Category Archives: In The Media

We are Excited to Announce we are a Finalist for the Prestigious Australian Human Rights Commission Business Award

Emma Walsh Founder Parents@Work

Thank you for your support! 

This week the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) announced Parents@Work is nominated for the Human Rights Business Award. This prestigious award recognises businesses that make a practical commitment to the promotion and advancement of human rights including a positive contribution to improving social outcomes in Australia. 

We feel especially excited and privileged because this year the AHRC received a record number of nominations!

We’d like to take this opportunity to thank you – our loyal supporters – for your continued support of our fantastic service.  

I started Parents@Work eight years ago because I believed, both organisations and as a society, we could do more to change the way we consider and treat working carers in the workplace. We have grown from a tiny business to one that provides services to over 100,000 plus parents and carers across Australia. We now service 12% of Australia’s top 100 companies and last year we helped thousands of parents to return to work and manage the career and family transition. Learn more about our story.

Going forward we are advocating for true gender equality in the workplace and home – where our hard-working Dad’s are as much a part of the conversation as Mums. We are dedicated as ever to improving the lives of everyday working families in Australia.

Professor Gillian Triggs, AHRC President said in a statement: “This award acknowledges the efforts of individuals and organisations within the private sector who enhance human rights, often in ground-breaking ways.”

And that’s what we will aim to continue to be – ground-breaking! 

Eight years ago there was no legislated Paid Parental Leave Scheme, no right to request flexible work, no Dad and Partner pay, No Stay In Touch days, and less than 49% of Australian companies offered any paid parental leave support to their employees. Things are changing which is encouraging and we will continue to pave the way on all issues related to carers rights and gender equality in the workplace. Our communities, families and businesses deserve it.

As a finalist Parents@Work are in good company. The other four businesses shortlisted for the award are the NRL, Coles, TravAbility and Maitree House Productions.

The Human Rights Commission will present the annual Human Rights Awards on December 10th 2015 at a lunch at the Westin Hotel in Sydney. The Parents@Work team will be attending. We’ll be posting updates on our LinkedIn and Twitter pages so stay tuned!

With appreciation,

Emma and the Parents@Work team



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Part-time work, part-time care: The radical yet strangely sensible proposal for our future

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A LOT of people think Jennifer Nedelsky’s plan for the future of work is crazy, but when most hear her radical manifesto, their reaction is: “Where do I sign?”.

The Canadian professor, a fellow for the Institute for Social Justice, has this theory that everyone, and she means everyone, should work part time.

Have we got your Mondayitis affected attention yet?

If Professor Nedelsky’s ideas were to be implemented, when the full-timers among you arrived at work today it would have been the beginning of a minimum 12, maximum 30-hour week. And if you’re one of the increasing number of graduates looking to gain employment or struggling to find that next opportunity, it wouldn’t be a problem.

The catch in this utopian labour model is that everyone would also be required to participate in part-time, unpaid care work for the same number of hours, 12 — 30.

Of the 11.8 million strong labour force in Australia, around 3.6 million of us work part time according to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics data. Continue reading

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What do Aussie workers want the most? You guessed it… work-life balance.

business woman showing balancing concept

Australian employers must adopt a “multi-pronged strategy” to connect with the cream of the talent crop, says Hudson’s executive general manager Dean Davidson.

According to Hudson’s latest employment survey, work life balance is the top priority for this year’s jobseekers, beating salary and career progression to the number one spot.

The Hiring Report: The State of Hiring in Australia 2015 surveyed more than 3000 professionals and hiring managers across Australia. Its findings revealed that 70% of Australian workers viewed work life balance as the most important thing when considering a new position, signalling the growing pressure on employers to seriously consider the arrangements they offer their staff.

Hudson’s executive general manager Dean Davidson said that Australian work culture has seen a shift, resulting in work life balance no longer being “just a buzz term or the domain of the working mum”.

“Work life balance is now fundamental to all Australian professionals and will be firmly on the agenda as we move throughout 2015,” he said. “The fact that cultural fit – that feeling of belonging – is so far up the value chain, and is actually the most important factor for senior executives, demonstrates that fitting in and feeling valued are also important priorities for Australian job seekers in 2015.

Respondents named higher salary as their second priority, while cultural fit closely followed as the third most important factor.

Davidson added that the evolution of digital technology and networks have created a highly complex job market.

“Our report shows three in four employees are open to being approached about a new job opportunity, while eight in 10 have an up-to-date CV and six in 10 have an up-to-date LinkedIn profile,” he said.

However, while employees are becoming increasingly open to being approached about new opportunities, finding and attracting talent is becoming more complex due to the modern requirement of both a competitive job offer and a multifaceted sourcing strategy.

Researchers found that hiring managers are acknowledging a scarcity of talent, with 90% saying that they need to look beyond active job seekers to find the right candidate.

The research showed that online job boards remain the single most important platform for sourcing new talent, named as hiring managers’ most effective sourcing channel. In spite of this, a third said that online job boards are now less effective than they were two years ago. Australian employers are increasingly adopting a “multi-pronged strategy” to secure talent, utilising recruitment specialists, personal networks, internal referral schemes and headhunting.

“This report confirms what we are seeing, in that while digital may have altered the job market forever, best practice hiring is far from a digital-only approach,” said Davidson. “Social media channels are growing rapidly however their effectiveness as a sourcing channel is still to be proven. External solutions and people networks remain imperative to the process of tapping into high quality candidates.”

Researchers also found that almost half of hiring managers use social media to evaluate candidates – although 82% of professionals said they are comfortable with their “online footprint”.

The top nine: What Australian jobseekers are looking for in 2015

1. Work life balance – 70%
2. Higher salary – 67%
3. Cultural fit within organisation and/or team – 64%
4. Career progression/training opportunities – 58%
5. Better benefits – 46%
6. A company whose values are closer to mine – 36%
7. Strong manager – 30%
8. Better brand – 14%
9. Better job title – 13%

Source: HC Online

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Workplace Gender Equality minimum reporting standards start now

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As of the 1st of October the new Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) reporting standards apply for all organisations with 500 or more employees.

What does this mean for relevant employers?

They must have a policy or strategy in place that specifically supports gender equality in relation to one, or more, of the following:

  • GEI 1 – gender composition of the workforce.
  • GEI 3 – equal remuneration between women and men.
  • GEI 4 – availability and utility of employment terms, conditions and practices relating to flexible working arrangements for employees and to working arrangements supporting employees with family or caring responsibilities.
  • GEI 6 – any other matters specified by the Minister: sex-based harassment and discrimination. [1]

What organisations are required to do to be compliant

For information and the essential resources an organisation requires in order to comply with the new standards click on the links below:

Parents@Work is happy to support you if you would like any additional help or assistance when reporting against the WGEA’s Gender Equality Indicators.

[1] Workplace Gender Equality Agency, What are minimum standards? Viewed 13 October 2014,

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What you need to know about the Government’s Pregnancy and Return to Work Report

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In our April blog Stand up Australia – Our working mums and dads deserve better we brought you the preliminary findings of the Government’s National Review into discrimination related to pregnancy, parental leave and return to work after parental leave. The landmark Human Rights Commission study found 50% of women experience discrimination during this period. Just as astounding is the fact that this figure has barely changed in 20 years according to the Commission. It’s not just a woman’s issue – over a quarter of men also face discrimination on return from parental leave.

Now, the Commission has released its full report with recommendations for Government and employers on how to help fix this problem, a problem that Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick says would boost Australia’s economy. She told ABC News: “What we do know is that men’s workforce participation rate is about 12% above women’s. If we could close that gap by lifting women’s participation just 6%, we would add around $25 billion annually to Australia’s GDP. This has got significant productivity benefits for Australia.”

From our perspective the report is thorough and includes 4 outstanding principles that if implemented successfully will change the shameful affairs of pregnancy and return to work discrimination in Australian workplaces.

Below we highlight:

  • What employers need to know
  • Best strategies to combat discrimination
  • The Commission’s recommendations – 4 key principles
  • A brief overview by the Human Rights commission including first hand accounts of pregnancy and return to work discrimination

What employers need to know 

Best strategies to combat discrimination

The strategy with the highest impact in reducing discrimination in this area is to address the gap that currently exists between the law and its proper implementation within organisations.

Complementary strategies and actions to address this gap include:

  • Ensuring employers and employees gain an increased understanding of the legislative framework
  • Improving the clarity and dissemination of information
  • Conducting effective training
  • Changing workplace cultures to remove harmful stereotypes, practices and behaviours
  • Monitoring the implementation of policies.
  • Strong leadership within organisations will support reforms that shape more supportive and successful workplaces

The Commission’s recommendations – 4 key principles 

Principle 1: Understanding rights and obligations is the starting point. Employers and employees need clear, comprehensive and consistent information that will assist them to increase and enhance their understanding of their obligations and their rights and how they should be applied in the workplace.

Other measures can include:

  • Developing and implementing policies and programs to support pregnant employees and working parents
  • Ensuring good communication and information sharing between management and employees throughout the continuum of pregnancy, parental leave and on return from parental leave
  • Promoting flexible work opportunities, and
  • Identifying and measuring key metrics, such as return to work rates and promotion rates for flexible workers.

Principle 2: Dismantling harmful stereotypes, practices and behaviours about pregnant women and working parents is critical to eliminating discrimination related to pregnancy, parental leave and return to work.

Identifying and ‘calling-out’ the harmful stereotypes in operation within a workplace is the first step to dismantling them. The second critical step is to expose and remove the stereotypes and unconscious bias underlying an organisation’s policies and practices for leave, flexible work, and promotion and performance indicators. 

Principle 3: Strong standards and improved implementation drives change and helps to create productive workplaces. 

There is therefore a need to focus on strategies that bridge the gap between law and practice.

Points relevant to employers include:

  • Amending the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 to include a positive duty on employers to reasonably accommodate the needs of workers who are pregnant and/or have family responsibilities.
  • Strengthening the ‘right to request’ provisions introducing a positive duty on employers to reasonably accommodate a request for flexible working arrangements.

The Federal Government has already committed to providing $150,000 to support resources about the rights and obligations of both employers and workers. 

Principle 4: Ongoing monitoring, evaluation and research will help to shape effective action.

As a priority, further research is needed to identify the most effective mechanism for reducing the level of vulnerability to redundancy and job loss of pregnant women, employees on parental leave and working parents. It has been recommended that the Government allocate funding to conduct a regular national prevalence survey.

A brief overview including first hand accounts of pregnancy and return to work discrimination 

Report: pregnancy and return to work discrimination costs everyone 

The Australian Human Rights Commission’s landmark report for its Supporting Working Parents: Pregnancy and Return to Work National Review, released today, has found that little has changed in the 15 years since its first Inquiry into this subject. Australian workplaces still overwhelmingly view working while pregnant as a privilege, not a right.

“Our Review included an Australia-wide national consultation process and a national prevalence survey, which Australia is one of the few countries to have undertaken,” Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick said. “It provides indisputable evidence that pregnancy/return to work discrimination continues to be widespread and has a cost – not just to women, working parents and their families – but also to workplaces and the national economy.”

The Review found that one in two (49%) mothers and over a quarter (27%) of the fathers and partners surveyed reported experiencing discrimination in the workplace during pregnancy, parental leave or on return to work. Women and men spoke of the devastating impacts such discrimination can have on a person’s health, on their economic security and on their family.  In the words of one woman:

I would describe my experiences during pregnancy, whilst on parental leave and on returning to work as harrowing, disappointing and probably the worst experience of my life. I spent much of my pregnancy feeling anxious (and sometimes in tears), despite being thrilled about the pregnancy and being physically well. I felt powerless, vulnerable and fearful about my job security and couldn’t understand why I was being treated so badly, especially given my unquestionable commitment to the organisation over the previous seven years.

“The existence of these forms of workplace discrimination is also limiting women’s participation in paid work as well as the productivity of businesses and other organisations,” said Ms Broderick. “Addressing it is not only a human rights imperative, but also an organisational priority. It is critical to the growth of both a strong economy and a cohesive society.”

Commissioner Broderick emphasised that some employers found managing these issues difficult, particularly the uncertainty surrounding pregnancy and return to work. In the words of an employer:

The first thing is that you try to be very excited on behalf of the person who’s telling you. Secretly what you’re [thinking] is how the hell am I going to replace this person for the next year? With the best intentions in the world not to discriminate in any way, how can you avoid being concerned: how am I going to run this company and meet my objectives in the next year or two?

Despite this, the Review found many were putting dynamic and leading strategies in place to overcome these barriers and support their employees.  The Report highlights these leading practices.

The recommendations in the Report are directed towards government, workplaces and the wider Australian community, all of whom have an interest in increasing women’s participation in the workforce and creating supportive workplaces.

“While there are a few areas where the laws can be strengthened, our recommendations are directed towards a much better implementation of legal obligations through greater provision of information about employee rights and employer obligations,” Ms Broderick said. “This is an approach intended to help plug the gap that allows this discrimination to take place – the gap between the legal framework and the implementation of the law.”

The recommendations also emphasise the need for strategies and approaches designed to help dismantle stereotypes and drive cultural change within workplaces, as well as the importance of further monitoring, evaluation and research to shape effective action.

“Research and modelling shows that if businesses and other employers are able to retain women and men who are becoming new parents by eradicating pregnancy/ return to work discrimination, there will be a considerable economic dividend to both them and the wider economy,” said Ms Broderick. “It’s a human issue first. Workplace discrimination has a damaging impact on the lives of parents. But by working together, we can achieve positive results for all.”

The Commission welcomes the Federal Government’s response to the findings of the National Review with the Minister Assisting the Prime Minster for Women, Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, today announcing funding of $150,000 for the Commission to develop resources for employers on how to best manage and support working parents through pregnancy, parental leave, and on return to work.

For the full report (including the more digestible Community Guide) visit the Human Rights Commission website.

First published: 25 July 2014

Source: Human Rights Commission.

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Stand up Australia. Our working mums and dads deserve better – 1 in 2 mothers and 1 in 4 fathers experience discrimination in the workplace

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An astounding and worrying statistic emerged last week from the National Survey conducted as part of the Pregnancy and Return to Work National Review. 1 in 2 mothers and 1 in 4 fathers experience discrimination in the workplace.

Equally astonishing is the perceived lack of outrage expressed in the media – in fact, there’s been barely any follow up after the initial headlines aired in the mainstream news. Why is this?

If we follow recent history of discrimination faced by footballers on the field or other media personalities, the news coverage for the story can last for days until the perpetrator is named and shamed. Shaming here isn’t the point (awareness and change are) but it does highlight how inconsistent our values and standards can be. Ordinary mums and dads face discrimination every day – at a stage in their lives when many are vulnerable both emotionally and financially. These parents are expected to juggle it all and suffer in silence as they raise our next economy-boosting generation and future leaders (who will, let’s not forget, be tackling our looming aged care crisis).

This issue is far too important to be dropped – the silence must be lifted which is why it’s imperative we make the statistics count while they are fresh.

So, to reiterate – 50% of today’s mothers are experiencing workplace discrimination. These aren’t mothers from two generations ago, when awareness was low and laws were non-existent. This is happening right now. For fathers the figure sits at 27% (also astounding considering the majority take less than 4 weeks for parental leave).

The survey

The Review included an Australia-wide national consultation process and two national surveys. One survey looks at women’s perceived experiences of discrimination in the workplace as a result of their pregnancy, request for or taking of parental leave, and their return to work following parental leave. The second survey looked at experiences of fathers and partners that have taken time off work to care for their child under the ‘Dad and Partner Pay’ scheme.


The most commonly reported discrimination for mothers occurred during:

  • Return to work (35%)
  • Requesting or on parental leave (32%)
  • During pregnancy (27%)

For fathers:

  • During parental leave (20%)
  • Return to work (17%)

The Review found the following forms of discrimination most prevalent:

  • Negative attitudes and comments about breastfeeding or working part-time or flexibly
  • Being denied requests to work flexibly
  • Threatened with or experienced dismissal or redundancy
  • Reductions in salary
  • Missing out on training and professional development
  • Missed promotional opportunities
  • Health and safety related discrimination

The impact on parents

The Review found that 84% of mothers experienced a significant negative impact on one or more of the following:

  • Mental health (increased stress, reduced confidence and self-esteem)
  • Physical health
  • Career and job opportunities
  • Financial stability
  • Families

Specifically 42% of women reported that the discrimination had a financial impact on them and 41% felt it impacted on their career and job opportunities. Many women either left the workforce altogether or changed employer due to the discrimination.

For fathers 61% reported a negative impact on their mental health, 42% reported that it had a negative impact on their families and 37% said that this had a negative financial impact.

The impact on organisations

Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick comments: “The major conclusion we can draw from this data, is that discrimination has a cost – to women, their families, to business and to the Australian economy and society as a whole.”

The sad fact is the majority of women who experience discrimination do not make a formal complaint (only 8% made a formal complaint within their organisation) resulting in a third of women looking for another job or resigning.

This doesn’t just impact on families but also employers who lose valuable talent, sometimes without a full understanding of why. If productivity efficiency and employee retention are primary goals it makes good business sense for organisations to get on board early with addressing parent related discrimination.

Though the evidence may point out how far we have to go on this issue Commissioner Broderick also emphasized that during the consultations there were a number of employers already implementing ‘dynamic and leading strategies to overcome the challenges and support employees’.

Whilst it’s crucial to recognise the costs and inefficiencies of discrimination it’s also important to learn from those organisations doing the right thing.

Lochiel Crafter, Senior Managing Director, State Street Global Advisors comments: “State Street is committed to supporting women and working parents in the workplace; we believe that maintaining a culture of diversity and inclusion is key to helping our employees feel valued and our business succeed. This training demonstrates our commitment to retaining and developing our people by providing parents returning to work with all of the information and support they need to excel in their roles.” 

The good news is, now that we have the evidence to support what’s happening in Australian workplaces, employers can create tighter strategies and lead the way with more enlightened practices to help reduce the occurrence and impact of discrimination. What’s more, we can use these findings to hone in on the organisations doing the right thing and hold them up as an example of best practice to help guide and inspire others to do the same.

What can be done? 

Best practice organisations are talking, they are implementing family friendly policies and practices, and they are conscientiously starting to shift the negative cultural influences around the issue.

It’s those proactive organisations we celebrate at Parents@Work (sister organisation to Mums@Work) and we’d love to hear more about those doing their best to reduce discrimination – send us a comment and we’ll share your brilliance here.

In the meantime here are our top tips on how to create a family friendly workplace free from discrimination:

For another 5 tips – get your free e-book ‘10 Tips to Creating a Family Friendly Flexible Workplace’ (click on the red button ‘Subscribe + Free E-book’)

The Review’s findings highlight why Parents@Work do what we do. Balancing a career with starting a family can be one of, if not, the most challenging balancing acts a working parent faces. To make it work parents need the support of their employer and colleagues. Thankfully, there are resources – like the Parents@Work Portal™ – and educational sessions – like the Career After Kids Forum – that can help organisations, managers and parents prepare and navigate the most challenging transitions.

Click on the relevant link for more information on the Parents@Work ProgramParents@Work Portal™ or Career After Kids Forum.

For the initial report visit the Human Rights Commission website.

A final report and recommendations of the National Review will be released by mid 2014.

We hope you’ll join us in our endeavour to advocate and push for change to create more family friendly and discrimination free workplaces.

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Can we all have it all?

Here’s a thought provoking TED talk for employers, policy makers and employees (that’s working parents, caregivers or indeed anyone with loved ones).

In “Can we all have it all?” US public policy maker Anne-Marie Slaughter challenges us to look at why and how we can change social attidudes around work choices – be those of the caregiving or breadwinning variety.

A few quotes to get you interested:

“Workers that have a reason to get home, to care for their children or family members are more focused, more efficient, more results focused. They have a wider network and experience. Caregiving itself develops patience, empathy, creativity, resilience, adaptability – those are all attributes that are ever more important in a high speed, horizontal, networked global economy. The best companies know this.”

Can we all have it all?

“A 2012 study of employers showed that deep flexible practices lowered operating costs and increased adaptability in a global service economy.”

Click the image on the right to hear Slaughter explain why shifts in work culture, public policy and social customs can lead to more equality — for men and women.

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4 ways employers can improve executive-level diversity

Women in Leadership

This is a excellent article by HR Daily for employers and HR professionals looking to improve gender diversity at the executive level. The suggestions in the article are based on research by Kerry Baxter who conducted a study focusing on women in leadership roles (the final paragraph on approaches that do work is particularly valuable). It’s also worth noting  that all the women involved in the study were working parents.


The careers of successful senior executive women have four key characteristics in common, and they’re areas that HR departments can influence to make the path easier for others, according to researcher and leadership coach Kerry Baxter.

Baxter, who completed her PhD on women in leadership roles, found that while there are no definitive secrets to success for women, patterns and themes emerge from their experience because “people who are successful always leave a trail”.

The 12 women she studied in detail faced all of the usual obstacles – gender-based stereotypes, glass ceilings, inhospitable corporate cultures and the like – but succeeded regardless, so HR professionals and women with executive aspirations can learn from their journey, she told a Robert Walters breakfast last week.

The barriers preventing more women from getting to the top of organisations can be broken down, she said. “You just need to know how.”

“The problem is not about education, roles and flexibility, but behaviour and what happens day to day.”

1. Belief in brand ‘you’

The first characteristic shared by the women in Baxter’s research was an “amazing sense of self-belief”, she said.

They each had a distinctive “brand” that reflected their true self; their behaviour consistently reflected their values, beliefs and feelings; and they were confident in who they were.

Also, Baxter said, “they didn’t go to work and turn into a leader”.

“Leadership was who they were; they led in everything they did.”

HR professionals can foster this characteristic in women by providing opportunities to develop their self-awareness, Baxter said, and encouraging them to “be authentic”.

Women should also be aware that the best way to discover one’s personal brand is when “backed into a corner”. Challenging situations requiring tough decision-making reveal who a person truly is and what drives them, she said.

2. Follow your passion

While men seem to have an ability to “cut through and do what makes them happy”, women tend to be much more conflicted by a sense of duty and competing priorities, Baxter said.

Her study found that successful women “didn’t go for work-life balance” – in fact, they were often out of balance, but they would “do one thing 100 per cent, then the next”.

They did, however, prioritise their work extremely well, and they chased opportunities in line with their passions, often meaning they had a non-traditional career path.

Women have to create their own freedom to follow their passions, and refuse to be pigeonholed, she said.

“You can’t sit in a role waiting for someone to pluck you out because you’re working hard. Nobody is going to fight for you as much as you can.”

HR can play an integral part in organisations doing this, Baxter said.

“What [they can do] is give people little small chunks or jumps – little leaps, little projects, little things – to do, and as you get those you get more experience and you get more confidence and you can actually make bigger leaps.”

3. Be ready to make ‘sideways leaps’

The women Baxter studied had non-linear career paths, often moving sideways – across industries or companies – which helped them progress faster than they would have by staying in a traditional path.

“These women didn’t go up a corporate ladder. They all moved sideways, in and out of industries and professions. Their careers appeared almost serendipitous.”

The women talked a lot about luck, she said, “but really, they knew where they wanted to go. When opportunities came, they wanted to take them. They took ownership of their individual success.”

Rather than mapping out their careers “paling by paling”, they mapped milestones, and leaped between them, Baxter said. “They put their hands up lots, and they took jobs no-one wanted.”

A key area for organisations working with women in their middle ranks is to help with the visibility of projects, and the confidence women need to put their hands up for these opportunities, she said.

“Focus on and know their strengths. Build on them.”

4. Stay connected

Every woman in the study had strong relationships and supportive connections; “they were connected at work, socially, and with their families”.

Each had a partner who contributed to what they loved doing, and they all “somehow managed the tension between dual careers”, Baxter said. They all had children, but their relationships meant they could drop in and out of careers; partners swapped roles to become primary caregivers and do “what was best for her career at that time”.

At work, the women each had a good relationship with their CEO or immediate boss, and that kept them in the organisation. “If it soured, they were quick to move on.”

The lesson on this point for HR departments is to focus on the supervisors and leaders of women to ensure they are supportive and “speaking the same language”, Baxter said.

“There’s no point sending [women] to a great leadership development course and then plonking them right back, smack-bang under a manager who says ‘You can’t do that. What do you mean you want to start at 9.30?’”

The women were also very good networkers, but “they were good because they loved what they were doing”, Baxter said.

Networking wasn’t a daunting activity because it was “like a conversation with a friend: ‘What are you doing? Here’s what I’m doing!’” and the women strategically made time for it.

Research often suggests executive women “aren’t good with other women”, but these women were, she added. “They were generous with their time. They didn’t ‘pull the ladder up after them’, and they had excitement [about supporting other women].”

A key message for HR is to facilitate networking opportunities and transfer of knowledge within and outside of the organisation, she said.

Involving women who have left and returned (following caring responsibilities, for example), can be useful because it assists with this, and HR shouldn’t underestimate the value of additional skills that women gain during their time out of paid work.

As the women in her study all had coaches, and mentors (although generally not through formal programs), HR should also look at ways to foster these relationships and arrangements, she said.

Implementing all of these things can be incredibly valuable in attracting and retaining women, because “development is one of the key things for people’s engagement”.

“That is a powerful story for HR to sell.”

What does and doesn’t work?

Ahead of International Women’s Day on 8 March, Diversity Council Australia is urging employers to look carefully at their women’s leadership initiatives, noting evidence suggests many traditional approaches are ineffective.

After reviewing the latest research on leadership, DCA says the following ideas “don’t work:

  • The ‘pipeline theory’ that says gender balance will be achieved over time now that there are more women entering the workforce and moving into more senior roles;
  • Formal talent management programs that ignore gender (they are linked to lower representation of women than programs which acknowledge gender);
  • A focus on promoting ‘meritocracy’ (this results in gender biased decision-making and favours men); and
  • Asking women to ‘lean in’ more (they are already ambitious and leaning in, and men benefit more from leaning in than women).

The approaches that do work, on the other hand, include:

  • ‘Gender conscious’ initiatives such as targeted recruitment programs and women’s leadership development;
  • Fixing the culture by moving away from the ‘deficit model’ that says women are the problem;
  • Sponsorship (which is associated with women’s advancement) rather than mentoring (which develops women but doesn’t lead to their advancement);
  • Addressing bias of all kinds (conscious, unconscious, individual, organisational);
  • Targets and public accountability as well as a dedicated diversity function; and
  • Adopting a broader, more gender-inclusive (and effective) definition of leadership capability.

Parents@Work, 10 March 2014

Source: HR Daily, 3 March 2014

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Call for workplaces to catch up on family-friendly policies

Mother and child on computer

Australian workplaces are playing catch-up with modern families and need family-friendly policies beyond ”mums and bubs”.

A review of workplace policies and practices by the Centre for Work + Life at the University of South Australia found an organisation’s culture was the biggest determinant of work-life happiness and availability of family-friendly policies ”does not necessarily lead to their use”.

It warned that policies should not be seen as ”special consideration for working mothers” and said they meant little if they were not supported by management.

”Part-time work is no longer pin money for housewives – it’s actually people’s career job,” researcher Natalie Skinner said.

”No longer are working men the breadwinners. We’re going through a period of transition and workplaces have to catch up with the way the population looks now.”

Ms Skinner said workplace culture was the catalyst for making a difference: ”Managers and supervisors embody and communicate the culture. Their support is what employees really pay attention to.”

Employees’ caring responsibilities were a ”major issue” in the workplace, with the majority of families having two working parents, more fathers becoming primary carers and many people having elderly relatives to look after.

Ms Skinner said organisations need policies that recognise caring responsibilities, including flexible start and finish times, time off during the day, quality part-time work, the ability to work from home and paid parental leave.

”It’s really important we move beyond mums and babies,” Ms Skinner said. ”Managers, supervisors, executives, men and women should have appropriate access to flexibility and leave so it is something that is normal and OK.”

Her research found part-time work can also mean fewer job opportunities and less financial security.

RedBalloon has retail manager Liljana Petkovski’s ”undivided loyalty” because they have been so flexible with her work conditions.

When Ms Petkovski joined the company as a casual, she was four months’ pregnant. Before she went on maternity leave, she was guaranteed a permanent role upon her return to work.

After Zara was born, Ms Petkovski took nine months off before returning to work one day a week and building up to three days a week by the time her daughter was one. Ms Petkovski said having that flexibility was worth more than pay and maternity leave entitlements.

Parents@Work 3 March 2014

By Cosima Marriner
Source: SMH, 3 March 2014.

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A 24/7 job and three kids under four. Would I do it again? Absolutely

Fiona Sugden and her three children Isla (9 months), Giselle, 2 and Finn, 4.
Fiona Sugden and her three children
Isla (9 months), Giselle, 2 and Finn, 4.
Source: News Limited


DAWN is breaking outside my bedroom window and I know my alarm is about to go off prior to the first of many phone hook-ups for the day.
I quickly reach over to turn it off so it doesn’t wake up any of my sleeping children or my exhausted, yet stoic partner.
My two-year-old has ­woken repeatedly through the night with a cough and has ended up sprawled between us in our bed.
It has only been a couple of hours since I was awake giving the baby her bottle. I force myself past the exhaustion to get up, shower, get dressed and read the news headlines.
I’ve prepacked my bags late the night before and they are waiting at the front door. I made the three lunches for my babies for childcare to give my husband a break. I take the first of many calls in the dark. I book a cab to the Brisbane VIP terminal. I sneak in to quickly check the baby and feel grateful she is still asleep.
I feel the pang of guilt through my chest about stopping breastfeeding her. Something had to give. I check the two-year-old and four-year-old and kiss them goodbye.

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It is high risk. If they wake up all hell will break loose ­because mummy is going again. I only just made it home in time the night before to read to them and sit with them until they fell asleep.
The four-year-old tells his kindergarten teacher mummy is in Canberra working for Kevin. The two-year-old is a different story.
With no understanding of what’s going on she is showing signs of separation anxiety and when I come home she has started to say: ‘Mummy I lost you.’
My baby is too young to understand, so frankly that helps. I missed the baby crawl last month. That was low point.
I sneak out the door to the waiting cab. Call No. 2 two in the cab. Today will be long: three different states and time zones. A major announcement.
As the VIP prepares for takeoff from Brisbane the sun is rising.
I need to go to the toilet but that will have to wait. After years as a political staffer I have learnt to always go to the toilet when there is a chance whether you need to or not. The same goes for eating.
Everywhere I go the first question most people ask me is ‘how are you doing this?’, or ‘how are your children?’ While they are well-meaning questions, the truthful ­answer is not one they want to hear: ‘I don’t do it, a team of other people do.’ And ‘I don’t know how they are at present’.
The question I wish they would ask next is ‘do you think this is really worth it?’
Yes. And I would do it again.
When the opportunity was put to me to be communications director to the prime minister I made the choice to do it for a number of reasons. One of them was because when I asked myself the question ‘would I do this if I was a bloke?’, the answer was yes. And no one really says to a bloke ‘you can have it all, just not at the same time’.
Women with children need to be at the table helping to form and deliver the right government policies for families, so every effort needs to be made to encourage this.
My job looking after my children is the most important one I will ever do. But my career is important too.
I do not believe women who want a career need to have their own ‘wife’. I think by saying this we are accepting that men do not need to do 50 per cent of the work looking after their own children. We are letting them off the hook. I think we need equal parenting in the home.
True equal opportunity based on equal parenting. Equality for women needs to be progressed further in the home.
Let’s stop talking about how impossible and hard it is for women with children to work in politics and talk about how we make sure there are many more of them. That is the positive future that the Australian Government needs.”


AMANDA Whittle, 35, is a property manager from Mt Annan and crams a week’s work into three days to make time for triplets Addison, Brock and Callum, 4, and daughter Kiera, 8

Amanda Whittle and her four kids Kiera, 8 and triplets Addison (blue dress), Brock (white shirt) and Callum (orange shirt) all a

Amanda Whittle and her four kids Kiera, 8 and triplets Addison (blue dress), Brock (white shirt) and Callum (orange shirt) all aged 4. Source: News Limited

We planned for baby number two and were very surprised to find out it was triplets. Natural and homemade. Finding out was shocking but the reality of living with triplets is actually much nicer than I could have ever imagined. A lot of people ask how we do it. The answer is we just do – not doing it isn’t an option.
Our household thrives on routine. The working week starts with my husband Luke up and out of the house before 5am. It’s incredible to me that he showers, turns lights on/off, opens/shuts doors, kisses me goodbye and I can sleep through it all.
One noise from the kids and I’m instantly awake wondering what could be wrong. I’m usually awake before the kids. It’s nice to be able to shower without an audience. I make up lunch and finish packing their bags. I love watching them sleep and I hate waking them, but they are night owls and if I didn’t wake them we’d never be on time.
There are reminders to Kiera on repeat: get dressed, brush your teeth, put your shoes on. I do sound like a broken record.
Then there’s the discussion with the triplets about who is wearing what. Allowing them fashion freedom is a small price to pay for them being happy when they leave the house (this battle, I’ve discovered, is not worth fighting even if they look hideous).
Getting four kids out the door at 8am by myself is no easy feat. If we get Kiera to school by 8.15am and I can avoid the line of shame (the late note line), it’s been a good morning! Then the pre-school drop, then off to work.
I always imagined returning to work after having kids so my six years at university didn’t go to waste.
I feel that I try to fit in a full working week in my three days, deadlines have to be met regardless of whether I’m in the office or not. The financial reporting calendar waits for no one.
Luke picks the kids up from preschool/after school care. He unwinds at home by having a beer and watering the lawn, while he watches the kids ride scooters and bikes.I cook dinner, Luke runs the bath. I only prepare one meal for the family – anything else would be too difficult. We sit down to eat, it’s the first chance I’ve had all day to actually sit down and not rush. If I’m lucky this lasts 15 minutes.
Luke packs up after dinner and I sit with Kiera doing homework and daily reading. I try to squeeze in the gym three times a week so after the kids are in bed I sneak off. Even though I do have to drag myself there at times, I always feel better for going.
Thursdays are my first day of the week not in the office but probably the most overwhelming. The list of things to be done is greater than my ability to do it all.
I’m often taking calls from work, solving problems while tackling a mountain of washing, tidying up, cleaning and changing sheets.
The triplets have swimming lessons at midday.
This week Luke and I are looking forward to a rare date night without the kids. It’s so important that we still make time for each other in our often hectic lives so we stay connected, rare as it may be. I work for a few reasons – it keeps my mind active, and we couldn’t survive on one wage with four kids, but we are just treading water as
the child care fees are $600 a week.

I don’t get to be the mum who can do school drop off and pick up every day, and I feel a certain amount of guilt about that.

Emma Walsh, 39, is managing director of mums@work who has seven-year-old twin boys and a three-year-old daughter

It’s 6:30pm on Thursday evening, the taxi pulls up in the driveway. I’ve been away three days in Melbourne and Adelaide delivering training and visiting clients. I’m exhausted.
My poor husband, who has held the fort for three days while holding down his full-time job, will be exhausted and ready to hand over the parenting reins to me the minute I’m through the threshold.

Emma Walsh, 39 with her three kids 7 year old twins Luc and Ewan and 3 year old Alice.

Emma Walsh, 39 with her three kids 7 year old twins Luc and Ewan and 3 year old Alice. Source: News Limited

I walk through the door and, before I’ve put my bag down, the kids have raced to the door yelling with delight “mummy’s home” and, of course, my heart melts. My three-day jam-packed work scheduled is forgotten in an instant.
Within minutes the tantrums have unfolded. My husband’s now nowhere to be seen. I settle back into mummy mode and start cooking. The kids have been fed so that’s three less people I need to worry about. My three-year-old daughter is following me around the house and now demanding my attention, and dinner is starting to burn.
Husband must still be in the man cave, hiding.
Finally we manage to get the kids to bed by 8.30pm and sit down for a meal. We manage a two-minute “how are you?” conversation before we start planning for tomorrow.
It’s a home day for me and yet my diary is full. I’ve volunteered to set up for the school fete; I’ve cakes to bake and a craft stall to station most of the weekend.
When I was a twenty-something up-and coming, hardworking, impressionable HR executive with something to prove and with dreams of making it to director one day, I noticed that some of my colleagues were starting families. They left work and were not returning, or returning part-time but out of the frontline. Surprisingly, they were grateful for being allowed to work part-time.
One day I received a call from an irate manager, ringing to give HR a piece of his mind. He “would not and should not” have to take his staff member back who was applying to return part-time. And he was going to make sure it didn’t happen. I was appalled and dejected by his attitude and discriminatory comments.
When I started a family I didn’t want to be begging for part-time status too.
It’s fair to say that those months of tossing and turning ideas as to how I was going to balance family and career led to a business idea of my own and mums@work was born the same year as my twin boys.
The business is an advocacy service for mums and dads returning to work and I consult with employers on how to make the workplace more family friendly.
I’ve managed to squeeze in having baby number three.
My life is frantic as ever balancing the business and juggling three kids.
The good news is, I did make it to director level – of my own company. I’m the boss.
My husband works full-time so there is never a dull moment and we spend ridiculous amounts of time discussing logistics.
Most importantly, I’m doing something I love and I’m helping other mums and dads find ways of balancing work and family.
Mums@Work 18 Nov 13
Source: Daily Telegraph
By: Fiona Sugden / News Limited / Nov 16 2013 10pm

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