Work or family: women asked to choose

By Adam Coleman

A high number of professional women are foregoing children due to an inability to obtain a work/life balance a survey has revealed, with many feeling that taking maternity leave is detrimental to their career.

The Women in the Professions Survey released in Canberra by the Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers Australia (APESMA) shows the remuneration trends and employment status of professional female engineers, scientists, managers and pharmacists nationally.

APESMA’s national women’s co-ordinator, Erin Wood, says the report is concerning for policy makers as it showed that many women are being forced to choose between work or family.

“The lack of flexibility in working conditions, access to part-time hours and paid maternity leave is an on-going barrier for professional women who are either choosing not to have children or leaving their professions,” she says.

Of the almost 2000 responses a high number of females in professional positions were without children, the survey revealed.

“What is worrying is that over half of those surveyed do not have children, this is significantly above the level of childlessness reported by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in the wider population,” Ms Wood says.

The survey also found a considerable difference in the percentage of women without children by professional discipline – more than 60 per cent of IT professionals do not have children, while for pharmacists (who have greater access to part-time work) the figure was considerably lower at 48.4 per cent.

Of the women surveyed, 34 per cent with children had not taken any maternity leave and nearly 60 per cent received no paid maternity leave.

“Alarmingly 56.9 per cent said that the taking of maternity leave was detrimental to careers,” she says.
“Our research has consistently shown that the workplace for professional women is not improving despite the acute skills shortage in technology. There has been insufficient action by either government and industry to improve women’s pay and working conditions or work-life balance.

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