Professional women working in long-hour careers are up to four times less likely to have children than their same-age colleagues in more family-friendly professions, according to national survey results released today.

The survey of 800 professional women found only 16% of those working in computing had children, compared to 65% of those in pharmacy where flexible working hours are significantly more available.

The average age for the women surveyed in both professions was 41-years-old. But the proportion of women computer professionals working full time was 75% compared to 37% for pharmacy, where part-time, casual and other family-friendly arrangements were more common.

Launching the report in Melbourne today, ACTU President Sharan Burrow said that half of all the professional women surveyed did not believe they had access to maternity leave and one-quarter worked 48 hours per week or more – 10 hours above the generally accepted standard of the 38 hour week. Nearly half (48%) of the women professionals reported that they wanted to work less hours.

‘Australia as a society needs to develop a universal paid maternity leave system and deal with a worsening epidemic of excessive working hours. Employers have a great responsibility to make available family friendly conditions and reasonable hours,’ Ms Burrow said.

‘Women’s career choices and the professional pressures they experience impact on whether they have children. It is significant that in the profession where most women surveyed have children – pharmacy – there are more women working than men and there is effective regulation by industrial awards.

‘Women working in male-dominated professions appear less likely to have children because of the increased pressure to compete with men who are free from family responsibilities still largely carried by women,’ Ms Burrow said.

The Women in the Professions Survey Report 2002 included engineering, the sciences, computing, architecture and business professionals and was conducted last month by the Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers Australia (APESMA). Ms Burrow is launching the report at an APESMA women’s conference in Melbourne today.

The full Women in the Professions Survey Report is available from the APESMA Women’s Network website.