Companies suffer because of female unfriendly cultures

by 01 May 2008

DESPITE RECORD education levels and rising numbers of women entering the labour market, employers are failing to create workplaces that enable women to participate at full capacity and contribute to the growth of the Australian economy.

A recent report has found that more than a third of women left their last job because of inadequate career development and progression opportunities, which they rate as extremely important when choosing a workplace.

A quarter of female respondents also said that their current employers do not provide them with a clear career path and 16 per cent do not believe that they are afforded sufficient learning and development opportunities.

The survey, conducted by the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA) and sponsored by Hays, also contradicts the belief that women are not as ambitious as men, with the majority of both men and women stating that they aspire to a job involving more responsibility.

Despite the move away from all consuming career focus in favour of a better work/life balance by men and women across all income, education and lifestyle groups, workplaces are still not providing the level of flexibility required.

The report found that 83 per cent of women consider organisational support of work/life balance to be important, yet 45 per cent believe their organisation does not genuinely support work/life balance.

A further 42 per cent feel that they do not have access to flexible work conditions, while 12 per cent of women were motivated to resign from their previous job in search of greater work/life balance.

And, while male workers report being almost as family-focused as female workers, this has not translated into an increased demand for family-friendly conditions or seen men spending additional time on household or caring duties.

In fact, more than half of females say their partners do less unpaid domestic and caring work than they do and a third state that if they received more help they would be more likely to increase their hours in paid employment.

The report, which involved more 1,600 respondents, also showed that men are acutely aware of the barriers that women encounter in the workplace, with 46 per cent stating that their workplace can be ‘bit of a boys club’.

Men are also significantly more likely than women to believe that their workplaces do not appoint women to senior positions, do not provide flexible work conditions and do not have a good record of promoting and supporting women.

Some 7 per cent of women left their last job because of an unfair distribution of pay among employees in the same role and 8 per cent left their job because of bullying and harassment.

“There is a clear discrepancy in what women want and expect from a role and a workplace and what they are experiencing in reality,” said Anna McPhee, director of the EOWA.

“If women’s ambition and career plans are recognised and supported they can make a major impact on Australia’s productivity at a time when it is widely recognised that we need more hands on deck.”

Businesses need to make sure that all staff are able to work flexibly, have equal access to training and development and that there is real pay equity before decisions about roles and responsibilities can truly be said to be equitable, McPhee said.


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