While some women certainly opt for more ‘family-family’ roles and hours, this social norm impacts those women who want to be the breadwinner and are committed to their career. Such a balenced, well-written article.
Both women and men still expect women to take on the lion’s share of care-giving when children are small, and to take on family-friendly work through the school years. Having fewer women in senior management reinforces the stereotype. Even when couples intend to share parenting, reality bites. Recovering from birth and breastfeeding keeps many women at home longer. There’s even less incentive to rush back to work if the male partner earns more money.
Changes in the corporate landscape have had little impact. Experts say there is an insidious bias against working mothers. “I hear lots of stories of people going on maternity leave and coming back to different roles that are less senior or with less scope.”
“We have a long tradition through the industrial relations system in Australia of protecting the male-breadwinner model,” she says. “That’s breaking down with the need for both parents to work, but we still haven’t fully come to terms with the fact that mothers are working, and how we should to respond to that.”
“…younger women to establish their careers first and have their babies second. “But the truth is, neither sequence is optimal and both involve trade-offs that men do not have to make.”
A senior manager at Origin Energy, with two young children says she has slipped behind her male peers even though she took less than 12 months’ leave and returned to work four days a week. “Motherhood is not a stamp that you’re stuck with,” she says. “The penalty comes when you choose not to go foot to foot with the hours and the travel and the commitment.”
Men who want time out to co-parent are met with raised eyebrows. “The situation traps men as much as it traps women,” says Feenstra. “Many more women in senior management roles would normalise the look of the workforce, which would then make it easier to have the conversation at home.”
“Companies assume that when a woman comes back to work, her commitment is to her family,” O’Reilly says. “But women say, ‘If I am going to come to work and leave my son at home then I want to do something meaningful and that will advance my career.’ It’s a really easy fix. You have to have communications both ways.”
“No one has the perfect solution,” says Marian Baird. “But if men take the same sort of family leave as women, we will see a change. We have to make men as ‘unreliable’ as women.”
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