Figures from the 2013 census show that fewer women are having children – with the rate of childlessness at 15 percent for the age group 50-54 years, compared with less than 10 percent for the same age group in 1996.
This figure is highest for the group of educated women (with a bachelor’s degree or higher) at 18 percent, versus women with no formal qualification at 10 percent childlessness.
More women are also having children in their 40’s, and overall, there is a lower birth rate among educated women (Source: Statistics New Zealand).
It poses the questions, what is causing this trend among educated women, and what is the future impact on our economy? Perhaps most importantly, what is the role of businesses in helping to overturn it?
As gender diversity increasingly becomes a priority for businesses, it is imperative that consideration is made to the role of businesses in mitigating the conflict that exists between career and family.
Put bluntly, achieving gains in the number of women in senior roles will not be a genuine and sustainable gain if we continue to see the rate of childlessness continue to increase among educated women.
Considerations for businesses:
- Role models are key – shining a light on women who are managing career and family.
- Monitoring retention – how many women return to your workplace following maternity leave, and how many are encouraged to return?
- Flexible work opportunities – flexible work options should be designed to be a win-win for the employer and employee. Varied hours, work from home, job sharing, valuing achievement ahead of hours clocked, are all examples of flexibility. What flexible work arrangements are offered to your employees?
- Career progression – what opportunities exist in your organisation for women to progress their careers with continued flexibility?
- Recruitment strategies – how are you attracting women and mothers to your organisation?
- Perceptions – what steps are you taking to positively influence mindsets around mothers in the workplace?
- Visible commitment from the top – taking a bold stance on gender equality, and committing to supporting women to resume and grow their career after taking time out to start a family.