To get on the Forbes power list, skip kids or marry rich
What’s it really take to make the Forbes list of the world’s 100 most powerful women? All work and no play? Tonnes of money to pay for a nanny if you dare to want a hugely successful career and children?
The Forbes list of powerful women has been running for six years but it has a long way to go before it serves as inspiration for young women looking to go to the very top and have a life – especially one that includes having children.
Yes, Gail Kelly - Westpac CEO and mother of four – is ranked at number eight but scroll down the full “top 25” list and you’ll find that more than half of the power women are over 40 years of age and childless. Oprah is there ranked number three, German Chancellor Angela Merkel too ranked at number four, Ellen DeGeneres is number ten, US Supreme Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor is number 19 and the list goes on.
While those that have children like number one power woman Michelle Obama or number 21 Angelina Jolie are working mums excelling in the world of politics and entertainment and married to power partners, for most woman trying to get to the top sacrifices have to be made.
Speaking about women in leadership this week, ANZ CEO Mike Smith, urged employers to ease the way for their female talent having children.
“The Center for Work Life Policy in New York found that the long term penalty for women taking time out from their career has worsened since the recession [with] 73 per cent of women trying to return to the workforce after a voluntary break from their career for child care or other reasons have trouble finding a job,” he told an audience yesterday.
“Those who did return lost 16 per cent of their earning power and over a quarter reported a decrease in their management responsibilities. In many situations women simply can’t sustain the increased hours at work today when also taking on child care and household responsibilities.
“Finally, nearly 70 per cent of the women surveyed said they wouldn’t have left if their companies had offered work life balance options. So where are we really at in Australia?”
Well ANZ has upped the ante for other big employers by offering a $4,000 child care allowance to women returning to work after parental leave to help them have careers and kids. The offer comes on top of the 12 weeks paid leave it makes available to female employees now. And, like all other mums, ANZ mums can also take advantage of the Federal Government’s paid parental leave scheme that comes into force from January 1, 2011 offering 18 weeks paid leave at the approximate rate of $570 a week.
ANZ is also offering to make superannuation payments on all paid leave – its 12 weeks plus the Feds 18 weeks. The National Australia Bank and Westpac are also offering similar super payments.
“We’ve concluded at ANZ that if we are going to make any sustainable, long-term progress in gender equity in our leadership teams this is an area where we simply have to do more,” Smith says.
“We have to address the reality of what happens to women in business when they take time off to have children,” says Smith. “We need to stop penalising mothers.”
And if we do stop penalising mothers one can only wonder what the Forbes List of the World’s Most Powerful Women will look like in another 10 years time.
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