posted Wednesday, August 20th, 2008 at 2:14 pm
According to a recent findings by the ‘Australian Public Service Commission’ of female public servants who took maternity leave between 2000-01, 65 per cent, or 2 out of 3 mothers who returned to the same workplace were not given promotions, compared to only 42 per cent of women who had not had children in that period. So who is to blame? It may depend on what version of the story you read, and keep in mind, no participant mothers, or fathers, were quoted in any of the following three news stories.
Let’s take the first account from The Age. According to, so-called expert, Stephen Jones, from the Public Sector Union, it’s about making the right choices. He is quoted as saying, ‘If a woman, or father for that matter, makes a choice to take a backward step in their career (for a child) then it’s a matter of choice’. So does this view imply that parents, mothers in particular, are deliberately choosing to sabotage thier careers by having children and taking leave to care for them? Are they to blame? Mr Jones does go on to lay some blame on workplaces that lack flexible hours, quality part-time work and child care – and tut tuts the public service for not setting a better example – but sees little hope for change, especially if such a large, so-called ‘family friendly’ – public sector employer can’t manage to lead the way.
Let’s go onto story 2 from the International Herald Tribune, who chose to get expert advice from Gwen Gray, an Australian National University political scientist, and mother of 3. She is reported as saying ‘management clearly preferred to promote women who did not have family responsibilities’. So here she lays the blame of non-promotion for mothers on workplace management (and the underlying ideologies I would assume). So here it is suggested the choice to be promoted comes from management, not mothers.
However in this same article, a second expert, Marie Coleman, former senior public servant and spokeswoman from NFAW (National Foundation for Australian Women) is ‘reported’ as saying, ‘mothers’ careers suffered in Australia because most chose to return to work part time. (Again this issue of choice). Do mothers really choose part-time work, or is it the only option viable to achieving some balance? Marie goes on to explain that few senior positions are available on a part-time basis. Why not? Whose fault is that? The third expert, Anna McPhee, director of the government’s Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency, is quoted as saying, ‘Certainly women with children are subject to greater levels of discrimination and barriers to their advancement’. – but surely no mother would choose such treatment, would she? Then Anna finds her target, ‘There is an old-fashioned view of what is work and what is an ideal worker, and that is a full-time male’.
The third story is not shy about apportioning blame with it’s headline Proof Mothehood Kills Careers. After digesting that title, I felt little appetite left to deconstruct it, especially after reading some of ‘choice’ comments written in response to this news article.
Big Deal! Where’s the news? It’s about time women forget what they read in Cleo and Cosmo magazines, and realise that life is about choices. You CAN’T have everything like the mags say you can. IF you choose not to have kids, work hard and study hard, you’ll get ahead in your career. Choose to have kids, then you have to make other sacrifices. Deal with it. Posted by: Dazza of Perth 2:30pm August 19, 2008
So what are your reactions to these news stories? Do you think mothers returning from maternity leave are just as deserving of promotions as others? Do you feel mothers have much choice in their career decisions? What about fathers, how do they factor into this debate? What about workplace culture? Who is really to blame for these findings?…