Leading Perth businesswomen have urged Prime Minister Tony Abbott to reconsider his paid parental leave scheme and instead invest in Australia's outdated childcare system.
The top executives have told of the challenges they and their colleagues faced in balancing careers with raising a family and believe a more flexible, better-funded childcare system would boost female productivity.
Southern Cross Austereo general manager Linda Wayman said Australian mothers were being "ripped off" by a system that had failed to keep pace with the needs of modern families.
She believed a tax deductible childcare system would benefit working mothers more than the proposed $5.5 billion PPL scheme.
Under the scheme, women on maternity leave receive 50 per cent of their salaries - capped at $50,000 over six months.
"If there are only finite resources, you absolutely have to focus that on child care, and it needs to be tax deductible and has to be incentivised," she said.
Ms Wayman said most of her staff were women, and many new mothers who returned to work part-time were struggling to find child care.
Before and after school care options also needed to be improved, she said.
Miriam Stanborough, project manager at Iluka Resources, agreed that money earmarked for PPL would be better spent on child care.
Ms Stanborough, who has three young children, flew her mother and mother-in-law from their homes in Melbourne and Broken Hill for a month at a time when she returned to work after the birth of her first child.
"I wasn't opposed to the PPL because I liked the argument that it would make paid parental leave a workplace entitlement and not a form of welfare," she said.
"It had great merit, but for the benefit of more women working I support putting money into better quality and out of hours child care."
Ms Stanborough said her employer had been extremely flexible, allowing her to work part-time and from home, but some women remained marginalised.
"In the corporate world we expect women to be treated equally in the workplace and remunerated fairly and promoted on merit but as a society we are still seeing the greater portion of domestic responsibilities fall to women and this puts many women under an immense work- load," she said.
Barrington Consulting Company chairwoman Fiona Harris also believed child care should be tax deductible and backed a recommendation from the Productivity Commission's draft report for nannies to be covered by childcare subsidies.
"To deny tax deductibility to childcare costs seems fundamentally wrong," she said.
"I don't think PPL is going to achieve what (Abbott) wants it to achieve. I think the money could be better spent elsewhere."
Ms Harris, whose sons are now 17 and 19, used nannies when her children were growing up and said in-home care should be accessible for all parents.
"If you've ever witnessed or experienced the degree of difficulty involved in getting a child up, dressed, transported to day care, settled and getting yourself to the office to start work, you can arrive exhausted," she said.
"Add to that the fact some people don't have a set finish time and fixed daycare hours are not a possibility."
Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Deidre Willmott said she would support changes that would "improve access, affordability and choice".
"Alternative childcare options outside of childcare centres should be an option for parents," she said.
Kaylene Gulich, acting executive director of Infrastructure and Finance at the Department of Treasury, tried a range of flexible work arrangements since having her children Eloise, 5, and Miles, 3.
Ms Gulich was now working full-time, between 50 and 60 hours a week, and used a mix of arrangements, including day care, her husband and her mother.
She said on-site before and after school care was key.