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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?

Reader Interactions


  1. Hi Naomi –

    I was very interested to read your post on Immigration supporting families. There is always a long conversation to be had re the lack of women in senior positions in Australia, and the balance of family and work commitments. However, I shall limit my comment to immigration alone!

    What I would really like to see (and if you ever have the ear of the Immigration Minister, feel free to mention it!) is a visa for Grandparent Carers. I – and so many people I know – have emigrated from other countries either to marry an Aussie (as I did) or because they love this great country (which I do as well). When the care free days of youth and travel have passed and the responsibilities of parenthood are upon us, we suddenly wish we had our mums and dads a little bit closer to share the joys and burdens of our families with.
    Unfortunately, in order to achieve this dream, our parents either have to join a very long queue for a parent visa – sometimes more than 10 years, depending on the number applicants and visas available etc – or pay a lot of money to get in within the next 2 years (some $35,000+ per person). The parent visas are then very restrictive in terms of ability to work and so on. Considering that many of our parents are in their 40s and 50s when we have children they still have a good 10+ years of working life in them (granddads can still work full-time and contribute to the economy). Grandmothers can help out and either take on the grandkids full-time or share work/care time with the mother so they can both contribute to the economy. This provides a great incentive for women to feel comfortable going back to work as they know what kind of influence their children will have in their life, and they know that their children will be cared for by someone they trust absolutely.
    One of the reasons I hesitate on going back to work is that even if I have a nanny at home with my kids, I don’t really know quite what influence that person is going to have on my children. I know how I want to raise my children, and it is not dissimilar to the way I was brought up. There is also no certainty or continuity as that person is an employee and not connected to your children for life. They could leave at any time. And when all is said and done, most grandparents will love and look after their grandchildren as if they were their own children (well, they almost are!).
    In addition, from a “big picture” point of view, we will then be raising a generation of well-adjusted, socialised, secure people who have respect for all ages in society – not isolated, self-oriented, self-protecting, narrow-focused individuals which I think is a great risk in a nation with a high immigrant population.
    With a shortage of childcare (and good childcare) in Australia, and with Australia’s reputation as a family friendly kind of culture (which I have found it often is), I would have thought this is a win-win situation!
    Sometimes I think that the governments are so focused on worrying about the cost of an ageing population they they fail to see the benefits of extended family units and the older generation in the meantime!

    I really enjoy your posts – they provide inspiration and food for thought – a great combination in my book! Thank you!

    All the Best,
    Emily 🙂

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