Men vs Women
There is a fairly significant gender imbalance when you look at the people holding executive positions in the corporate world. Sure, there are the Gail Kellys and Marissa Mayers, but men in managerial positions in the workplace still outnumber women two-to-one. Many people would contend that this is something to do with sexism, but sexism, gender inequality – whatever you want to call it – only tells part of the story. In order to understand why there are so few women in executive leadership positions in corporate Australia – and why more women are becoming small business entrepreneurs, instead – it helps to start from the very beginning.
When women enter the workforce, their participation rates are typically the same as they are for men, hovering at around 75 percent; in some industries, particularly clerical and administrative ones, women far outweigh men in the workplace. But despite this, and despite women being better educated (just 30 percent of men hold a bachelor degree, while 42 percent of women do), men continue to progress in their careers, moving from entry level and administrative roles through to managerial ones, while women don’t.
In fact, the decline in the number of women holding managerial positions (34 percent), compared with men (66 percent) is significant. Looking at those numbers alone, it’s easy to write this off as sexism, as men being promoted over women, but the truth is that the decline in women in managerial positions is commensurate with the overall decline in women in the workforce, period.
So where have all the women gone?
Well, at the risk of coming off as a bit 1950s, they’ve left work to raise their children. The reason they haven’t returned to their careers, though, is not for want of trying. It’s because being a working mum is a logistical and, as a result, professional, nightmare. To start, there’s the distinct lack of affordable, high quality childcare, which has reached such a crisis point that the Federal Government, on the recommendation of the Productivity Commission, is trialing a nanny subsidy scheme, which would allow families to receive a government subsidy for the cost of hiring an (approved) nanny to care for their children.
That scheme, which commences in January 2016, will involve 4,000 nannies and up to 10,000 children and, if it passes the pilot stage, is estimated to help the 165,000 Australian parents who can’t work or can’t work enough due to problems accessing childcare. But all the childcare in the world won’t make up for a generally inhospitable workplace culture for working mothers.
Even though almost all Australian businesses are supposed to offer flexible working arrangements for parents, none of them actually have to practice it. As long as an organisation doesn’t blatantly discriminate against their working-parent employees, they’re well within their rights to tell mums requesting flexible working arrangements (such as, starting and finishing later, working one day from home, etc) that their request has been refused due to one of the following reasonable business grounds:
- The requested arrangements are too costly
- Other employees’ working arrangements can’t be changed to accommodate the request
- It’s impractical to change other employees’ working arrangements or hire new employees to accommodate the request
- The request would result in a significant loss of productivity or have a significant negative impact on customer service.
Women are more entrepreneurial than men
This is not to say that gender inequality doesn’t figure in the underrepresentation of women in the workplace, because it does; certainly with respect to wage inequality. Although, to be fair, it’s not always men that create inhospitable working environments for women with kids. There’s often a lot of girl-on-girl crime going on here, especially when it comes to mums requesting for flexibility that isn’t also extended to women without kids.
Nevertheless, in the stuffy, old corporate world, usually controlled by men, biology means women nearly always start off on the backfoot. But it doesn’t have to continue to be the case, especially not today. With a society that’s never been more interconnected, thanks to changing technologies and greater access to high-speed internet, women have a greater opportunity to use their skills and talents to launch their own businesses, and to operate them from home.
Mia Freedman is probably Australia’s best example of female entrepreneurship. She’s the publisher of the Mamamia Women’s Network, this country’s fastest growing and most popular network of women’s websites. Freedman launched the company’s flagship website, Mamamia, in 2008 as a personal blog she updated from her kitchen bench – and sometimes her couch – after she left a career in women’s magazines; today, with iVillage and theglow.com.au, Mamamia now reaches 5 million unique readers each month.
But Freedman isn’t the only mumpreneur. There are scores and scores of women launching their own businesses. In the last five years, the rate of women starting businesses increased 7 percent, compared to 1.9 percent for men. In NSW alone, women make up one third of the state’s 650,000 small businesses, according to data from the NSW Department of Trade and Investment. And with the Government’s $20k immediate tax write-off for asset purchases, there really has never been a better time to start your own home-based business.
Are you the next mumpreneur?
EzyLearn has a long, proud history of helping mums to reenter the workforce, and we’d like to continue that tradition by helping more mums to start their own home-based businesses. Whether you’d like to use your talent and expertise to start your own bookkeeping business or work as a freelance blogger, writing posts – just like this one – for other businesses, we can help.
We’ve recently created two new courses – one on content marketing and another on blogging for business – in addition to our other suite of training courses that includes our small business StartUp course as well as our flagship MYOB training courses, which can each provide you with the skills you need to start and operate your own home-based business as a remote or contract worker. We’ve also started the StartUp Academy with a number of business opportunities available to help self-motivated people to start their own businesses, across an array of industries and professions.