Women caught in work life juggling act

by 14 Nov 2006

Younger women graduates are opting out of a role in the workforce in favour of full-time domestic duties. According to Gemma Avon, a LINK Recruitment business manager, anecdotal evidence suggests a significant number of women are deciding against pursuing full-time work, with perceptions of inflexible and unrewarding career options on offer in the current marketplace.

But Australian women should not be afraid to ask their employers for innovative and flexible working conditions, Avon said.

“Many are rejecting the idea of having it all because it appears to be too hard and not especially rewarding. I find this especially concerning because it means that younger women feel they have to choose between having a career or being a full-time home maker,” said Avon.

Based on anecdotal experience with candidates around the country confirming this trend, Avon said a lot of younger women candidates see their older counterparts doing a ‘double shift’, where they do eight hours of work at their day job only to return home to do their second shift cleaning the house and taking care of the kids.

“We want to nip this in the bud by telling women they can and should ask their employers for flexible working conditions. Employers need to realise that they are going to lose access to a significant talent pool if they don’t continue to look for innovative solutions to help women work more flexibly and support their life choices to have a career and a family.”

Avon’s advice to Australian women in the workplace is to tackle this issue by talking to your boss if you find you are having difficulty managing work-life balance, and to not be afraid to ask for more flexible hours.

She also recommends women champion the development of programs that foster the development of female staff in their office.

Finally, she suggests that if you happen to be the boss, make your workplace more flexible.

While it is believed there is nothing wrong with opting to stay home full-time to raise a family, Avon believes more should be done to support people who want to work and have a family.

Despite the amount of press and research on the issue, Avon claimed the corporate world continues to fail women.

“Many women are sick of hearing employers talk about the need for flexible workplaces because so few have actually done anything about it.”

A lack of successful role models who effectively juggle work and home life is said to be another reason curbing women from the workforce.

“There are so few women role models out there that are showing young women that it’s possible to be great at what you do career-wise and have a life outside of work,” said Avon.

In effect, it is recommended that to be a successful role model, women practise what they preach and believe they can have a family and productively contribute to the workforce, and look for ways to demonstrate this in the office.

Talking to the younger women in the office also helps. Go out for coffee and share stories about experiences in the workplace and how you got where you are today.

Finally, it is suggested that women encourage their employer to develop a formalised mentoring program.

“There are so many benefits to having a career – it can build your self-esteem, offer opportunities for ongoing learning and be a place to build strong networks of friends and colleagues. Men don’t have to choose, so why should women?”