Technology and working women are changing the way we work. We can now work from anywhere at any time. With many more educated women in the workforce the demand for flexibility to accommodate caring responsibilities around work is high. Men are also starting to take on greater caring responsibilities as women start to earn as much, or more than they do. Many are looking to share work and caring responsibilities or community/volunteer work but are finding it hard. Rigid institutional structures, and societal expectations around gender roles, having a paid job/occupation and a valid role in the economic monoculture contribute to this. So far we’ve only nibbled away at the edges.
For example, one change that is occurring is the rise of the female breadwinner. However, this is not necessarily progress. We’ve just reversed the roles. So instead of the wife feeling underappreciated, now the husband is. A letter to The Australian magazine (August 16-17, 2014), just recently highlights this.
My son gave up a career he had worked hard for to raise his children while his wife pursued her career. He developed a wonderful relationship with his children but felt underappreciated by his wife. They are now divorced and are still trying to work out shared parenting arrangements.
My husband and I both worked part time while our children were young. The greatest benefit from it was knowing what the other was going through. We could both relate to bad and good days at home and bad and good days at work. I maintain that you never know what someone else is going through or how tough a job someone may have until you do it yourself. ‘Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes’ to truly understand what they are dealing with.
True progress requires a breaking down of patriarchal structures and more collaboration. There are leaders in this new way of working but not enough followers. To speed things up we need new policy settings signalling the way of the future.
We need a bold new Vision that promises a much more flexible labour market; one that makes it easy for everyone to engage in depending on their choices around needs, wants, values and circumstances which can change over time. With the retirement age now 70, many more women working now and the need for more taxpayers to fund the retirement of so very many baby boomers, this is critical.
What we all want and need is respect and support:
• for the ‘work’ we do regardless of our gender, and whether paid or unpaid
• to easily move between paid and unpaid work throughout our lives so as to support our families, friends and communities ie put the time into those relationships
• to engage in meaningful work
Productivity Commission review of part time work
The PC needs to review the situation with part time work in Australia with a view to measuring:
• its availability
• employer attitudes towards it (particularly part timers ability to work in senior management)
• the productiveness of part time employees
• the age and gender balance across part time work.
The PC can then recommend structural changes to enhance workforce participation and satisfaction among those in search of, or currently working part-time.
Targets for women in corporate executive roles
Executive managers drive the culture of an organisation more so than Boards. Targets for women in Executive positions can bring about the change needed in workplace culture to facilitate greater participation by women.
Establish Freelance Australia
This is a new online database linking workers actively seeking casual work with employers needing readily available labour for short periods.
Invest in remote access and co-working
All employers should have the technology to enable their employees to work remotely with community libraries used as hubs for workers to gather in person. Did you know that more than 2000 years ago the Intelligentsia would gather in libraries to work side by side, solving society’s problems?
Paid paternity leave
Employers will pay fathers who take leave for 6 months to care for their children (who are between the ages of 6 months and 4 years) at 50% of their salary with the government matching each dollar paid to a maximum of $50,000. Men are only eligible for this leave if their wives have returned to full or part time work. Since the introduction of ‘father specific’ parental leave policies in Sweden and Germany the number of fathers taking leave has jumped from less than 5% to nearly 25%. Women are reportedly happier and financially wealthier.
Increase school leaving age to 18
With people now required to work until 70 the school leaving age needs increasing to 18 with the final year of school seeing students engaged in a 12 month program which takes them through transitioning to further study (vocational or university) and adult life. The program may include two 3 month work experience placements, self-development training, volunteering, cooking, home budgeting and insurance advice.
Spiritual education to replace religious education in our schools
Reframing religious education as spiritual education and making it a normal part of the school curriculum. The focus is on teaching the concept of religion and spirituality and not a particular denomination.
For further reading on this idea, take a look at the recent work by Annabel Crabb.