Is IT Still Largely a Man’s World? (cont’d)

August 1, 2001

This problem is just part of a much larger social change-that Australian women are marrying later, and then having fewer children later-which will have a huge impact on the country in years to come. 2 years ago, in 1998, 37% of women marrying were over 30 years of age compared with 20% 20 years ago. The median age for first-time mothers has risen from 26.1 years in 1977 to 29.4 in 1997, and the average number of children has fallen to 1.76. Plus, it’s estimated that almost 30% of women will not have children, compared with 10% childless in the 1960s.Why, you may well ask, does this matter? Well, to put it bluntly in economic rationalist terms, if there are fewer breeders, then there are fewer code-cutters and consumers of products. And if you want to tizz up the argument by speaking in terms of a “knowledge economy”, then we have to start investing in the capital to run that society-and that capital is humans.

There are two broad questions here: why are women deserting motherhood in general, and the IT&T industry in particular? I’ll explore some possible answers over the next weeks.

It’s too expensive financially

Economic modellers at the Australian National University suggest that the cost in forgone wages is $200,000 for the first child and $60,000 for each subsequent child.

The precise amount of these figures depends on the work the woman was doing before the birth of her children. For highly trained women who’ve invested years in qualifications, the cost of the lost working years is enormous-both financially and in career advancement.

And for poorer women, there isn’t even the middle-class luxury of debating when to return to work-they have to work outside the home to provide just the basics.

The irony is that women are encouraged to gain qualifications and work, but then vilified when they have children and choose to be at home with them, or put them in childcare.

For more stories by Philippa Yelland, visit her site at

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