It was only a few days ago, but I still remember it well. On Tuesday 8 May Scott Morrison addressed the nation with the 2018 Federal budget, and just as I remembered last years’ Budget speech word for word, this year was no different. I was eagerly anticipating change this year, I was hopeful for women, and I was hopeful for flexible work choices for women – at least that’s what I had anticipated after reading Minister for Women, Kelly O’Dwyer’s comments to the National Press Club in March.
But this year we’ve left women behind, and it’s disappointing to see that this years’ Budget isn’t as inclusive as it should be. It focuses on bigger picture and long-term goals in innovation and small business, but nothing in terms of flexible work or return-to-work programs for women. They have not been considered in long-term policies or flexible work initiatives, and there’s been no investment in any long-term imitative for flexible work.
The numbers don’t lie, and our data only reflects that encouraging flexibility in the workplace is key to greatly gaining more female participation. Over a thousand women participated in our FlexCareer’s Flexible Work Survey, and the results were disappointing but not surprising.
Only 20 per cent of women felt that access to parental leave or return to work programs were accessible in their workplace and only 24 per cent felt that flexibility was simply not promoted or supported in their organisation. Disappointingly, of those that do end up accessing flexibility, a staggering 51 per cent report having difficulties relating to current flexibility arrangements, with managers or peers being unsupportive of their agreed work schedule.
These numbers don’t really come as a shock, as increasing numbers of women are not wanting to return to a traditional 9-5 position. Things are changing in the recruitment space, particularly with more men wanting to be more involved in their family life, millennials entering the workforce and baby boomers wanting to dial it down. Whilst things are changing across gender and generations, the reality is flexibility remains to be the key enabler for women, who still remain to be the primary care givers in our society to fully participate in the workforce. We think these numbers are just not good enough and would have liked to see the government include flexible work in their long-term plans for them.
This years’ budget so far hasn’t reflected any real investment in future of work for women, nor does it include any long-term policies that fit into small and larger businesses to accommodate flexible working options.
I do still have hope though. I do believe there could be a change. I highly anticipate the future comments from Minister O’Dwyer on supporting women getting back to work as promised by her in the September sitting of Parliament.
Natalie Goldman, CEO, FlexCareers