Monday, September 23, 2013

Behind every great woman (is a supportive partner)

Behind every great woman (is a supportive partner)
Building the capacity to have an effective work-life-balance is a legitimate issue for many working women. Managing it can be difficult but there's a common theme amongst the women who succeed: supportive partners. Supportive partners are the ones who go beyond sporadically picking the kids up from school and instead play an active role every week.

Being able to juggle a family and work, and everything else in between, is still considered a feat for women while it's more expected for men. One of the dynamics which influences this is the way men perceive the success of women; many men do feel threatened by women's empowerment. The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology outlines that men's self-esteem suffers when partners succeed. This tension creates a scenario where women feel guilty and then choose not to propel themselves at work because they don't enjoy their partner's support in doing so.

In Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg highlights the importance of finding a partner that lets you put your career first. And that means a lot more than paying lip service to a woman's job. It revolves around men's understanding of the importance of this issue and requires them being empowered to take time off for family and seek out flexible work arrangements.

Men and women have a vested interest in improving the opportunities for women to thrive at work. KPMG research estimates the Australian economy could expand by $93 billion if we close the gender pay gap. That represents a lot of jobs and opportunities for all Australians and it starts at home.

When it comes to effectively mixing a career with a family a supportive partner isn't merely desirable, it's vital. And whilst in some respects this is a soft issue about the way individuals make their personal relationships work there is a public element too. Because it impacts how all of us can participate at work which impacts the economy and society.

It's the reason we need to start having open conversations about how supportive relationships work to ensure men and women work together to make both of their careers work. We hear too often about inspiring and competent women being forced to take unwanted and prolonged breaks from their career for the benefit of their partner or their family. But that decision doesn't benefit anyone in the long run; it limits careers and stifles financial independence. It's a sacrifice men need to stop expecting anyone – let alone their partner – to make.

Finance powerhouse Suze Orman famously says "If a child, a spouse, a life partner, or a parent depends on you and your income, you need life insurance". If you have dependents you need to know how you're going to be secure. A supportive partner will always afford you the opportunity to be self-reliant.

Mums@Work 24 Sep 13
Source: Woman's Agenda
By: Conrad Liveris / Sep 09, 2013 16:54PM

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Coalition's plans for child care

Flexibility, affordability and accessibility
Tony Abbott and the Coalition have won a landslide election and now the task begins on converting ideas into policy and reality.
So what does this mean for working families?

The Paid Parental Leave Scheme is due to be implemented by July 1 2015. Paid parental leave is set to increase from the current 18 weeks to 26 weeks (six months). The pay rate will also increase from the current minimum wage to full pay, with a cap at $150,000 per working mother (which means therefore up to $75,000 per mother).

An interesting part of the Coalition's child care policy is addressing the red tape and ratios of the National Quality Framework (NQF) that many child care providers are finding difficult to manage.

As its policy document says, the Coalition believes in the National Quality Framework in principle, but feels that the new ratios and qualification requirements may be too ambitious to achieve in the current time frame. The implementation is causing administrative and staffing problems for centres, with resulting costs being passed on to parents.

The NQF requires that centres must have one worker for: every four children aged under two; every five children from two to three, and; every 11 children from three to school age. By next January the NQF also requires every childcare worker to have a certificate III qualification, half the staff to have a childcare diploma and every centre must have a degree qualified early childhood teacher.

The increased necessity for more qualified staff may drive much loved, appreciated and dedicated, though unqualified carers out of child care, and will mean higher staff costs for providers. There simply aren't enough degree qualified Early Childhood Teachers to meet the demand from centres. Especially when degree qualified Early Childhood Teachers are in demand by schools as well. It's hard to compete with higher pay, 3 months holidays per year and school hours!

The ratios may not be sustainable for child care providers, particularly for family day care who would stand to lose a fifth of their income.

The shortage of child care is also being addressed in restoring funding to Occasional Care Centres and in the review of ratios and qualifications.

Outside of School Hours Care is also being addressed as a priority to take the pressure of working families, providing OOSH with more funding and help within the NQF to ensure that there are enough places for those children of parents who require before and after school care due to work commitments.

Flexibility is also key in terms of providing child care solutions for parents who cannot meet the standard 9-5pm working day and therefore standard child care hours. Again this will be reviewed in the Productivity Commission Inquiry.

To see a full account of how the Coalition aims to address the issues of child care, click here to read or download their policy document.

A lot is riding on the $2million Productivity Commission Inquiry that will take 12 months to deliver results and recommendations and then however long it takes to act on and implement those recommendations.

Proposed Productivity Commission Inquiry into childcare will look into:

  • Consideration of care in the "24 hour economy" (the hours parents work or study, or wish to study)
  • Consideration of extending support to care provided by nannies and au-pairs.
  • Subsidising nannies and the particular needs of rural, regional or remote parents, as well as shift workers
  • Out of pocket costs of childcare (to include in-home care solutions – i.e., au pairs and nannies – as well as day care and family day care)

The Coalition also:

  • Ruled out means testing the Child Care Rebate
  • Supports continuation of Child Care Benefit
  • Proposes to re-establish the Federal Planning and Advisory Commission to ensure that new services are approved on an as needs basis.
  • Opposes the EYQF mechanism adopted by Labor to deliver temporary pay increases only to some workers and believes pay issues should be addressed through making a case to the Fair Work Commission.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The importance of Dads

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Much is said about the relationship between mums and daughters, dads and sons. But little is said about the vital relationship between mothers and sons, fathers and daughters.
My mum taught the creativity, the passion and how to win at Scrabble, but my dad taught other important lessons.
Standing at the 100-metre line dangling a Redskin may not have been a conventional approach, but he sure knew how to make a 5-year-old with a sweet tooth keep their eye on the prize and learn about goals and rewards.
The writer, as a child, with her father.
The writer, as a child, with her father.
In fact, at a breakneck 19 seconds, I broke the under-6's 100-metre record at my local Little Athletics club to get to reach that goal.
While small moments like those stay with you, so do the greater themes and, for me, those are loyalty, perseverance and the unconditionality of love.
I was never a daddy's girl and he was never under any illusion about who I was. I was a terror of a child in many ways and tore a blazing, destructive trail through my teenage years.
But while I railed, dad rallied, and while I harmed, he was always there to help.
I have touched previously on some of the darkness of those days.
During that time and for a good while after I had the self-destruct button pushed in hard and resented anyone who tried to ease me away from it.
There were many reasons why and although our family was loving and incredibly close there was also deep turbulence. At the same time that I was sick, so was my mum and both of us were in hospital for the better part of two years.
But Dad was a rock.
I know his heart was breaking and it must have been tempting to walk away from the turmoil. But, he stayed, gently holding the threads of our family together.
And not only that, he did it with a steady, loving heart.
I needed him and he was there.
Sadly, not enough dads realise the impact they have on their daughters' lives. One study found only 30 per cent of fathers believed that active involvement in their daughter's life was vital to her health and well being.
This is despite recent findings that the dad's influence is as great, and sometimes greater than the mother's.
Dads, as has been well documented, impact girls' interactions with men later in life.
"In my years of psychology practice, I've met very few women who did not unconsciously or consciously pick a romantic partner based on the characteristics of her father," says clinical psychologist Jennifer Kromberg.
Dads also affect their daughters self esteem, independence and stress levels.
According to a report by the US Department of Health and Human Services: "Children who have an involved father are more likely to be emotionally secure, be confident to explore their surroundings, and, as they grow older, have better social connections."
For my part, my father is now one of my best friends. There is not a soul I respect or love more than my dad.
I am acutely aware that not all dads are like this and there are plenty of women (and men) who have been without a father or at least without a worthy one.
But one thing we should never do is underestimate the importance of dads.

Mums@Work 20 Sep 13
Source: Sydney Morning Herald
By: Sarah Berry 27 Aug 2013

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

How can you help your teenagers survive high school?

Working alongside youth, I have experienced and witnessed the confronting issues and pressures many high school girls face daily; how they struggle with their identity and self-esteem, deceiving messages of perfection through the media, constant comparison, peer pressure, unrealistic expectations, and not feeling confident or content with who they are, to name just a few.

Girls in our community need help and support to navigate the challenging years of adolescence.

Author Rebecca Sparrow tackles some of these and other issues in two books, Find Your Tribe (and 9 other things I wish I'd known in high school) from 2010 and her new release Find Your Feet (the 8 things I wish I'd known before I left high school).

While Find Your Feet is suitable for young women in Year 12 about to face the exciting but overwhelming world ahead, Find Your Tribe addresses concerns of girls beginning and in the middle of high school.

In Find Your Tribe, Sparrow intertwines personal stories and insights, researched facts and the advice and experience of celebrities and friends to give practical lessons and ideas on topics such as finding real friends, bouncing back, building confidence and dispelling media lies.
With a focus on seeking help when needed and having the right attitude, this easy-to-read and relatable book contains great resources to help protect and provide tools for girls facing the inevitable issues of being a teenager.

Sparrow is direct and to the point, with an underlying tone of self-respect and self-awareness throughout each chapter to encourage girls to make their own decisions about friends, looks, boys, drugs and careers. The book ends with helpful recommendations for further support and information on topics discussed within the book.

Sparrow's new release, Find Your Feet, continues the lessons of Find Your Tribe, this time specifically addressing some of the challenges girls may face when leaving high school.
Sparrow shares advice, ideas, strategies and information on issues such as shaking off the super-glued labels of high school and reinventing yourself. As well as beating bad results, playing to your strengths, being authentic and setting realistic goals, she discusses tips on how to choose a fulfilling and meaningful career, the empty trap of perfectionism, work experience as a steppingstone to success and the value of discipline.

Throughout the chapters, Sparrow includes hard hitting facts, making issues real and relevant and shares motivational stories to inspire and encourage the readers — especially in the face of failure.

Both books are written with a serious but humorous style — to force attention but also encourage the reader to laugh at mistakes and stay positive. They open the ongoing discussion that readers can have with friends, families, trusting adults and professionals about issues they may be facing, giving them a starting point to address these concerns and seek further help.

The books offer a great foundation for dealing with some of the concerns girls face in high school and beyond. While not all issues could be covered, they provide great insights to help girls journey through this challenging time.

Studies show that the underlying issue of many problematic behaviours is low self-esteem. By giving girls opportunities and resources to discover their unique identity, respect themselves and develop coping strategies, books such as these by Rebecca Sparrow will help girls face challenging situations, be resilient and have meaningful connections with those around them.

Mums@Work  18/9/13
/ Aug 29, 2013 7:58AM /

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Is occasionally putting yourself first the secret to success?

In any three-month period my job typically requires me to spend three weeks overseas and an additional two to three weeks travelling domestically to meet the demands of a business operating in Australia, New Zealand, China, Hong Kong, India, Malaysia, The Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand.

Apart from holding a challenging senior role at Unisys I'm also a wife and mother of four children, the youngest of whom is 15.

As anyone who works long hours and travels frequently will tell you, achieving a work-life balance is tough and there is a danger that you will live in perpetual guilt. You feel guilty because you're not giving 24 hours to the job and guilty because your family doesn't see enough of you. Taking time for yourself can feel like an indulgent and selfish act.
But actually investing in all the different parts of your life – as a mum, an executive, a wife and a woman – can ensure you are at your best in all situations.

My key to balancing my roles, with happiness, is having a game plan that allows me to organise my days and make the most of every minute, whether it's for work, family or myself.

This requires up-front organisation to reduce stress wherever possible. For example, I invest a lot of time in preparing for meetings and not just the business aspects but also what is appropriate in the local culture.

I have no doubt that my personal wellbeing affects my ability as a business leader. Being in tune with all the roles in my life helps me to relate to my colleagues and clients on a personal level. Professional knowledge alone is not always enough to engage successfully with different cultures, personalities and social environments.

Staying focused and fresh on the job means taking time out to prepare which is a key aspect in building, maintaining and nurturing client relationships. I've never been a person who just flies in for a meeting without having the context around the business – immersion in the culture in addition to the business environment is very important.

Being responsible for the APAC region, I regularly travel to India, Singapore, Malaysia, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and New Zealand. By planning ahead and organising transport in advance, I don't have to worry about my personal safety or making sure I can get to where I need to be on time.

Early in my career I learned that taking time out to look after my physical health would enable me to deal with high levels of stress and to stay attentive to my family and friends.

Airline travel across different time zones can take its toll on physical wellbeing and lack of sleep is a common issue when you are dealing across time zones stretching from India to New Zealand as well as the US. It means keeping myself physically well is even more important than usual.

While keeping a regular routine can be difficult I try to maintain a daily exercise regime. I don't consider exercise as a 'nice to have' –it helps me focus to do my job and provides me with some uninterrupted time to think, and relieves stress.

If I don't dedicate time to exercising and eating well, no matter where I am, I know it will be difficult to go the distance and deal with the fast pace at work and give my family the attention they deserve. But I also need to give myself a bit of 'me' time to help take away some of the stress of trying to manage it all.

Having a happy home and engaging in non-work related activities is also a big part of my overall wellbeing. As a mother, one of my main concerns is providing my children with the right level of attention. When I'm away for 16 or more days at a time, it can be difficult to fit back in with everything that is going on at home in terms of household, school, work and sports.

As much as possible when I am at home I try to dedicate my entire time and attention on nurturing my family. Having a supportive husband and preparing a plan for family time has had a positive impact on my ability to work and enjoy a happy marriage of 21 years. It's definitely a team effort.

The lesson I learnt from working globally and travelling extensively is that it's not about 'having it all'. Rather it's about prioritising and recognising that putting yourself first sometimes is the secret to success.

Mums@work 17/9/13
/ Aug 29, 2013 7:42AM