International Women's Day is being celebrated on March 8 and this year's campaign theme is 'Balance for Better'.
The Day highlights the importance of a gender-balance between women and men, but it's also a chance to consider the challenges mums face when balancing child care with the working week.
As such, let's look at some ways that partners, employers, educators and the wider community can help women find a happy equilibrium when it comes to child care and career.
1. Splitting child care responsibilities at home
Child-raising is a big job, so it's important that parents share the over-arching responsibility and day-to-day duties. This can mean taking turns with child care drop-offs and pick-ups (or weekend engagements), being mutually involved with the child's early learning and sharing meal preparation.
In addition, care-givers can also help women to balance the load - whether this involves a live-in au pair, a part-time nanny, grandparent carer or a casual babysitter who looks after youngsters when both parents are working late.
2. Offering workplace flexibility
It's important that employers make the effort to recruit, retain and advance women in the workplace, and a flexible environment greatly assists with this by enabling women to balance child care responsibilities (and schedules) with paid work.
Employers can offer both formal and informal flexible working conditions, such as:
- Reduced hours
- Variable starting and finishing times
- Autonomy in organising daily work
- Flex-time to deal with unexpected family demands
- Work-from-home opportunities
Flexible conditions have a positive impact and allow mothers to work around child care opening hours, extend their maternity leave, or stay home with a sick toddler.
3. Providing other support at work
Employers can also support mothers by:
- Maintaining a gender-equal mindset and working to address wage gaps and opportunities between women and men
- Offering breastfeeding-friendly workplace programs
- Helping employees to secure child care by providing referral services or buying/reserving child care places in a local service
- Providing on-site child care where possible as The ABC, Qantas, Westpac, Optus and American Express do in Australia
4. Sharing child care knowledge
Knowledge is power, and while one mum might be embarking on the child care journey for the first time, another will have been there, done that - meaning they're in a position to share practical advice and make helpful recommendations.
Providing the name of a quality day care service, the number for a reputable babysitter or the offer of a nanny-share arrangement are all simple ways that community members can make it easier for women to organise child care.
5. Celebrating women's achievements
Whether a mum is doing a great job balancing shift work and motherhood or she's just scored that big promotion, it's important for partners, colleagues and friends to recognise and applaud the achievement.
This builds confidence and self-worth, encourages further success, positions the woman as a positive role model in her family and community, and helps to balance work/parenting highs with any hardships.
6. By avoiding stereotypes and gender bias at child care
As well as supporting our current generation of mums, it's also important to think about the next generation of women and work towards a more gender-balanced world.
In the early learning environment, it's essential that young girls are not only given the same opportunities and experiences as young boys, but encouraged to try new things, lead with confidence and bounce back from challenges.
When it comes to later learning, women and girls are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), with only 35 per cent of girls embarking on further education in STEM subjects; so the early learning environment is a great place to nurture girls' interest in these areas and build equal relationships between genders.
On that note, we hope you have a successful and well-supported International Women's Day!