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Australian women choose work-life balance over wealth: how women are measuring their professional success


What is professional success to you? It seems that it’s a very personal definition.

For the majority of Australian women (65%), it is having the right balance between work and personal life.

What’s more, 68% believe they can ‘have it all’, according to the What Women Want @ Work study released recently by LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network.

Women in Australia feel confident about their careers and upbeat about their ability to have a fulfilling work and family life. A massive 82% of the 400 Australian respondents consider their careers ‘successful’, while 70% of those with children believe they can ‘have it all’.

On the issue of how children will affect career ambitions, however, women are split. The study found 48% of those currently without children believe they will not slow down their careers, while the remaining 52% feel they will.

How has the definition of success changed?

The survey found that the meaning of professional success has changed dramatically over the past decade. While today most (65%) of the professional women questioned define success as having the right balance between work and personal life, only 35% of them prioritised this five to ten years ago.

Over the same period, the importance placed on salary when defining professional accomplishments decreased from 64% to 43%, while ‘having an interesting job’ came out as a key measurement for success at 62%.

What about the flexibility factor?

The majority (58%) of working women would like greater flexibility within the workplace. A flexible work environment emerged as the most important factor in determining the ‘success of the next generation of professional women’ according to 84% of respondents. Flexibility was deemed more important than having a ‘greater representation of women at senior levels’ (68%).

Founder of online experience retailer RedBalloon Naomi Simson said she found the results of the survey concerning, because she feels businesses will struggle to create truly flexible workplaces without more female representation at the senior level.

“Women in senior management positions need to play a more active role in advocating the benefits of flexible work policies,” said Simson. “To grow the next generation of leaders, we must not only listen to what women want in the workplace, but deliver equal access to these benefits for all. Leaders must work collaboratively to drive change and provide their people with the tools to advance their career.”

What career challenges do Australian women face?

Australian women still face significant career barriers in the workplace. 49% of professional women identified pay inequality as a major challenge. In addition, the lack of a career path (52%) and the lack of investment in professional development (43%) were perceived to be major inhibitors of professional success. Overall, issues such as the persistence of the ‘glass ceiling’ (25%) and sexism in the workplace (19%) continue to be a concern.

Only a small group of professional women in Australia felt their appearance played a major part in their careers today, with 74% saying it is irrelevant or has no major impact on their career. That said, women in several countries maintained it still has a major impact on their careers including Germany (26%), the US (21%), and Singapore (20%).

About The ‘What Women Want @ Work’ Study

In February 2013 LinkedIn partnered with Cross-Tab to survey more than 5,000 working women across 13 countries in celebration and support of International Women’s Day on March 8th. Over 400 respondents between the ages of 18-65 were surveyed in each market to better understand the challenges that women face in their careers, how women have viewed success in the past and what success means now, if professional women worldwide believe they can balance work and family and how online networks can help them with their careers.