Last week I was posed the question by the Australian newspaper “what are the difficulties of being a digital woman?” I share with you my response which appeared in full in the paper on Monday 29 August 2011.
“Being a women in the business world (online or offline) is very normal to me – but I am kind of like an Ostrich with my head in the sand. I don’t really know what I miss out on – the rugby games or the beers after work that I don’t get invited too. When I read studies that give the principle reason for gender inequality in leadership positions and pay as employers discriminating against women for “simply being female”, it’s clear that something needs to change. And I believe that this has to start at the top – we need role models. More women on boards and in executive roles would be a first step.
This is a community issue – not a women’s issue. One thing we need to consider is “why do women choose to leave the workforce?” – I know I did – because when I had children I wanted more flexibility – and in the senior marketing role I held – it just was not possible. Women may choose to leave the workforce for life style reasons, parenting, or simply that they no longer want to work endless hours and not be appreciated. The result of thethousands of reasons of why women leave the workforce has resulted in more than 50 per cent of women over the age of 45 have less than $8000 superannuation – as a result women will be dependent in their old age, either to a partner, family or the state.
Something must be done. Flexible work places might be a start, and tax deductions for childcare.
I’m glad that at least now there is 18 weeks parental leave. But I think there is a bigger issue. Parenting is an eighteen-year job, and that’s being conservative! What are we doing to support parents for the next two decades? Paid parental leave isn’t the answer to encouraging women to return to work. It’s what we do to make childcare accessible and available to people all the time, without prejudice, whether it’s a mother, father, foster parent or guardian. I understand that women are more likely to leave the workforce after the birth of their second child…
One of my colleagues with young children who works part-time at RedBalloon and freely admits that she is a far better wife and mother because she is able to work, contribute and exercise her creative brain with her peers each day.
RedBalloon thrives because of its great team. Part-time roles, the flexibility to work from home or take time-in-lieu are not ground-breaking or innovative on our part. Yet the spirit in which all these are offered may well be. Right now I am on the hunt for child care places close to the office. Everyone’s contribution here is valued equally as highly, no matter the hours they work, or whether they are working virtually.
So we need leadershipfrom the top, from government and with more women on boards. How do we create truly family-friendly workplaces? Many women are missing out of the non-critical, yet still beneficial, aspects of work – the seminars, the conferences, the networking events, the breakfasts – because who is going to do the childcare and get the kids to school?
It’s important to recognise that it’s not simply a women’s issue, it’s a community issue and one that needs structural economic reform. We’re number one on the planet in terms of educating women in tertiary institutions – yet the participation rate ofthose women in leadership roles is dire. Simply, we’re not getting the return out of our highly educated people because these women are not able to easily contribute back to society, no matter how much they wish to.
We can’t all run online businesses so we can have the lifestyle, flexibility and fun we need to fulfill on the varied roles we play – as parents and business leaders.”
 National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM)