Career Woman

Unconscious bias stops new mums returning to work and how to change that


Women make up 47% of the Australian workforce yet hold only 16.5% of CEO roles. When compared to their male counterparts, the gender pay gap explodes with women in management taking home $75k less in total remuneration.  Of the 12000 organisations reporting into the WGEA (Workplace Gender Equality Agency) 29% do not have one women represented in management.  Unconscious bias is behind these trends and the reason why women are ceasing employment.

There’s no doubt Australian businesses have made inroads when it comes to working women and maternity leave. More employers now offer flexible work practices than ever before – 68 percent according to the latest gender equality scorecard, as well as extended leave entitlements, but not enough is being done to curb the feeling that taking time off will adversely affect their career journey. The impact of unconscious bias and the gender pay gap often starts in our 20s and 30s when we are actively seeking promotions and appointments resulting in only 37% of women holding management positions and being paid 23% less than their male counterparts.

Why mums matter?

By creating part-time flexible workplaces we are improving the lives of families, curbing mental health issues which come from feeling isolated, positioning organisations for growth and driving bottom-line profitability and contributing to our economy. Women are good for business!

Organisations such as Blackmores, PwC and Daimler are industry leaders, choosing to empower their female employees for happiness, equality and peak performance. Initiatives such as  ‘stay-in-touch’ and Mentor Mums programs educate, motivate and inspire new mothers or mothers-to-be through shared experiences to be able to make important decisions about their career and their family’s wellbeing.

Two organisations, PwC and Daimler, have childcare support as their key initiative with an emergency back-up childcare plan that see staff receiving $1000 a year towards the cost of last minute care if their typical carer falls through and they have a network of centres that staff can take their child to if need be. Subsidised onsite child care facilities are seeing employees return to the workforce six months earlier which is good for business, good for the family and good for the economy.

What women want is to feel valued and to add value. To feel empowered to step away from their career with a clear road-map for returning to work.

Career road map involving children

  1. Develop an employee career path that provides both the employer and the employee with an innovative parental leave roadmap. It will remove unconscious bias as it highlights having a family can be part of the career progression instead of worrying the road will come to an end.

Stay connected

  1. Provide opportunities to stay connected through forums, workshops, networks and support groups so that isolation and anxiety are replaced with inclusion and confidence to take the time needed to care for their newborn child or in tragic circumstances, mourn the loss of a child through childbirth or infant death. Pair them up with a colleague who has returned from maternity leave already so they can provide advice and offer support as they know what they’re going through.

Job description

  1. Remodel the job description from full-time to flexible-time – expected outcomes remain the same however the way in which the work is done changes. Start and finish times are flexible; telecommuting is introduced, compressed work hours are considered.

Maternity leave alternatives

  1. Replace block leave with a return to work program that allows for part-time work, job sharing and flexibility.

As an OECD nation we continue to lag behind the rest of the world offering only 7.6 weeks of fully paid leave in comparison to Eastern European countries like Norway, Finland and Germany which offer almost 1 full year of paid leave.

Keeping 47% of our mums in the workforce drives innovation, improves performance, increases productivity and delivers outcomes that contribute to our economy, make companies more competitive and support women to live happy, balanced AND successful lives!

When men and women grow stronger together, great things can and do happen.

About Jeromine Alpe

Jeromine Alpe is an Entrepreneur Executive Thought Leader with a career spanning over 25 years as Founder, CEO, HR Director, Executive Coach and Business Mentor. Jeromine is using her experience and expertise as a catalyst to empower female excellence for gender equity, inclusion, diversity, happiness and peak performance.  Her current position as CEO of Corporate Diversity Partners allows her to execute this vision.

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