Working mothers and fathers have vastly different experiences – this astounding data proves it.
Since the paid parental leave scheme was introduced almost a decade ago – mandating 18 weeks of leave to be paid at the the minimum wage for primary carers – over 1.2 million women in Australia have made use of this policy. Only 6,250 men have.
This information comes by way of journalist Annabel Crabb, who pulled the stats from the Department of Social Services for her recent contribution to the Quarterly Essay.
If you think this usage gap is because of personal preferences, other statistics show you are wrong.
The Diversity Council of Australia found that 75 per cent of millennial dads (35 and younger) want to work from home, but only 41 per cent get to. Working a compressed week is important to 79 per cent, but only 24 per cent are doing it. Also, as HRM previously reported, many working fathers feel guilty for not spending more time with their families.
So what are employers doing to try attract and retain this talent? That’s the billion dollar question. And it’s one that Crabb was trying to answer as she travelled around Australia to address over 1,200 HR professionals for AHRI’s International Women’s Day breakfast series last week.
HRM attended the Sydney breakfast to catch Crabb’s witty and well-researched words of wisdom.
The crux of Crabb’s talk centred around her recent contribution to the Quarterly Essay, Men at Work, which HRM unpacked in our interview with her. The jaw dropping difference between that interview and seeing her talk in person was the power of hearing the evidence showing the gap between working mothers and fathers pile up.
Data that packs a punch
We don’t talk about the way mens’ personal and work lives change when greeted with the news they’re going to become a parent. Crabb says this is flummoxing to her. Further flummoxing is the data showing just how disengaged men have been from the early stages of their childrens’ lives. This isn’t necessarily a reflection of what men want. It’s a reinforcement of what we’ve always known: more often than not men are forced into the secondary carer role.
This isn’t a matter of opinion or a general impression we have, there’s plenty of evidence to prove this is exactly what’s going on. Crabb peppered a bunch throughout her essay and shared some highlights in her speech.
“You’re the keepers of the culture in your workplaces and that puts you in the box seat to engineer, observe and feel the benefit from what will become one of the great cultural evolutions that the workforce has experienced…”
A lot of the statistics saw jaws drop across the room. Here’s a snapshot:
– Of full-time working fathers in Australia, 75 per cent have a spouse who works flexibly, part-time or not at all, according to the Australian Institute of Family Studies. Only 15 per cent of working mothers have a partner in the same situation. As Crabb rightly points out, this means men are more likely to be supported as they try to excel in the workplace as someone else is taking care of the day-care run, organising the grocery shop and crafting something for the Easter Hat Parade at school.
– Over a 40 year career, a 25-year-old man can expect to make an average of $2 million. If he has kids, that number shoots up by half a million dollars. A 25-year-old woman over the same time period can expect to make $1.9 million, but that number drops to $1.3 million if she has children, according to the National Centre For Social And Economic Modelling (NATSEM).
– Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data shows that in 1991, 4 per cent of families had a stay-at-home dad. A quarter of a century later, that number only increased by 1 per cent.
– The ABS also showed that for families with at least one child under 12, 44 per cent include a mother who works part time and 5 per cent include fathers who work part time.
– Crabb showed ‘that graph’ from the Australian Institute of Family Studies outlining how mothers and fathers spend their time after the birth of their first child. We’ve shared it before as it’s a powerful image to keep in the back of your mind.
– There are huge financial benefits to the nation in getting working mums back into the workforce. Economic modelling from KPMG suggests that by halving the workforce participation gap between men and women, we could see a $140 billion increase in cumulative measured living standards by 2038.
To illustrate just how far we’ve come, Crabb reminds the audience that just 60 years ago it was dictated in federal legislation that women in the public service would quit once they got married.
There’s still a way to go for women in the workplace, but the same can be said for fathers.
“Men and women are equal before the law, equal in the workplace, or so the HR handbooks say, but when it comes to the most common thing that men and women get together and do… their experience of that event couldn’t be more different,” says Crabb.
She encouraged everyone in the room to start having these conversations with soon-to-be fathers in a real way. Ask them what their plans are, share information about how the company can support them and make sure other men in the workplace can see this happening. This will encourage more men to do the same.
HR professionals are in an inordinately powerful position, she says.
“You’re the keepers of the culture in your workplaces and that puts you in the box seat to engineer, observe and feel the benefit from what will become one of the great cultural evolutions that the workforce has experienced since women starting joining in great numbers.”
Did you attend an International Women’s Day breakfast last week? If so, what was a key takeaway for you? Let us know in the comment section below.
It’s crucial that HR leaders have conversations with working dads about their flexible working options. Ignition Training’s short course Communicating Effectively can help you find the right words.