Monthly Archives: June 2012

Striking the right work/life balance is key for working mums

by: Susie O’Brien, From: Herald Sun, June 06, 20128:31AM

DO you look forward to your bikini wax as “me time”, as one friend said recently?

If so, something is probably wrong with your work/life balance (or you’ve spent too much time reading 50 Shades of Grey).

On the upside, you get half an hour to yourself, but the price you pay is a woman pouring hot wax on your privates.

As a mother-of-three who also works the equivalent of a full-time job in newspapers, TV and radio, I know first hand how much of a struggle the juggle can be.

As someone who can never resist a good story, half the time I end up banging out a yarn or column on my official days off. This often means interviewing someone important with my son in the background yelling: “Finished my pooh mum, come and wipe my bottom”, or something equally embarrassing.

But at least I get the chance to both work and care for our kids – even if it means I’m often emailing at 10.30 at night instead of watching Revengeand moderating blogs on the phone while doing school pickup

mums@work Director Emma Walsh is dead right when she says flexibility is the real life saver for many families.

And yet did you know you have a legal right to ask for reasonable flexibility at work if you have a child under 6 or a child with a disability under 18?

Probably not.

And did you also know that bosses are required to grant such a request unless there’s a genuine business reason to say no?

Probably not.

It’s no wonder that only one in three women ask for change in their work arrangements to make it easier for them to looking after their kids.

But it’s worthwhile asking, given that two-thirds of such requests are granted, according to the latest Australian Work and Life Index survey.

There are moves afoot federally to extend this Fair Work Act provision to all carers and all parents, regardless of the age of the child. Of course, this move is being opposed by employer groups.

However, this is really shortsighted because some of the most loyal, productive employees around are women who are grateful they are able to hold down a decent job and look after their kids at the same time.

Women who work part time or have to leave work early a few days a week to get the kids from school get very good at making the most of their work time.

And if they’re lucky, there’s time at the end of the week for a hot wax torture session – otherwise known as “me time”.

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The Juggle Between Work and Family Life (from our Guest working mum, Kellie Wade, Diversity Manager at King & Wood Mallesons)

I’d like to introduce you to Kellie Wade, a senior HR professional who has first hand experienced the return to work and who has kindly offered to share her story. Also mums@work client, she is an inspiration to working mums and dads out there…

Hello everyone, I’m Kellie Wade and I am currently the Diversity Manager at King & Wood Mallesons.  I am also a mother to 3 daughters under the age of 3.  And I am still (relatively) sane.  So right there are three things that I take great pride in on a fairly regular basis! 

The majority of my career has been spent in generalist HR and since joining King & Wood Mallesons in 2003 (when it was still known as Mallesons Stephen Jaques) I’ve held a range of People & Development positions.  Prior to commencing my first period of parental leave in June 2009 I was the People & Development Centre Manager for our Sydney office with responsibility for a team of 6 HR professionals and an internal client base of approximately 500 legal and support staff. 

I found that the beauty of parental leave was that in between the life changing chaos of nappy changes, feeding and sleep deprivation, I was given an opportunity to actually step back and reflect on my career – the achievements, the challenges, and the future direction. 

From that reflection I knew that whilst I really enjoyed where I worked and the people I worked with, I was ready for a role that would still make use of my skillset but in a different capacity, and preferably with a different pace.  And so began a conversation between myself and my manager to explore this further.  Starting that conversation was the key to ‘what next’, and I was fortunate in that my ‘what next’ ended up resulting in a move out of the generalist & operations HR side of the business into the small but growing specialist team of Diversity, an area which I quickly came to realise was not only highly relevant to the firm, but also incredibly relevant to my own particular moment in time. 

Several months after returning from my first period of parental leave to my new role as Diversity Manager I went on parental leave again – this time to become mother to twins.  Not surprisingly, that was the real game changer for me.  The twelve months that followed were in equal parts joyous, insane and adrenaline-inducing.  One thing that didn’t alter during that time however was my desire to resume my career again.  If anything that desire had ramped up significantly during the preceding year and so despite encountering some nay-sayers (‘well surely you’re not going back to work are you??’), I  was determined to not only return to work but to actually make it work

The first thing I did was have a long and honest conversation with my husband.  How could we make this work?  What would the impact be on our home life?  How would we both need to change and adapt? Could we do it and not go grey overnight?  He was (and is) extremely supportive, but with his shift work, both of our families living interstate and three young children, there were some practical realities that we were not going to be able to escape. 

Once we had crunched some numbers and worked up what we believed was our ‘ideal’ routine, I then set about having the key conversations I needed to in order to try and get the support in place.  Our fabulous childcare provider had indicated very early on that she would do whatever she could to help us out, so she accommodated our request to have the girls at day-care on specific days. 

My manager was equally supportive and accommodating.  We agreed to trial an arrangement where I would work two days in the office and one day from home.  We’re 6 months in and thus far the arrangement has been very successful.  For part of the week I am able to come to work, reimmerse myself in the commercial world and engage in projects that are interesting and stimulating.  For the rest of the week I can focus on my family and in particular my 3 young daughters, giving them the time and space to drive me and each other crazy and enjoying all that comes with that.

For me, ‘success’ (or feeling successful at it) is made up of a combination of factors but essentially there are three things that have mattered the most – honesty, organisation and flexibility.  If I wasn’t honest with myself or those around me about how I was feeling and about what I wanted, then people may not have known how or what they could do to support me.  If I wasn’t an organised person I couldn’t do what needed to be done in order to make things happen.  If I didn’t work in an environment that supported real flexibility, then I couldn’t produce the required outputs. 

I don’t have the luxury of being able to compartmentalise work into one box and family into another.  I’m still mum when I’m at work and I’m still a Diversity manager when I’m at home.  They do bleed into one another at times.  But it is ultimately up to me to ensure my boundaries are manageable. 

Does it feel like a juggle?  Yes, without question.  Some days more than others.  But would I have it any other way?  Not for one second. 

Kellie Wade
Diversity Manager
King & Wood Mallesons

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Gender Equality for Women on government’s target

The Australian Government is investing over $900,000 in a range of projects and services aimed at bridging the gender pay gap and supporting girls and women in the workforce and the community.

Research by the EOWA revealed last month that the issue of gender equality is still evident today in Australian workplaces. Here’s a reminder of the key statistic that came out as a result of the research:

* Australian women, on average, earn 17.4% less than men

It is well-known that organisations benefit from the participation of women on their boards and in senior mangement positions.

“The Australian Government is committed to continuing to advance equality between women and men and we are backing this up through a range of new projects and services,” said The Minister for the Status of Women, Julie Collins.

“These include resources to help women with the cost of living and programs to help young women with personal development and to boost women’s leadership in male-dominated industries.

“The Government is determined to advance gender equality and women’s economic security and will respond strongly to gender inequality anywhere.

“This legislation is a significant step towards the removal of barriers to women’s full and equal participation in the workplace and I look forward to the legislation passing through the Senate as soon as possible,” Ms Collins said.

Some of the latest funding measures through the Gender Equality for Women program are:

  • $225,000 for a second round of 70 Australian Institute of Company Directors board diversity scholarships, as announced by the Prime Minister last week.
  • $51,625 to determine how to best support emerging women leaders in the community sector.
  • $100,000 towards the Sports Leadership Grants and Scholarships for Women Program, to enable more women to access accredited training and education in sports management.
  • $50,000 for a joint project with the Australian Human Rights Commission, in partnership with the Male Champions of Change, aimed at boosting women’s leadership in male-dominated industries.
  • $89,106 to better understand how to promote women’s participation in the labour force and help inform the development of the new National Workforce Development Strategy. 
  • $52,500 to examine the reasons for the first year pay gap between male and female graduates from university and vocational education and training. 
  • $39,000 to enhance each portfolio’s capacity to meet the gender balance target of at least 40 per cent women on Australian Government boards by 2015.

Whilst these government initiatives will assist in some aspects of improving the gender pay gap, organisations need to do their part also, says Emma Walsh, Director of mums@work.

“We lose many women from the top positions in organisations because of leaving to go on maternity leave and have children. Employers need to be ready to have that flexible work conversation to retain their top female talent,” says Walsh.

The 2007 Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Community (HREOC) report on work life balance suggests that ‘flexibility in the workplace’ is the fundamental component in enabling workers to meet the ever increasing demands of work and family life.

It is great to see the Australian government putting support behind the evident gender pay gap.

Article by Elysha Stephens, Marketing & Communications Consultant

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Paid parental leave and flexible working paying dividends for employers

The full report from the Diversity Council Australia

We thought we’d share the DCA’s findings on paid parental leave and flexible working conditions. Here’s the full report.

Diversity Council Australia research reveals leading employers who provide flexible working and have good paid parental leave policies are getting returns on their investment. 


In a survey on paid parental leave and return to work provisions of DCA members, many of whom are Australia’s business diversity leaders and biggest employers, DCA found 91% of organisations had a policy to provide paid parental leave and 96% offered part-time/reduced hours. The average return to work rate from parental leave was 89%.


Nareen Young, DCA’s CEO, said progressive employers recognise the benefits to productivity and business of paid parental leave and provision of flexible working:


“These employers know paid parental leave and flexible working help attract and retain talented employees, especially women, and protect the significant investments they make in training and developing employees. Family-friendly practices in workplaces are crucial to reducing staff turnover and cutting the cost of having to replace experienced employees.


“Some employers are quite innovative in their approaches such as continuing to pay superannuation while their employees are on unpaid parental leave, or making sure they remain eligible for salary reviews whilst on leave. These measures are especially important in addressing the gender pay gap for women with time spent out of the workforce having children a major contributor.  


“Several employers allow employee couples to share the one paid parental leave period or each take their own paid parental leave period, provided it isn’t taken concurrently, while other allow the parental leave periods to overlap. This reflects the realities of parenting today where parents often swap the primary carer role at different times,“ said Nareen.

Key findings of the research include:

  • Paid parental leave policy – 91% of members had a policy to provide paid parental leave.
  • Length of paid parental leave – 14 weeks was the average length of paid parental leave (i.e. for primary carers).
  • Parental leave return rate – 89% was the average return rate for members.
  • Eligibility for salary review while on parental leave – 59% of members’ policies stated that employees on parental leave were eligible for a salary review whilst on leave.
  • Provision of flexible work:
    • 96% offered part-time/reduced hours
    • 91% flexible start and finish times (regular and ongoing, not ad hoc).
    • 80% extended unpaid leave/career break
    • 80% flexible work arrangements during the early weeks for settling young children into child care
    • 77% telecommuting or home-based work (regular and ongoing, not ad hoc).
    • 73% access annual leave in single day periods or part days
    • 70% job share.
Some of the more generous and/or innovative policies adopted by employers include:

  • The most generous paid parental leave was up to 52 weeks paid leave: 12 weeks leave provided at full pay and up to 40 weeks paid at 0.60 of salary for the primary carer.
  • 10% of DCA members made employer superannuation contributions to employees on unpaid parental leave.
  • In the case of employee couples, some organisations recognise that families want to be able to swap the primary carer role between parents at different times:
    • 23% allowed parents to share the one paid parental leave period (e.g. they share the 12 weeks paid parental leave period, each taking 6 weeks leave), provided they do not take leave concurrently, and each is the primary caregiver for the time they are on leave.
    • 14% allowed parents to each take their own paid parental leave period (e.g. 12 weeks paid parental leave each), provided they are the primary caregiver at that time and leave is not taken concurrently.
    • 11% allowed parents to share the one paid parental leave period (e.g. they share the 12 weeks paid parental leave period, each taking 6 weeks leave) and take overlapping periods of leave.

About the research:


DCA invited 152 member organisations to participate in an on-line survey and participants from 74 organisations responded. This represents a response rate of 49%. For a full list of DCA members, visit

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Small increase in percentage of women on boards

There have been small, but encouraging, signs that the recent gains in the number of female directors on the boards of ASX200 companies are being matched in other key sectors in the economy, according to findings from the latest WOB Boardroom Diversity Index (BDI).

The BDI tracks the representation of women on the boards of 850 organisations across Australia on an annual basis. The data is current as of January 2012.

The 2012 index shows that sectors including superannuation, credit unions, health and sport have shown small increases in the percentage of women on the boards of their organisations in the past year.

Directors of Women on Boards, Claire Braund and Ruth Medd, said the 2012 BDI findings were encouraging and showed that organisations were paying attention to the issue of boardroom diversity.

However they cautioned there was still a lot of work to be done as there should be at least 40 percent of women on the boards of the majority of the organisations listed in the BDI.
“The number of organisations with more than 25 per cent women on their boards has increased and the number of those without a woman on their board has fallen, however it is still unacceptably high at 24 percent. These organisations are failing in their responsibilities to customers, shareholders and society,” Ms Braund said.

The sectors with the largest increases since 2011 are the ASX200 and the Australian Government. Those with the highest representation are the State Owned Corporations in Queensland and South Australia.

Women on Boards commended the Federal Government on its 40:40:20 targets for its boards and committees, saying this would improve governance, accountability and selection and appointment processes.

“Targets are a great way of requiring organisations to broaden their search parameters and selection criteria and go beyond those areas they have traditionally used to source directors,” Ms Braund said.

Source: Women on Boards

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10 tips for building zest and energy to enjoy more happiness

For more happiness via zest and energy, start each and every day with some or all of the following:

  1. turn on some of your favourite music
  2. spend a few minutes practicing gratitude and appreciation
  3. plan at least one pleasurable and at least one satisfying event for later in the day (you can even do this the night before) then enjoy the positive anticipation of looking forward to the pleasure and satisfaction
  4. get in, straight away, to some vigorous exercise
  5. make sure you have some goals, even small ones, to work towards
  6. visualise your perfect day; a day in which you achieve all your goals
  7. schedule at least some time in which you’ll connect with at least one of the more positive people in your life
  8. make a commitment to eat healthily
  9. find at least one way to use at least one of your strengths
  10. and don’t forget to have fun!

So there you go; kickstart your day with these 10 great positivity boosting strategies

C/- Dr Happy, from The Happiness Institute

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You can Now Sign Up to our BLOG!

We’ve just implemented the ‘follow us’ tools for our mums@work blog, which means you can now receive our blog posts in your inbox!

We think it’s about time! This is going to help us engage with you better and ensure important information relating to the latest on parental leave policies, flexible work, achieving diversity and ‘Career After Kids’ reaches your inbox effortlessly!

Feel free to SIGN UP NOW using a blog reader, or enter your email address and click Submit to receive all our stories automatically.

Yours sincerely
Emma and Elysha

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What About the Leaders?

We’ve put our leadership hat on this week and what a great opportunity to let you know about our support for leaders in organisations who need to tackle or just need the know-how of how to manage working mums and dads and put in place support programs to retain employees long-term.

We talk so much about supporting working mums and dads and place importance on achieving diversity in business and in our teams. But what about our leaders and managers whose responsibility it is to successfully retain their team members, with the help of their HR department of course.

An article released by hr daily today suggests that diversity is achieved through appropriate leadership management. Alison Tickner, Mercer’s head of leadership, diversity and learning solutions for Asia Pacific, says “There is a war for talen on and therefore the organisation or the leaders who show real commitment to that diversity and inclusion agenda and are able to demonstrate that… [will find that] people are going to be more attracted to wanting to be a part of that organisation because they’re going to get themselves heard.”

Mercer’s report: Diversity and Inclusion: an Asia Pacific Perspective shows that when diversity and inclusion strategies are not linked directly to business strategy and the overall performance of managers, they tend to lose momentum and effectiveness.

The article offers 3 tips for organisations to consider:
1. Measure and track the levels of diversity in the organisation
2. Focus on what matters most to the business
3. Communicate diversity effectively through the organisation and communicate it to everyone

mums@work offers seminars and workshops, run internally in organisations to assist managers in dealing with achieving diversity in the fields of career and parenthood, work/life balance, flexibility, child care, ageing workforce, retirement transition and financial planning. Emma Walsh, Director of mums@work says “Employers can choose from 1-2hour Lunch and Learn informal seminars or customised full-day workshops, delivered internally for employees and managers.”

For ideas on the content of these seminars, follow this link: 

Diversity is on everyone’s agenda. It’s now about finding out how to approach it at the organisational level to achieve success.

Author: Elysha Stephens, Marketing & Communications Consultant, mums@work

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