Making childcare tax deductible would encourage more women to assume senior management roles and join corporate boards, according to the Australian Institute of Company Directors.
Recent figures show that while women make up around half of the Australian workforce, only around 8% of board members are female.
The lack of women in senior roles has prompted the Federal Government to announce gender audits for companies with more than 100 workers to improve workplace equality.
Meanwhile, Governor General Quentin Bryce has called for the introduction of quotas to increase the number of women on the boards of Australian companies.
AICD chairman Rick Lee supports the introduction of gender audits but opposes the quota call, labeling it as “inappropriate”.
“We are making very significant progress under the current arrangements and I think the [government’s gender audit] rules… are getting momentum,” he says.
Lee argues that making childcare tax deductible will also be effective in encouraging women to climb the corporate ladder.
“I think it would be a very positive thing, not just for women in senior management but across the community generally,” he says.
“Clearly there are fiscal issues that need to be taken into account but if governments are serious about prioritising this issue, clearly it is one of the major impediments to participation of women in the workforce.”
Lee says the prospect of tax deductible childcare should be on the agenda of any tax summit.
Peter Strong, executive director of the Council of Small Business of Australia, says female small business owners should not be overlooked in any proposal, particularly when they are continually treated as “faceless entities” rather than human beings.
“Big business can claim childcare costs as a tax deduction and a small business cannot. A woman in a big business is treated better in tax law than a woman in small business,” Strong says.
Strong says the government must provide all women with an “even break” by protecting them from “unfair and discriminatory” laws.
“The Government recently added the Paid Parental Leave pay clerk role to the tasks of small business operators [and] that includes pregnant small business operators,” he says.
“On our reckoning, there are between 35,000 and 45,000 pregnant small business operators out there right now who won’t be able to claim childcare but who will be fined if they don’t manage Paid Parental Leave on behalf of the Government.”