Sunday, July 27, 2014

How many parents plan childcare around work rather than the other way around? Very few. Latest Government report gives working parents hope.

The Assistant Minister for Education Sussan Ley said: “there needs to be greater choice in child care options for parents. Australian families should be able to plan child care around their work life, not their work life around child care”[1]. Here, here!

There’s been a 150% rise in Australian childcare costs in just one decade. One. The estimated cost of full-time childcare for one Australian child is estimated at $31,000/year.[2] The new Government report on our childcare system is a welcome one especially to those working parents struggling with access and cost of childcare in both urban and rural areas across the country.

The Productivity Commission’s draft report into Childcare and Early Childhood Learning recommends the system be made simpler and broader. One of its key recommendations is to introduce a single subsidy, scrapping the Child Care Benefit and Child Care Rebate. The overarching aim is to make childcare more affordable, shorten waiting lists and offer greater flexibility as well as make childcare more financially sustainable for tax payers. The roll on effect would be increased participation of women in the workforce, more full time workers and less financial pressure for those parents who are chronically stretched.

The Commission's recommendations:
  • Provide a subsidy that is means and activity tested for up to 100 hours a fortnight. Families with a combined income of $60,000 or less would have 90% of costs subsidised, whilst those with over $300,000 would get a maximum 30%. 
  • The subsidy should go direct to a parent’s approved provider be that a centre or nanny so long as they have the required certificate that meets the appropriate National Quality Standards. 
  • Au pairs would not be eligible for the subsidy. However, visa requirements would be changed to extend the amount of time they spend with a family to 12 months (rather than the current 6) 
  • Remove restrictions on the number of childcare places for occasional care and the hours that centres have to be open in order to receive Government subsidies. 
  • Make school principals responsible for ensuring schools offer before and after school care, including care for pre-schoolers. 
  • 'Top up' subsidies should be offered for children with disabilities, while viability assistance should be provided to regional, rural and remote areas with fluctuating child populations. 

Is it all pretty? Some things to think about…
  • Currently parents who don’t work or study can get up to 24hours/week of childcare subsidised. Would this be cut and how would this impact stay-at-home mums? 
  • Either/or. Funding the subsidy may mean diverting funds ($1.5 billion is recommended) from the proposed Paid Parental Leave Scheme reducing parental leave contributions for some. 

In her article Parental leave a distraction that will hurt childcare Women’s Agenda editor, Angela Priestley, encourages us to think long term and focus on what we really need and want as working parents…

“Based on my own conversations with new mothers on this very topic, I'm not convinced beefing up our existing paid parental leave scheme will help. It's not the amount of maternity leave a new mother gets that helps in her 'decision' to return to work (although some employers do request those who take such leave return for a period in order to 'pay it back') but rather her ability to access childcare once she's ready to return to work, along with flexible working arrangements that suit her changed circumstances.”  

Angela Priestley, Women's Agenda.

The Commission has estimated that the proposed changes could boost workforce participation by 2.7% contributing to over 46,000 more full-time workers. It also estimated that it could boost GDP by $5.5 billion.

It seems there are more significant additional benefits to the broader community to reforming our childcare system as opposed to the Paid Parent Leave scheme, which seems to benefit few beyond those directly receiving it.

What’s more, Grattan Institute research shows that the two major factors influencing female workforce participation are marginal tax rates and the net costs of childcare. It found that ”government support for childcare has about double the impact of spending on parental leave” in influencing women’s workforce participation.

So if it is an either/or scenario wouldn't it be nice if working parents were the ones that got to choose?

What do you want from our childcare system? Though we shouldn’t have to decide, if it came to an either/or scenario between the proposed Paid Parental Leave Scheme and Childcare Reform what would you choose and why?

You have a chance to take part in the discussion. This was only the draft report and the Productivity Commission is inviting the public to respond to its ideas. Click here to have your say. You have until September. 

“Two decades ago debate raged about how much women should work and if child care was bad for kids. Now we discuss how to boost women's participation in the workplace, the quality of care, trying to get it and how much it costs.” 

Sarah MacDonald, The Drum - ABC.

Thankfully things have changed. Let’s keep the evolution rolling! 

For a simple explanation of the report listen to Commissioner Wendy Craik talk about the key recommendations from the draft report into Childcare and Early Childhood Learning in this video

[1] Sussan Ley, media release, viewed 28.7.14,

[2] SwitchedOnWomen, The Woman’s Economy, viewed 25.7.14

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Why mums make good managers

Mothers might not make good minions for capitalist exploitation, but they are adept time managers, skilled negotiators and ultimately assets in the workplace, writes Jenny Ostini.

Dear women who are writing about how mothers should give up trying to be supermums and stop competing with those twenty-somethings with the perky boobs,

While I always enjoy reading gross generalisations about other people (who doesn't?), due to my personal dislike of anecdotal social commentary, I am simply going to tell you why I, as a forty-something mother-of-three, still have something to contribute to my workplace.

I remember a time before hashtags, when I too may have had perky boobs. I did not have any experience of life. I believed that I could change the world by educating people into the right way to do things, that knowledge and my personal effort would set people free.

Now I know that I may prepare the perfect nutritionally balanced meal, bring my family around the table to eat it, and have someone fall asleep in their highchair or simply refuse because, "Today is a peanut butter day."

Translated to social policy, this means that I may develop an evidence-based policy using the latest in "nudgenomics" and people just might not go along with it. They may have other things on their minds or simply not be in a place where they can make rational decisions about their futures. I understand that and try to develop ideas and policies that work within the parameters of people's real lives and experiences.

I have dealt with the lack of out-of-hours doctors when a child fell sick on a Friday night of a long weekend. I have waited in hospital emergency rooms. I have navigated state schools and the quirks of private schools. I have had people dependent on me for every need, and I have learnt how to trust that my children will make good decisions as they become independent human beings.

These are the skills of a good manager. To teach, supervise and then let people do their work. To be in the background, ready to step up if needed. To not panic if something goes horribly wrong, because it will and it can probably be resolved.

I will not mother you in the workplace but if you ask nicely I will probably be carrying Band-aids, painkillers and a supply of tissues.

I do not have all the answers but I am not afraid to say that I don't know something. I will find it out. I understand that life is not fair, and in fact, should not be fair; that different people will have different needs at different times. I understand the need to share and not to be competitive.

I also can run a meeting efficiently. I don't have time to mess around. I have faced down more skilled negotiators than you. I know that every battle does not need to be won. Sometimes Johnnie from accounting needs to be allowed to talk about travel forms just like my child may need to sometimes go out looking like a bag lady. It's not the end of the world.

On the other hand, I do not expect anyone to stay up all night finishing a report. Working hours are working hours for a reason. Focus in the office and your home time is your own. I will not call you at home, although I may occasionally email you at 4am because I am up making sure that one of my kids gets off to sports training. I do not expect you to answer that email immediately.

Because I do remember a time before hashtags, I have had experience of a number of technologies. I know that what matters is having the literacies to learn new technology and the content knowledge to use these technological tools to actually do something in the world. I know that a hashtag can be used to draw attention to issues and create momentum around change, but that it doesn't change anything in itself.

I work because I have a wealth of knowledge and experience that I can bring to an organisation. I work because I spent 10 years at university training to be able to make a contribution to society. I work to show my children that getting up out of bed and going to work is a commitment and a reward in itself. I feel bad when my son whispers in my ear "Can't you just stay home today Mum?" but I know that I will come home and cook dinner, play games and read with him. I feel a twinge of guilt when I realise that the damp laundry may have been in the washing machine for three days but this doesn't diminish me as a person. I also sometimes feel bad when I leave the office at 4.30pm to go to a parent-teacher meeting. But I also know that I will be sending emails at 4am (see earlier).

I also don't judge you if you have made a different decision about parenting and working. I have been a stay-at home mum, a part-time employee and a full-time worker. I have cycled through these roles and may well do so again. Feminism is about women having the right to choose what works for them and for their families. Make that decision for yourself, with your partner, for your family and your situation.

I think that what these recent articles are trying to say is that mothers are not good minions: that by having life experiences, other priorities and people dependent on them, they no longer fully buy into the tenets of capitalism. They are expensive workers because they know what they are entitled to and that they need to demand it because it is not going to be given to them "just because". And I think that is a good thing.

Warm regards,

A working mum

By: Jenny Ostini
First published: 15th July 2014
Source: The Drum

Jenny Ostini is a qualitative social scientist who has worked in academia and in the not-for-profit sector for a number of years. She is a community correspondent for 612 ABC Brisbane and tweets @follysantidote. View her full profile here.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

It’s official: mums in the workplace are good for business

Anxious about returning to work? You shouldn't be! Together with 100 Mums, we've provided a list you can take to a potential employer explaining why having you in their business will make them more successful.

Going back to work

One of the most fraught decisions we make as mothers is about the return to work after having kids: Do I go back to work? How much maternity leave can or should I take? Will I manage? Will we be able to afford it? What if I can’t find work when my child goes to school?

It’s no wonder that the whole working-mother issue is one of the most hotly debated topics on internet forums – after breast vs bottle feeding and controlled crying vs co-sleeping, there’s no other topic as likely to stir up strong feelings among mums. But unlike these other major parenting decisions, the decision to return to work actually makes a big difference to the wider community because returning to work after having children could make a difference to the Australian economy.

What more mums at work means for our economy

According to the Grattan Institute, an Australian public policy think tank, more women returning to work after having children could increase the size of the Australian economy by about $25 billion a year.

But the truth is returning to work after having children can be daunting. Sometimes being out of the workplace for a while means we’ve lost the confidence or think we no longer have the skills. We also worry we won’t find work because we are mothers and therefore not seen as a good candidate.

Your valuable contribution

It’s easy to forget how valuable our contribution really is. Janine Lay-Flurrie, CEO of 100 Mums, an organisation that provides businesses with access to highly talented and experienced businesswomen (who just happen to be mothers), outlines the things we should remember when going back into the workforce. It’s a list you could potentially have on tap the next time you go into an interview …
  • You are highly qualified (Australia is first for female education in the world, but 52nd in workforce participation).
  • You have had a significant amount of experience in (and sometimes out of) the workforce.
  • You are focused on getting the job done without wasting time.
  • You have a level of expertise where you can deal with all levels of management.
  • You can often step straight into a role.
  • You are happy in both your workplace and home environments and therefore can contribute positively to the organisation.
  • You have life experience and can therefore navigate, benefit and add value to the culture of the organisation.
  • You want to work and will reward a business that offers you flexibility with dedication and a strong work ethic.
  • If the employer is offering a part-time role, you can give them a higher level of skill that they might not normally be able to afford, which can seriously add growth to the business.

Flexible working arrangements are good for employers

But it’s not just that mothers can make great candidates for the job. Employers also have a lot to gain from providing flexible work arrangements (part-time work, job share etc) to mothers who return to the workforce, 100 Mums explains.
  • Flexible working arrangements help organisations compete in the highly competitive labour force.
  • A recent productivity study by Ernst & Young also found that $1.4 billion dollars could be saved through employing productive females in flexible roles due to their better productivity rates in the workplace, i.e these women waste less time then other employees during a typical working day.
  • Better motivation among staff.
  • Increased loyalty among all staff.
  • Greater retention of staff generally and a greater retention of staff after maternity leave.
  • An overall stronger financial result for all stakeholders.
  • Greater flexibility can reduce the burden on childcare places.
  • Flexible workplace solutions such as job share enable the company to tap into two experienced minds for the price of one, and greater output due to the job sharers motivating each other and sharing best practice.
  • If a company offers a part-time role, they can gain access to a higher level and more experienced resource, all within budget.
As women, we can make a massive difference to the economy of Australia if we utilise the skills and education we have gained to achieve business growth, economic growth and provide role modelling to our children.

Of course, nobody is saying that all mothers need to go back to work and there is nothing wrong with taking off the childhood years and beyond to nurture your family and children if you can afford to, but there’s no denying that returning to work will not just put money in your pocket, but also help the Australian economy.

Do you work outside of the home? Are you thinking of returning to work?

By: Lana Hirschowitz
First published: 16th June 2014
Source: Kidspot 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

What are the rules for time off for sick kids?

The minute my daughter complains of feeling sick or having a headache on a work day, I have to admit that my first reaction is to say: "You'll be fine. You can't be sick today, because I have lots of work on/a meeting. I really don't want to get a call to come and get you later either".

I'm not proud of this. It makes me feel mean and a bad mother every time, even if I suspect that said child is possibly putting it on or not quite as poorly as she is making out.

But there is this innate fear in everyone that having to take time off with sick children is going to affect your job, career and relationship with your colleagues or boss. It makes you feel guilty for being a parent. Which let's face it is utterly ridiculous.

Working mothers regularly send children to child care or school sick, because they don't feel able to take time off looking after them.

Researchers in a recent study found four out of 10 employed mums have sent their child to school when he or she wasn't feeling well, because they felt unable to take the day off.

Worryingly, the study also found around one in six mothers have been made to feel 'guilty' by their boss after taking time off to look after a poorly child. One in ten of the 2,000 working mums said they had even received a written warning.

Taking extra days off in term time can be a real struggle especially in the current economic climate when many parents are worried about their job security. It's bad enough when you have a partner to share the load with, but if you're single parent it's even harder.

Under Fair Work Laws, as a parent you are entitled to the following by law:

  • The right to request flexible working arrangements to care for a child under school age, or a child (under 18) with a disability. Your employer must consider the request and can only refuse on reasonable business grounds.
  • Ten days paid personal or carer's leave each year that carries over from year to year. You can use this leave when you're sick or when you need to care for a member of your immediate family or household.
  • Two days paid compassionate leave when a member of your immediate family or household dies or is seriously ill. If you require more time off, you can take two additional days of unpaid carer's leave.

If your child falls ill you could take time off to go to the doctor and make care arrangements. Your employer may then ask you to take annual leave or parental leave if you want to look after your child for longer.

Tell your employer as soon as possible how much time you'll need so it can be agreed.

Compassionate leave

If you aren't given time off for dependants, your employer may allow you ‘compassionate leave' - this can be paid or unpaid leave for emergency situations. Check your employment contract, company handbook or intranet for details about compassionate leave.

More on Sick Days and Emergency Care and what to do with the kids

By: Sophie Cross
First published: 2nd July 2014
Source: Careforkids 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

How a career coach can energise your career

Stuck in a career rut? Lacking confidence to ask for a promotion or pay rise? Want some guidance on preparing for parental leave or managing a family with work? Feel like taking your career in a new direction?

Re-entering the workplace, negotiating flexible work arrangements, changing jobs and learning ways to deal with the conflicting demands of work and home are some of the things many women need a little extra support with. Apart from struggling to manage the whole work-life balance thing it’s not uncommon to feel directionless and unsure about your career goals at some point in time, particularly if confidence is low or access to support isn’t immediately obvious. This is where a professional career coach or counselor may help.

What is a career coach and why use one?

Career coaches are specialist human resource and career management practitioners. They often have HR, psychology, counselling or life coaching related backgrounds and qualifications.

Career coaches help you understand your needs and wants related to work-life decisions or issues. They can help you set goals, organise, problem-solve, find purpose and direction as well as the strategies and guidance to help you get there. They not only help you access information but also facilitate confidence building to ensure you can successfully navigate the changes you want to make (be that a parental leave transition, change of career etc.).

If you’re already in a role it can also help you take greater ownership and responsibility, develop self-awareness and more effectively correct performance difficulties.

“[Career] coaching is a way of working with people that leaves them more competent and more fulfilled so that they are more able to contribute to their organisations and find meaning in what they are doing.” James Flaherty, Coaching: Evoking Excellence in Others 2005.

What will a career coach talk about?

The role of a career coach is to clarify your needs and goals then work with you to identify and agree on specific outcomes for the coaching. A great coach also recognises that every individual has different work and family needs and that each work role and experience is unique.

One thing, however, we’ve all experienced at work is fear (will I be sidelined for a promotion whilst on parental leave?) and anxiety (am I good enough to ask for a pay increase or apply for that new job I’d love). The fears and anxieties may feel like a small nag or it may be overwhelming and debilitating – either way at the end of the day the only purpose they have is to hold you back. A career coach will talk you through these feelings, help you rationalise them (whether they’re real or perceived), and come up with strategies to minimise or extinguish them.

Some other key topics you can talk about with a career coach are:
  • Short and long term career planning 
  • Managing and maintaining work relationships 
  • Getting ready for parental leave
  • How to stay connected with work whilst on leave
  • Returning to work
  • Negotiating flexible work
  • Work-life balance
  • Caring and parenting support

What does a GREAT career coach do?

If you are a woman in a leadership position and want to get on more boards and extend your skills further afield you may look for a coach who has worked with top female executives and specialises in gender equality issues. If you’re a working parent you may want someone who understands where you’re coming from in your home life as well as career. So a career coach who is also a working parent may be a top pre-requisite for you.

But your search shouldn’t stop there. Look for a coach that offers professional and personalised support. This means they:
  • Are attentive and flexible to meeting your needs
  • Ask questions and coach through decision-making processes
  • Support and guide you on what you may need to do to help yourself and build confidence
  • Connect you with useful information
  • Discuss the realities of life as a working parent
  • Help you plan and prepare you and your family for your career change and/or return to work
  • Maintain confidentiality and privacy at all times 

Some questions to get you thinking pre-coaching session

What would you like to gain from your job, return to work or new career pursuit?

How do you see family fitting in?

What interests you?

What do you see yourself doing more or less of in the future?

It’s your life, how do you want to spend it?

Final tips

Take courage, ask for support if you need it, put your best foot forward.

The reality is if you don’t have confidence in your own potential and capability, it’s hard to expect others to have belief. Similarly, if you lack career direction you can’t expect your manager or others to create it for you. In other words, no one can give you confidence or develop your career for you. Sometimes you just need to take the bold step through the fear and be courageous enough to pursue your goals.

The beauty of a career coach is that they guide you through this process; walking beside you as you overcome insecurities so that you feel confident putting your best foot forward.

What is your experience using a career coach? Did you find them useful? If so, how?

By Emma Walsh, parents@work
First published: 4.7.2014
Source: Women's Agenda

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

10 top tips for advancing your career

Talented Women are everywhere. They are leading countries, designing new projects, managing teams, caring for children, writing best sellers, finding cures, setting up new enterprises. But not every talented woman is reaching her potential. The question is how do we advance our careers to a place we deem successful?

Talent is defined as a natural aptitude or skill. The Oxford Dictionary also notes it was "a former weight and unit of currency" used by the ancient Romans and Greeks. One difference I've noticed between talented women who are 'career successful' and those who are not is that successful women utilise their weight and unit of currency – their talent – every chance they get. It's not that some women don't have talent, it's that they don't know how to develop it.

These tips for advancing your career are a collection of the best advice and experience we've executed at Talented Women, studied from research and observed from talented and successful women the world over. They are written to support the talent development of Australian women and equip them with the tools to advance their careers. Our success will be your realised potential.

1. Know your goals – Be strategic with your career

Have a plan – know what you want to achieve in the next 3-5 years. It's likely your goals will change and evolve over time, but being strategic and focused about your career direction will help you stay on track and manage the everyday distractions that invariably present themselves along the way. Don't forget to tell important others in your life and at work about your future goals and plans so they can support you in achieving these; otherwise it can be a tough and lonely road.

2. Build a strong professional network

A well-developed professional network not only helps you cultivate relationships and connect with people who can help advance your career, it will build your confidence too. Your network can provide referrals, personal feedback and objective insights for evaluating opportunities and problems. This may come from an array of sources: colleagues, ex-colleagues, mentors, friends of friends, conferences and seminars, industry associations and continuing education. Nurturing the relationships you value will stand you in good stead when the opportunity for career advancement presents itself.

3. Personal branding and promotion

Personal branding starts with being clear about what your strengths are and valuing your efforts. Think about one-word answers to the question: Who am I? Then delete every word that defines a role – such as manager, wife, mother, friend. The adjectives left describe who you are and represent the cornerstone of your personal brand. To create a strong brand you need to be consistent and become your own best advocate – so back yourself, take credit for your good work, raise your hand, take a risk and seek challenging assignments or opportunities that will extend you.

4. Be confident in your abilities and potential

All things being equal – skills, ability and performance – there is evidence to suggest that women tend to underestimate and men tend to overestimate themselves. Studies have shown that women are three times more likely than a man to underrate their standing with bosses and co-workers. Why is this our shortfall? Because the natural result of low confidence is inaction. When women hesitate because we aren't sure, we hold ourselves back. The reality is that to succeed confidence matters as much as competence.

What can you do? Start by speaking up in situations you might not normally such as an important meeting. Initiate a performance feedback discussion with your manager. Be a speaker at a conference. Learn to have faith in your expertise and share your ideas with others. Develop a 'growth' mindset. Stand tall – the research shows you're probably better than you're willing to admit.

5. Seek out a sponsor

A sponsor is someone who plays a proactive role in helping you advance your career (as opposed to a mentor who offers advice and guidance rather than direct access to opportunities). A sponsor will recommend you for jobs and help you move up the ladder – essentially create the 'breaks' you need to progress your career.
Bank of Queensland executive Michelle Tredenick describes sponsors like this: "Generally [sponsors] are leaders of people of influence in their field. They are also well connected, not just in their own peer circles but in many different ways, so they understand where talent is and have good relationships at all levels."

Identify a leader in your network you admire, someone you would like to learn from or work for. Consider approaching this person and asking if they would share their leadership story – how did they advance their career, what advice would they have for others following in their footsteps? Seek feedback and ideas from this leader. When you have built a rapport with this person and they know what you are capable of ask them outright if they would be prepared to act as a sponsor for you in the future.

6. Keep your CV and LinkedIn profile up to date

LinkedIn profiles are viewed by other professionals and recruiters on a daily basis. In fact, 200 million users are signed up to the webs biggest professional network, with over 10 million endorsements given daily. So it's a good idea to keep your job status and responsibilities up to date and track your accomplishments. You never know who's looking at your profile.

7. Communicate openly with those around you

Great leaders are clear and open communicators. They communicate effectively upwards, downwards and across the chain. Ensure key people more senior than yourself know who you are and what you are capable of. Be open and sincere with your peers. Help others learn and benefit from your experience. People remember when someone puts the effort in to connect with and encourage them. You may also find others do the same in return.

8. Join a professional industry association or volunteer

Joining an industry association can aid continuing education, facilitate learning and development and be a valuable source of expert information. Volunteering your skills and talents to other individuals, groups or associations can also be worthwhile. Be active among the association. If there is a chance to volunteer your services have a go. Professional associations look great on your resume and are helpful networks to tap into whilst job searching.

9. Be proactive with your performance reviews

Take advantage of rigorous performance reviews – these are the ideal time to get coaching and feedback. Prepare by jotting down points about what you think your strengths are, the opportunities you want to embrace and any concerns about gender bias and progress inhibitors you'd like to address. The discussion will be more robust and progressive if you bring pre-prepared ideas to the table. If you don't get constructive feedback in response to your questions think about who else you can approach and whether you are in the right role or organisation.

10. Prioritise self-care

What is the vibe you want to bring to work everyday and take home again at the end of a day's work? Being the 'yes woman' or the one who arrives first and leaves last isn't a recipe for success. Working too hard will inevitably leave you feeling drained, stressed, uninspired or all of the above. Ask yourself – how can I nurture and support myself more? Is it by getting more sleep, eating more greens, saying no to tasks, a digital detox, meditation, getting a massage, playing music? Anything that helps you reconnect, find balance and inspire good health qualifies as self-care. Ultimately this will make you more productive and confident when doing the things necessary to advance your career.

Do you have any additional career advancing tips? What would you offer to women who are struggling to commit to their career goals?

By: Kiri Stejko, Executive Director, Talented Women
First published: June 24th 2014