Tanya Plibersek announced she would not contest the Labor Party leadership due to family responsibilities. Women especially will understand the pull of family and her desire to spend time with her children who are still quite young. The leadership role would mean a great deal more time away from home.
The 100% Project promotes equality of choice and opportunity for women and men, and Ms Plibersek has made the choice that she believes is right for her at this point in time. However, it is difficult to imagine a man making the same choice.
Rightly or wrongly, there are discussions going on about her decision and how this again shows the inequality of choice in women taking leadership roles, and many women – and hopefully many men – will be disappointed in her decision.
Will her decision support the paradigm that women are not suitable for the ‘top job’ and will some roles continue to be considered ‘out of bounds’ for mothers of young children? Does this appear to reinforce that women, mothers in particular, still have to choose between high level leadership and family?
As Ms Plibersek’s decision is contemplated throughout the country, conversations will be rebounding throughout corporate Australia. There can’t help but be comparisons relating to senior women accepting or declining top jobs, and this decision may be used as reinforcement for not considering women for those roles.
Whilst re-stating our purpose of promoting equality of choice, what about the women who are mothers and want the top job? In many instances where a woman declines a role or decides not to apply, it’s not that she doesn’t want the job, it is that currently she needs to choose between that and family responsibilities. We must continue to create a culture that accepts women and men as equally capable of leadership and parenting, and supports them in reconciling both with emotional and practical support.
Hilary Lamb is Chair of The 100% Project. Hilary is Director Engagement & Cultural Development for CROSSMARK Asia Pacific and is skilled in coaching, sales, management, account management and employee training. Both her personal and professional goal is to contribute to changing the environment to provide equal opportunity for everyone.