much flexibility as possible when it comes to their kids, we wanted to ensure the parents were the decision makers, whether that is a nanny, early childcare center or their parents, we want to support that decision and respect that everyone’s situation differs.”
Anything that makes the transition back to work easier for families and more affordable, is something that, as a society, we should all be supportive of. “People can not return to the workforce because childcare in Australia is cost prohibitive,” says Business Chicks CEO Olivia Ruello. “Particularly when women in Australia are typically still the primary care givers, it means that participation rates of women in the workforce are lower when they start families. This is not only detrimental to the economy, but also in terms of equality in the workplace. No one should be disadvantaged because they are the primary care giver.”
It pains me to think that as a woman, in some capacity, my career will be impacted when it’s time for baby. So whilst we know the facts and figures when it comes to the advantages of striking a gender equal workforce, my only hope is that more businesses, like The Works and Business Chicks, will wake up, shine a light and most importantly actually do something to tackle this issue.
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