Firstly, a simple statistic: If only 6% more women in Australia were in the workforce, the economy would see a staggering $25 billion increase, according to an independent study by the Grattan Institute. A mere 6% increase would bring Australia in line with other socio-economically comparable countries, such as Canada, and contribute to a far more stable economy; one that did not rely so heavily on one industry, such as mining.
This statistic begs the question: Why is it then, when it comes to hiring and retaining women, Australia is falling behind?
The superficial answer is perhaps unsurprising. Data from the ABS show that, between the ages of 20-24 in 2012, 70% of women were either employed or actively seeking work. (Incidentally, a higher figure than for men). However, at the next age bracket (24-35) the figures dramatically dip. Of course, this coincides with the age that many women go on to start a family, and in itself is not surprising. What is surprising is the number of women who return to work after having children. The data shows that participation in the workforce beyond this age was significantly lower than the previous 70%, indicating that a large proportion of women remain unemployed beyond their childbearing years.
Why is this? Back in the day when the most common professions for women were admin based, it is perhaps more understandable. But in the last 16 years, the strongest careers for growth amongst employed females were as professionals and managers. (91% and 75% respectively since 1996). In an era when women have achieved strong, upwardly mobile careers in leadership and professional roles, why exactly have the rates of employment for females dwindled so significantly?
Why are these women not returning to their previous careers after having children?
The truth of the matter is alarming, and summed up in a recent report by Ernst & Young. Quite simply, professional, senior positions in the workplace are not available with family friendly hours. Add this to issues with childcare, (ABS data show that, in 2008, 89,000 parents indicated they had an ‘unmet need’ with childcare, due to unavailability and cost) and it is little wonder than more and more mothers are retreating from the world of work.
Thus begins the story of 100 Mums.
For us, the problem was clear. Talented women were being lost to the Australian workforce due to flexibility issues with work roles, and to difficulties reconnecting with the professional environment.
The solution seemed equally self evident, though it required an element of thinking beyond the ‘accepted way’ of employment. Rather than forcing the talented professional woman into a situation whereby she felt she was compromising the welfare of her family by working inflexible hours, adopt a far less rigid approach, to not only meet her needs, but also to assist businesses across the country with her expertise, and in turn benefit the Australian economy.
This is our tenet. Don’t waste the power of these women, who can offer so much on so many levels. Instead, look for an efficient and practical way to utilise their skills and to offer them an option to successfully manage their career with their family commitments. The existing statistics state that only 52% of women have returned to some form of employment by the time their child is two. 100 Mums presents a viable, flexible way of ensuring that this percentage rises, by offering women a more convenient, more productive way of working, which benefits all involved.
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