Both of these women – who are in their late twenties – have always been ambitious but it’s always been quite different to my own myopic ambition at the same age. They have taken twists and tuns with their careers and have always had an open mind about what might constitute personal happiness and success. I trod a much more linear path up the career ladder until I jumped off it altogether and went my own way.
As Bron, Zoe and I shared sushi and tuna tataki earlier this week, I told them about how I’d spent part of my day hand-writing envelopes to post out the free movie tickets to mamamia competition winners and how I’d conscripted Coco to stick on the stamps. We laughed about how different this was to the days when I had a PA, dozens of staff and umpteen work experience students to do such menial tasks. They even bought my fruit.
So do I have regrets about leaving the fast track?
The Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education, Childcare, Women & Youth, Sophie Mirabella, wrote in The Punch today that the shrinking number of women in the top management of Australia’s big companies may have nothing to do with discrimination and everything to do with choice. Maybe, she suggests, women just don’t WANT to break through the glass ceiling. She writes:
Some professional women have come to the conclusion that, as our
Governor General Quentin Bryce so eloquently put it, “you can have it
all, but you can’t have it all at the same time”.
Undoubtedly there are women deciding that the “work/family” balance
just gets too out of whack at the highest professional level, and they
are making the decision that “having a life” comes before pursuing a
career – for now at least.
Perhaps it’s no co-incidence that this data on women’s declining
role at the Executive level is released on the same day that a study by
the University of Sydney shows that Australians work some of the
longest hours in the developed world.
About one in five Australians now work more than 50 hours a week –
and in professional jobs, there’s no doubt that proportion is much
higher. What time does that leave for having, let alone enjoying, a
The trend towards women taking up part-time employment and rapidly
increasing participation rates in those aged over 50, also suggest that
family-based decision making might be a factor.
Perhaps women are making the “sacrifice” of not pursuing their career
in order to ensure that they are able to manage the work of running a
home and caring for young children, of which working women still do the
lions share in most Australian households.