This article belongs to Australia - Land of the Free? column.

Business is learning that to attract women employees, changes are necessary to employment conditions. At the same time, the bottom line looks much better when arrangements are made to attract this dynamic part of the workforce.


With near full employment in many countries the battle for business is to find competent workers. It's no longer good enough for women to give up work when they have children. It hasn't been for years but the necessary changes to the work environment have been slow in coming.


The attitude has been if you want to work for us you have to find a way to look after your kids, it's not our problem. This is a throwback to when most employees were men. The news for employers is - it is their problem. Women with children form a large part of the highly professional and competent pool of workers and for business to attract them then they have to consider what their needs are.


Not only is it business' responsibility, the social implications are enormous and governments have to get involved, and not only by throwing a few bucks at child care centres. The whole fabric of society has to change to accommodate the rapid change in employment conditions.


Some of the answer may lie in technology. Women working from home, using email, mobile phones and computers. Think of the quality of call centre employees that could be recruited if they were able to work from home.


The revolution is taking place. Consider Abbott a pharmaceutical manufacture in the US. This information came from www.workingmother.com. Employees number 28,858 with women making up 13,643 of that number.


About 65% of employees use some form of alternative work arrangement and most have been supplied with computers, software and remote access to work from home. The firm encourages job sharing or part-time options when staffers want a break from full time work.


On-site day care at headquarters, discounts at regional and national child-care facilities. Parents are never without help. They also offer a summer program to keep kids occupied.


Abbott also offers free financial advice on such things as retirement, and saving for college and school fees. Salaried new mums receive six paid weeks off for maternity leave and an option of a further six unpaid weeks. Fathers and adoptive parents receive two paid weeks off.


That's great, but Abbott is a big company, what about the millions of women working for small business with no way of matching the above conditions. Well for a start many more mums could work from home. A combination of innovative thinking and Government help could make a big difference.


The benefit for women with these arrangements would be great, but business is the big winner.


Let the revolution continue.


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