The first child care centre to open on St Georges Terrace in the central business district has highlighted the workplace advances that have been made to accommodate corporate mothers.

City-based child care has traditionally focused on casual shoppers but Buggles in Brookfield Plaza was designed for staff employed by the tower's anchor tenant, BHP Billiton, and other firms in the CBD.

BHP Billiton deliberately incorporated the day-care centre when designing Brookfield tower, reserving about half the 62 spaces for its employees, as part of its policy to attract and retain the best workers.

Equal Opportunity Commissioner Yvonne Henderson said introducing CBD child care was a "major move forward".

While WA has a gender pay gap of 28 per cent and growing, Ms Henderson said CBD child care was an encouraging sign that the corporate world was becoming aware of the needs of working mothers, including women who want to breastfeed or visit their children during the work day.

Working mother Rebecca Smith said that 9am to 4pm daily childcare for her daughter Arrabella, nearly 3, was they only way she and husband Greg Sullivan could manage their burgeoning businesses in the city.

The couple are joint founders of an award-winning city-based marketing company Global Syndicates and recently set up Aradise Hair Salon in Brookfield Plaza.

Ms Smith said the location of the centre saved her hours every day that would otherwise be spent commuting between her home, child-care centre and work.

"Time is money, and you really can't afford to spend that amount of time driving around," she said.

BHP Billiton said its city office also contained a mothers' room that was accredited by the Breastfeeding Association.

Chief executive Marius Kloppers said there was a strong business case for extending parental leave, which he did in 2009. BHP offers staff who are primary carers 18 weeks parental leave.

At the time, Mr Kloppers said extra leave would help BHP attract and retain high-quality staff, ensure workforce diversity and give the miner a competitive edge.

Chevron, which is behind the $52 billion Gorgon Project, said it also considered family friendly initiatives in getting and keeping the best workers.

It offered flexible hours, including rescheduling office hours to allow for a nine-day fortnight. Chevron offers personal leave entitlements including carers leave for looking after sick children, parental training and financial reimbursement for care services when employees are required to travel for work.

The finance sector also appears to have made enormous strides, with ANZ offering a $4000 allowance for parents returning to work to help them manage child-care costs.

More than half the staff at law firm Clayton Utz are women, prompting the firm to pioneer flexible work practices.

Lawyer and mother-of-three Adrienne Parker was promoted to partner this year. She works part-time, four days a week.

She was one of several female lawyers in the national firm promoted to the much coveted position of partner while working part-time. One woman was promoted while she was on maternity leave.

Mrs Parker said the firm had allowed her to attend to her family responsibilities by offering flexible work hours. The firm had also allowed her to move into a field that did not require her to be in court at specific times, giving her extra flexibility.

She said the freedom entrusted to her was partly because of her seniority and her proven work ethic and commitment.

Provided she kept her boss informed, she could occasionally start late or leave early to fit in with school events, such as assemblies, sports days and concerts.

Mrs Parker said maintaining a career on top of her parental responsibilities was a challenge and conceded that she had it easier than many because her handsome remuneration made it possible to pay for some cleaning services.

Her husband, who works from home, was also able to play a strong parental role.

Mrs Parker said women in all sectors had to push their case by speaking up about what they needed to balance their work and family responsibilities.

"I think females sometimes have to get on the front foot a bit more, and I try to encourage woman lawyers to do that," she said.

"I try to encourage them to be a bit more confident, speak up more and make sure they're getting heard."

Time is money, and you really can't afford to spend that time driving around. "Working mother Rebecca Smith

The firm (wants to keep) people who go on maternity leave because they know they are losing fantastic talent if they don't come back. " Clayton Utz partner

Adrienne Parker

The West Australian

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