Tuesday, April 15, 2014

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

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.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

How to be an executive director in your thirties

Taking on a senior position as a young woman can be a daunting experience, especially when you are in a male dominated industry. To be successful, young executives need to be confident in their abilities, not worry if they say the wrong thing and learn from mistakes along the way.

Speaking from experience, I wouldn't be the executive director of three companies at age 36 without having jumped in head first and not worrying about my age or gender as a barrier.

Below's what I've learnt about being a young female executive.

Speak up when you know the answer

Often younger women don't have the confidence to speak up in a meeting and voice their opinions. I remember all too well being in my early twenties, sitting in meetings too scared to take a sip of my coffee, let alone contribute to a conversation! So many times I would listen to observations made by the senior executives in the room that matched my own thinking, yet I was too scared to speak up and have a role.

All you need is two ears and one mouth

What holds most women back is confidence. When you're young, you can fall into the trap of feeling like you need to prove yourself all the time. You don't. You've been put into the position you're in because you have talent and experience – people believe you can fulfil the requirements of the position. While you make your thoughts and perspective known, always remember to take on board advice from those around you. A famous quote from the Dalai Lama is: "To only talk and not listen means you'll only ever know what you already know".

When forging a career, it's important to stick to your own path, not take things personally and find someone you trust in your workplace. That someone can help when you're frustrated and need to vent without having to gossip. One of the worst things, male or female, is to get caught up in gossip. It destroys your confidence, ideas and opportunities.

Knowledge grows confidence

It's certainly not easy wearing multiple hats and working in different organisations. However, I enjoy the diversity within each of my roles and recommend all young women review where they can take their knowledge and enthusiasm, and apply it to multiple professional opportunities.

This may sound obvious, but knowledge grows confidence. By building your knowledge, expertise and experience, confidence naturally follows. Don't let a knowledge gap hold you back. Identify what the knowledge gap is and work on it.

Another way to grow your professional career is to enlist the help of a mentor. I have been very privileged to work with some amazing people in my life and I have had several mentors throughout my career. Some have been clients, line managers, CEOs, COOs and suppliers but all have been inspiring and taught me many useful things. I see myself as a sponge and when I see someone I respect; I watch and learn as much as I can while I have the chance to work with them.

As for famous mentors, people I have read and learnt from include Ita Buttrose – a lady in every sense of the word with a determination to succeed that is inspiring – and Sydney Poitier, whose journey before he got into film is incredible and whose calm, considered approach to adversity is admirable.

Having mentors and learning from them really helped me throughout my career. I urge every woman to have a mentor, regardless of their life stage because they can give you that confidence boost to get to the next level.

By: Kellie Northwood 
4 April 2014

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

$535 million/year is how much Australia could pay if we let perinatal depression go untreated

Perinatal depression is a silent killer and is the greatest single cause of maternal death, yet it is rarely spoken of in anything other than hushed tones.

As many as one in seven new mothers in Australia develops depression during the perinatal period, which takes in the five months before a baby is born, and one month after.

On top of the emotional toll, the illness also comes with an economic cost.

A new report obtained by ABC's 7.30 estimates the cost of leaving the perinatal illness untreated at $535 million a year - and that funding is in jeopardy.

Dean Litis knows only too well about the devastating effect of perinatal depression.

His wife Louise struggled with post-natal depression after the birth of their first son, Sam. She got through it, and three years later, they had another boy, Charlie, but the illness soon struck again.

"She was really hard on herself. She thought she should be better," Mr Litis said.

"That [as] a mum she should be able to cope with two children, but she simply couldn't at that stage."

Ms Litis became so ill she was admitted to hospital.

"Charlie was five months old. She was only there for about four days, I think, before she took her own life."

The Litis' experience is shockingly common.

Depression affects one in seven new mothers in Australia

Suicide linked to depression and anxiety takes the lives of more new mothers in Australia than anything else.

Psychologist Shikkiah de Quadros-Wander works at the Tweddle Clinic for mothers and babies in suburban Melbourne, trying to catch new mums and dads before they become seriously ill.

She often wishes that people would come and see her sooner.

"There will be families who come here and they don't have babies, they have toddlers, and they have been experiencing these things for 18 months plus," she said.

"The word failure comes up a lot.

"Crying a lot, crying at anything and withdrawing socially and hiding. There's a lot that's hidden.

"Hiding how they're feeling from people around them who seem to be doing really well or enjoying every minute.

"And then, of course, there are the siblings as well, who are already in that family and feeling like they don't really have the room or the emotional energy to manage."

Federal funding of mental health services in review

The Tweddle Clinic assesses 1,000 parents for perinatal mental illness each year and, crucially, links them to treatment.

That screening service along with many others is in jeopardy.

Until June last year, state and federal governments funded the National Perinatal Depression Initiative.

The $85 million, five-year program helped screen tens of thousands of new mums and dads for depression and anxiety, and fund treatment and education for medical professionals.

However, wrangling between the states and the Commonwealth over a new round of funding has cast doubt over the program.

Now they are waiting for the results of a review into federal funding of mental health services to learn whether the initiative will continue.

"It's a crying shame that the momentum that we had harnessed over five years is slowly dwindling away," said Nicole Highet, the executive director of the Centre of Perinatal Excellence.

"It's slowly dissipating, in some states more than others.

"It potentially means that women won't be screened, so they won't be assessed and identified.

"It can potentially mean that women won't have access to available treatments, and it could mean that the level of death and disability increases as a result."

The Centre of Perinatal Excellence commissioned an analysis from Price Waterhouse Coopers of the economic costs of not identifying and treating maternal mental illness.

It estimates that if all treatment for perinatal depression and anxiety stopped, it would cost Australia $535 million a year in projected health costs for parents and babies and lost productivity.

Maternal depression affects future mental health of children 

Professor Pat McGorry, a former Australian of the year, says his work with mentally ill teenagers would be vastly reduced if maternal depression was better identified and treated earlier.

"Mental health is underfunded across the board so we've got to spend the money wisely, so this is a great preventative opportunity," he said.

"It affects two people, not one. It interferes with the attachment and the future mental health of that child.

"So it's a vital area that we must screen for and invest in proper care around this period."

Stacey Noble knows first-hand how easy it is to slip through the cracks of the maternal health system.

"I saw the maternal and child health care nurse three times; I had a home visit and two centre visit," she said.

"The nurses were very good with the baby, they'd check the baby's weight, how it was feeding and sleeping and those things.

"The focus was very much on the baby and nothing about how I was doing."

After months of crippling depression and anxiety she eventually admitted herself to hospital where medication helped her recover.

For Mr Litis and his boys, even though life has moved on to happier times, there can never be a full recovery from losing their wife and mother, Louise.

"It's still a struggle some days but there's nothing like two young children to keep you going," Dean said.

"They bring me so much happiness and joy. They're just beautiful kids, and I'm sure Lou would be so proud of them.

"She had a really strong sense of family, and I thought she'd be a really great mum. And she was. She just didn't realise that herself."

By Madeleine Morris
2 April 2014
Source: ABC News Online

If you, or anyone you know, feels they are at risk of perinatal depression please visit your GP as soon as possible. The Gidget Foundation is also an excellent source of information and advocate for perinatal anxiety and depression so please visit their website for an extensive list of resources.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Mum in Profile: Shelley Craft

Shelley Craft is one of Australia's best known TV presenters, made famous in her role as host on Saturday Disney and The Great Outdoors before changing to Channel Nine to front up Australia's Funniest Home Videos, Domestic Blitz and The Block. She and her husband, cameraman Christian "Serge" Sergiacomi, live in Byron Bay with their two little girls, Milla and Eadie and new puppy, Aldo.
C4K: What's a typical day for you and your family when you're filming?
This season of The Block I tried to make sure I didn't spend too many nights away. There really is no such thing as a typical day, but it goes a little something like this. 0430 wake up, do my hair and make up; 0515 leave house, drive to airport; 0630 flight to Melbourne; 0900 arrive on location, shoot till 2100, check in for flight 2200 – land 2400 drive home. Sleep…

Meanwhile back at the ranch, 0700 girls wake, brekkie, Christian gets them ready for daycare, 0900 drop off, collect at 1700, playtime with Aldo (the puppy) 1800 dinner, 1900 bath, 1930 – 2000 bed.
C4K: You and Christian are quite the team, but do you have other child care help when necessary and how does this work for you?
The girls both love daycare. This year Eadie is going 3 days a week and Milla is in for 5 at this stage. When I know what my next block schedule is, I will be able to reassess.

I love to have a day with each of the girls on their own as I feel it is important to maintain one on one time and we all know that is pretty tough in a full household. I have a fabulous babysitter in both Sydney and Melbourne if I need to take the girls with me and a wonderful team of sisters here in Byron to give Serge a hand if he needs too. Just like any family, we all juggle.
C4K: You also have your own business – The Builder App – how do you ever find time to work on this as well!?
For the first year of Eadie's life she lived at my feet under the office desk. I guess having your own business creates that ‘freedom'. I'm not sure how many work places would permit that.
C4K: You must love the down periods when you get a bit of time off to relax and enjoy life in Byron - what do you and your family love to do when you're not filming?
It may seem like I am crazy busy, but I do enjoy a lot of downtime between filming and series. We love the beach and just hanging at home really – you won't get me on a plane that is for sure!
C4K: You've introduced a puppy in to the mix! Must have been an interesting Christmas! Has all hell broken loose?
The girls love having a "furkid" in the house. We sadly lost our two old dogs within a year of each other, so the girls haven't really experienced a house without a dog. Suffice to say, Aldo slipped straight into the family and besides a few too many puddles on the new carpet, he has been a dream. Eadie can't get enough of him. She hand feeds him and cuddles him all day long.
C4K: You're suckers for punishment and are doing your own big building project! How's that working with two small children and a dog?
This is something I try not to tackle with the kids or dog. I am a very good remote project manager and I am sure the tradies prefer that too. I'll drop in in the morning and at knock off, that's about it.
C4K: Christian is obviously a very hands-on Dad, is there anything he's not so good at?!
No, I can honestly say, Christian (Serge) is a wonderdad! He will go for a surf at 0445 to make sure he's back to help with the morning rush even when I'm not working and he is always available for the girls. He is a great cook and a wonderful husband too. I am one lucky, lucky girl
C4K: What would you say are your strengths and weaknesses as a mum?
Strengths: I'm relaxed, fairly free range and I love watching kids movies... They are also my 3 weaknesses.
C4K: What 3 things could you not do without as a working mum?

  1. Flat shoes (I never thought I'd say that)
  2. Non-judgmental family
  3. Supportive work environment

The Block: Fans vs Favourites airs on Channel Nine weeknights at 7.30pm EDST.

Care for Kids

Care For Kids - Annual Child Care and Workforce Participation Survey

It's that time of year when we launch our Annual Child Care and Workforce Participation Survey. This is our ninth year and we're hoping for our best response to date. With the Productivity Commission on child care and working parents issues in play, we would like to know what issues you'd like covered and what issues you face.

Share your child care concerns and an iPad mini could be yours¹

Yes, hard to believe, but it's that time of year again for us to run our annual Child Care and Workforce Participation Survey. This is our ninth year and every year we collect valuable information from you, the parents on the frontline, about issues facing you when it comes to child care.

This year viability of working is a key concern as is the rising cost of child care, lack of places for the under twos, child care centre time constraints and lack of support and flexibility in the workplace.

Are you finding it hard to juggle work and child care due to time constraints, lack of child care options, travel or lack of workplace flexibility? How much do you spend a week or month? How long did it take you to find child care? Is the cost of child care making it virtually unfeasible to work at all? How much have you paid on a waiting list? Do you still feel valued as an employee? These are all key factors the influence the happiness and productivity of working parents, and by proxy the happiness of our children.

We'd love to know the main issues facing you. Particularly when it comes to financial viability of working, difficulties of returning to work, the availability and cost of child care and employer flexibility.

If these are not the key issues as far are you're concerned, what do you think needs addressing right now?

The results of this survey are widely read by the media and policymakers alike.

By completing our survey you go into the draw¹ for an iPad mini. Everyone who completes the survey will also get a code to get 15% off all Ere Perez Natural Cosmetics and Eco Chic's beautiful range of furniture and homewares with a conscience. 1. terms & conditions

Vacation Care: Get in Quick for Easter

We should all be thinking of vacation care at this time with school holidays approaching quicker and quicker! Care for Kids have published this helpful article to get your started...

Seems like we're just back from the long summer hols and suddenly the Easter holidays are looming. Where does the time go.

The Easter holidays are particularly tricky for parents to negotiate time off. Everyone's just got back into the swing of things post summer holidays. And there's no festive shutting down of the office for any more than the obligatory Good Friday and Easter Monday.

In fact they're quite likely to be two weeks of rubbish weather with housebound small children who've eaten too much chocolate. Hurray.

So if your child's day care centre or family day care closes over the holidays, or if you have young children at school, then get that
vacation care place booked as soon as you can.

If this is your first year on the work/child care or work/school rat race then here are your options:

As well as family day care and other child care services, Out of School Hours Centres often run Vacation Care during the school holidays.

They are usually brilliant and great value, offering heaps of centre-based activities like pet farms, science days, and excursions that are included in the price. However they generally don't take any children under 5.

These Out of School Hours Centres also generally qualify for the child care rebate.

Vacation Care at Child Care Centres and Family Day Care

Child care centres and family day care that don't close in the holidays often take on vacation only children. But as you can imagine, these services are very much in demand from parents of school age kids and those with younger ones whose child care centres do not operate in the school holidays.

So get in quick and sign up. The vast majority are approved child care centres for the child care benefit and rebate, so if you qualify for either or both, you will also be eligible for vacation care.

If you can't get into any centres, then you could also consider
nanny share. Most nanny and babysitter agencies will be open to helping to organise nanny share or ask around your friends who have nannies. They are very likely to be happy to share the cost over Easter.

To look for your nearest available vacation care service, simply
click here.

This was first published on
Care for Kids

Monday, March 3, 2014

How to survive (and enjoy) your first year back at work

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The first year back at work for many parents is undoubtedly the hardest. Learning to juggle the often conflicting demands of work and home is a great challenge. Learning how to reinvent yourself as a working parent will help you to not only survive but also enjoy being back at work.

Here is an extract of 8 gems of advice from our Working Parents Toolkit on how you can enjoy your career as a working parent.

1. Develop your career resilience

Resilience is your ability to cope with adversity – the tough times. It allows you to deal with change and confront challenges by having tenacity and adaptability – something parents encounter everyday as they nurture and negotiate with their children!

Career resilience is about you adapting to changes in your work environment to meet the demands of your situation – made all the more challenging once you become a parent because suddenly there’s more than only you to think about in the equation.

Here’s how you do it:
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff. Its only natural things won’t always go to plan. Identify the big-ticket items impacting you and focus your energy on addressing these; forget the inconsequential work and life dramas that will pop up from time to time.
  • Realise you are only human - sometimes we achieve less than we like to deliver.
  • Accept change is inevitable, and good! Just like it’s important that your child changes and grows through his or her development milestones, it’s important you do too. If something isn’t working out, instigate change rather than letting things consume you.
  • Take control of your career destiny – choose your career path and development options rather than letting it choose you.
  • Have meaning in what do and who you are. Be clear about your own self identify and understand what you want to achieve from your career and life.
  • Invest quality time in creating and maintaining meaningful and worthwhile personal and professional relationships. These people can support you during the ups and downs and do wonders for your self-esteem!

2. Find a professional mentor

Seek out someone you know and respect, either in or outside your organisation and industry, who is prepared to be a mentor or sounding board, particularly during those first six months back at work. Share your challenges and wins and discuss ways to deal with the tough work or family challenges that are thrown your way. As they say, “two heads are better than one”.

3. Create a 5-year career and life plan

As life circumstances change, so too will your aspirations, motivators and anxieties – that’s normal. Having a clear career direction and knowing how that fits with family will give you clarity and meaning about what is important to you and what might need to change in your life as a result.

Set yourself some career goals or aims that inspire you and give you peace of mind that you are on track; during the hard times revisit these and make adjustments. Even if your plan is to eventually follow a different career path or to downshift your career progression and development for a year or more, your career goals will help you stay focused on your true objectives and what is important to you in life.

4. Seek career coaching or counselling

If you feel directionless and unsure of your career goals and are struggling to manage the whole work-life balance in reality, consider seeing a professional career coach or counsellor who can help you work through what’s important to you.

5. Reinvent yourself as a working parent

Be realistic. Some things you used to do before won’t be able to be achieved necessarily in the same way now. Being a parent is not an ailment, something we should be ashamed or feel second-class about – quite frankly working parents are amazing. You and others will marvel at your ability to juggle getting the kids ready in the morning, having time to walk the dog, dropping your partner to the train station, taking dinner out of the freezer, then arriving at work by 8.30am prepared for a meeting! But they won’t marvel if you don’t tell them...all too often parents accomplish all of these things quietly and without complaint, never sharing the load or even venting their reality.

It’s important to create boundaries and communicate clear expectations of what you can and can’t do, what you will need help with, and what flexibility you can give and will need in return.

6. The grass isn’t always greener

Many parents report staying-at-home and raising kids as the toughest (whilst enjoyable) job that they have ever done. When things get hard and you feel like your options are limited, focusing on ‘how green the grass is on the other side’ is common. We focus on all the things we don’t have or that aren’t working for us versus the positive things that are. Before making any momentous or drastic life and career moves, objectively weigh up all the pluses and minuses of your situation. Focus on what is working well for you and how you can tap into that more. Isolate the core issues that aren’t working for you and brainstorm alternative options.

7. Reflect and celebrate milestones and achievements

Whether times are good or tough, make time to reflect on your situation. Personal reflection can give you perspective and help you realise just what you’re capable of. Get away from your everyday surrounds to help you get mind space for a few hours.

Reward yourself in whatever way works for you when you have achieved something you are proud of no matter how trivial it might be to others. For example, being able to drop your children at care without a flood of tears from you and the child, or the fact that you survived a tough week.

8. What about career progression and development?

A common fear for parents when they return to work is that they may be sidelined for promotion or somewhat marginalised because they work. Your fears might be real or perceived; the only way to find out is to ask. Yes, ask.

The reality is if you don’t have confidence in your own capability, you can’t expect others to. If you don’t have an idea of your career direction you can’t expect others to create it for you.

In other words, no one can give you confidence or develop your career for you, you need to nurture and develop it yourself (leaning on others for input and support when required). It’s about harnessing your strengths and drawing on your experiences so you can put your best foot forward whether it’s about negotiating a pay rise, the next promotion, or flexible work arrangements. If you undersell yourself and your capabilities, you not only do yourself a disservice, you effectively permit other people to stereotype you or discriminate against you. Your level of job satisfaction is likely to take a nose drive.

Be proactive and review your career plan, discuss options with your manager, partner and other relevant people to support your continued learning and development. If you are focused on the next career promotion, be upfront, so your manager knows your intentions and aspirations rather than leaving them to guess or assume.

Extract from the Working Parents Toolkit.
Kate Sykes, Rebecca Harper, Karen Miles, Emma Walsh