Sex and the city strikes a sympathetic chord

I LOVED Susan Borg’s article, ‘It’s not all sex and the city for the childless female lawyer’ (Human Resources magazine, 28 June, page 3). Finally, someone tells it like it is

Sex and the city strikes a sympathetic chord

PLEASE PASS on my thanks to Susan Borg for her article ‘It’s not all sex and the city for the childless female lawyer’ (Human Resources magazine, 28 June, page 3).

Very insightful and an issue that hopefully will come more to the public’s attention. I am a 35-year-old executive assistant. My husband and I have been married for 10 years and have chosen to be childless – along with many of our friends. There is still a perception by others that we will eventually have children and often get stunned looks when we reinforce that it was a very conscious decision that we made. I strongly feel that the choice to have a child is much more a decision to make than not having children and am often almost laughed at when making this statement. If you decide to have children you should ensure that financially you are in a position to be able to meet their needs without government handouts.

Again, thank you for the article. It is sure to hold prime position on the office fridge for a while.

Jacqui Sharman, divisional assistant Northern, Graincorp Operations

BRAVO SUSAN Borg. At last someone has been brave enough to be honest, even if politically incorrect. I couldn’t agree more with her. As a fellow single childless woman I often feel quite invisible and discriminated against when it comes to Medicare, single person supplements when travelling, family discounts, family tickets, family sizes, government benefits and taxation and the relative cost/availability of the single person equivalents.

However, this form of discrimination goes further than CSL (childless sisters in the law) – it extends to single people generally and childless single women in particular. If, for example, you take a hard look at employment conditions, workplace cultures and supermarket packaging, you’ll find that single people are actively discriminated against (rostering, part-time positions, school holiday allocations, serving sizes, discounts for buying in bulk). Then try buying single serves or small amounts in the supermarket (if you can find them you’ll pay a premium).

Yet the statistics would suggest that single childless people in one person households are on the rise and already form a significant part of society –you’d think the marketers would have cottoned on to this by now, not to mention the policy makers – I sense a revolt on the way.

And no, like Susan, I am not a child hater – quite the opposite. I simply take responsibility for my choices and circumstances and treat others fairly regardless of marital or familial status – and wish PWC (people with children) would do the same instead of expecting preferential treatment, sometimes at the expense of others, because they have chosen to have a family.

Catherine

I HAVE just finished reading Susan Borg’s article in the latest edition of the Human Resources magazine. Firstly, let me start by saying ‘BRAVO!’ to Susan.

As she expresses, I believe that the world becomes so insanely obsessed with what is currently PC it forgets to think about the issues in our community with a level of objectivity. If we are all too afraid of what society might say about our less than mainstream views, then we do not have freedom of speech at all.

There are a couple of additional points I would like to make. Childlessness is also a problem for women in many other industries and making a choice (or not) to not participate in the baby making agenda of society is seen as putting a kind of slight on the woman’s personality and career opportunities. Women without children (I have done some of my own research) are often overlooked for promotions as they are seen to be too aggressive and it is perceived they will be ‘power pussies’ if given a senior exec position. While there are always exceptions to every rule, I don’t see how not having children suddenly turns a woman into an overly ambitious man-eater.

The other point I would like to make is about choice. If I choose to have a family, then I need to ensure that I put all necessary contingencies into place in order to have the life I want. This is not someone else’s problem or burden. If I choose not to have children, then this too needs to be taken into consideration – I have made a choice. If I would like to have a child, but cannot and don’t wish to pursue other avenues (adoption etc.) this too is my choice. If I am a man who decides to allow my wife to remain working while I stay home to look after the children, again, a choice.

More needs to be done about equity in the Australian workforce. Too many times, policies are brought in that may appear fair to the mainstream community, yet do not take into account the non-mainstream members of our community. If a company wishes to bring in a policy of paid maternity leave, say six weeks, they also need to give consideration to the terms and conditions (up to three times in five years, for example). Then this leave perhaps should be available to other employees, in the form of paternity leave, study leave, travel leave, sabbatical etc.

If I am a childless woman who works as hard as the pregnant woman next to me, why should she be entitled to an additional six weeks’ paid leave, when I’m not? Because she is having a child? So what! She has made her choice!

Thanks for reading my ‘soapbox’ rambling. Because I too must acquiesce to society’s wishes, I would like to state that the above is my own personal opinion, not a representation of the policies of the company for whom I work.

Martha Travis, human resources officer, Esselte Australia/New Zealand

FINALLY! Someone brave enough to speak out about the plight of childless females in the workforce. Trust me, this discrimination is not unique to the law profession, it’s rife across all industries. Up until two years ago, simply as a matter of courtesy, I have never asked for holidays during school holiday periods. Then all of a sudden due to an illness in the family, I needed a couple of weeks in January. I was told I was ‘selfish’, ‘inconsiderate’ and ‘just being difficult’. Yes, I’m childless, and yes, through choice. But I do have parents, siblings, nieces, nephews and very close friends. From that point on, if I have wanted holidays during the times best suited to people with children, I damn well jump up and down and scream discrimination if I don’t get them.

Thank you Ms Borg, for your bravery in giving CSL a voice, I really appreciate it. I, however, am not as brave as you, so am remaining anonymous!

Name withheld upon request

A bone to pick with ACTU advertising

IT IS A PITY the ACTU’s much heralded advertising campaign is misleading in its use of examples of workers left at the mercy of their employer under the Government’s proposed changes.

On the basis of what is shown happening to her on the advertisement, ‘Tracy’, if sacked for being unable to change shift due to her childcare responsibilities, would still have the right to claim unlawful dismissal if and when the proposed changes take effect.

There are no announced proposals to change the unlawful (as opposed to unfair) dismissal provisions of the Workplace Relations Act and Tracy could still seek penalties and compensation under them, to say nothing of her rights under Federal and State anti-discrimination laws that remain untouched as well.

Equally, any employer who tries to force an existing employee from an Award or collective agreement onto an individual contract (as opposed to offering it) is inviting a penalty of up to $10,000 plus compensation in the Federal Court. Again, there is no announcement proposing to change s298 of the Act.

The ACTU could depict accurate examples of where workers’ rights are likely to change (such as the worker at a smaller enterprise sacked for turning up late one morning) with equal force and effect. It does not assist the public debate, or employers’ and workers’ understanding of their rights and duties, to do otherwise.

Ross Jackson, partner, Workplace Services Practice Group, Maddocks

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