Last week I read a few articles all concentrating on the age old topic of working parents, specifically mothers, versus childless workers.  Have you had to cover for a colleague who has kids?  Have they ever covered for you?

The April 2007 edition of Madison features an article, written by Louise Millar, debating this very topic.  Essentially the article is saying that there are women out there that resent the fact they often cover for their female colleagues who leave work to tend to their children.  Some women actually resent the mother’s, some just resent the fact that the situation exists.  One woman actually points out that if she constantly works back late to make up for the work the mother’s don’t do then when will she ever find the time to meet someone to have kids of her own.  That seems like a fair point.

But what is more disturbing is the article shows us that there are women who simply resent and do not understand other women who have decided to have children.  One woman complained that she was discriminated against when it came to taking annual leave.  A mother was given preference because the leave coincided with school holidays.  Is that fair?

I would like to ask those mother’s featured in the Madison article what truly is making them unhappy?  That parent’s get to go home or that they are working ridiculously long hours?  Would they enjoy 15 hours days if everyone worked back with them?

On there was an article titled Women’s choices: kids or career.  This article said that over 2000 women were surveyed in the industries of business, pharmacy, science, engineering and technology and found that more than half did not have children.  The same survey also showed that women thought that taking maternity leave would be detrimental to their career; about a third of women with children did not take maternity leave; more than a quarter said they did not receive equal pay for equal work compared to males; half said they lacked the confidence to negotiate salaries and conditions.

These women also thought that balancing work and life, workplace culture and lack of senior roles for women affected their careers.

Lack of senior roles for women I think is an interesting point.  One woman interviewed in the Madison article said that people who work part-time, and those who are mothers are clearly not dedicated to the job as full time workers and shouldn’t expect the same status or promotion prospects.  Is that fair?  Australian Bureau of Statistics showed that over 70% of the part-time workforce was made up by women.

Does having a child or choosing to work part time make you less qualified?

In another article on titled Work Obsession Hurts Relationships said that Australia is now the only high-income country in the world that combines very long average working hours with a high level of work at unsocial times during weeknights and weekends and a significant proportion of casual employment.

More than 20 per cent of employees work 50 hours or more each week and more than 30 per cent regularly work on weekends.

About 2 million people now lose at least six hours of family time to work on Sunday and those hours are not fully compensated for during the week.

If working such long hours is not the norm in first world countries why are we doing it here in Australia?  For what benefit?

Clearly we are in a messy situation.  What we do know is that as a society we need children.  We need to populate this country.

Before anyone says that the world is already overpopulated I firmly believe that if we all lived a little greener then all of a sudden the world’s resources wouldn’t be so stretched.  Let’s just look at the results of Earth Hour.

We also need happy, healthy workers to keep this economy going.  Working ridiculously long hours does not necessarily make for a more productive worker.

Who do we turn to, to enact change?  Industry, politicians, unions?  What do you want? 

This post first featured on my other Mum’s Word blog.


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