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Women need more than paid maternity leave can deliver – survey shows

Australian Institute of Management – News Release
Melbourne, December 1, 2008

As Australia contemplates spending about $500 million a year on the introduction of a compulsory paid maternity leave scheme, a new survey reveals that only a minority of executives believe the scheme will boost the numbers of women in the workforce.

The survey, conducted by the Australian Institute of Management VT attracted 3,180 respondents from the executive ranks of private and government sector organisations. Just 33 per cent of the survey participants agreed that compulsory paid maternity leave would ‘benefit the recruitment and retention of women in the workforce.’ The survey is titled ‘Retaining women in the Workforce’.

The Australian Government’s Productivity Commission, which has made an initial recommendation that taxpayers fund 18 weeks paid maternity leave, is now working on its final report to Government following the completion of public forums on the issue last week (final report due in Feb 09). One of the goals of the Commission’s proposals on maternity leave is to achieve ‘greater workforce participation by women’.

Respondents to the survey were 55 per cent male and 45 per cent female. The minority support for compulsory paid maternity leave as a means of boosting the numbers of women in the workforce was indicated by men (only 26% support) and women (40% support).
Eighty seven per cent of survey respondents said that ‘more needs to be done to retain women in the Australian workforce’.
“Australia’s ageing population means that maximising the retention and contribution of women in the workforce is becoming a key business imperative,” the CEO of the Australian Institute of Management, (Vic/Tas) Ms Susan Heron said.

The survey identified the most important single factor to retain women in the workforce was ‘flexible working arrangements’. The second most important factor was improved childcare support (10.0%), followed by improved career path (9.5%), paid maternity leave (7.0%), pay equity (6.9 %), training and professional development (5.1%) and other (3.4%).

“Whilst the Government’s move to consider the introduction of paid maternity leave is a welcome development, it is clear that by itself, this initiative will not significantly boost the retention of women in the workforce. Australian organisations need to embrace a broad range of measures to improve the situation.

“Our survey makes clear that greater flexibility in workplace arrangements is a key priority. The greater demand by women – and their partners – for options such as flexible working hours, the ability to work from home when required and job sharing point to the changes underway and indicate what lies ahead for Australian employers.”

Significantly, 63 per cent of participants believed that Australian organisations were not supportive of women ‘who seek to achieve seniority equivalent to their male counterparts.’

“This survey finding about lack of support for women helps us to understand why less than 15 per cent of women occupy the senior executive ranks of our major companies despite the fact that more than 50 per cent of tertiary graduates are women,” Ms Heron said.
“It is clear that Australia can no longer sustain such a poor return on its investment in tertiary education for women.”Eighty per cent of survey participants supported the view that having a child impacted ‘on a woman’s ability to achieve her career goals.’

The survey revealed that 64 per cent of respondents had never worked in an organisation run by a woman CEO (or equivalent position).

However, respondents who worked in the public sector or in the not for profit sector were much more likely to have worked for a woman CEO (or equivalent). Fifty five per cent of respondents in the public sector and 62 per cent of those working for a not for profit entity reported they had worked for an organisation run by a woman.

SURVEY RESULTS – SOME KEY FACTS
• Only 33% of respondents believed that compulsory paid maternity leave would boost the recruitment and retention of women in the workforce
• 58% of respondents said the most important factor in retaining women in the workforce was flexible working arrangements
• 63% felt that Australian organisations were not supportive of women who seek to achieve seniority equivalent to their male counterparts
• 87% believed that more needs to be done to retain women in the workforce
• 80% said that having a child impacts on a woman’s ability to achieve her career goals
• 54% indicated that if compulsory paid maternity leave was introduced, it should be paid by a combination of ‘Govt. and Employer’
• More than 55% of respondents said that if compulsory paid maternity leave was introduced, it should be for a longer period than the 18 weeks nominated by the Productivity Commission
• 55% said that if compulsory paid maternity leave was introduced, that it should not replace the $5,000 Baby Bonus.

For further information
W www.aimvic.com.au
E lfunston@aimvic.com.au

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