The childless professional
By Deborah Gough
Photo: Estelle Grunberg
By anyone's estimations, international architect Roberta Esbitt has reached the heights of her profession.
Before she came to Australia, 10 years ago, with "just two suitcases and her teddy bear", she was one of four elite architects working for the European Commission in Brussels, the governing body of the European Union.
There she built working environments for its 15,000 workers.While she etched out a career, workplace culture and a lack of paid maternity leave contributed to Ms Esbitt's decision to place having a family on hold.
Soon after arriving in Melbourne, the New York-educated architect decided it was time.
"Your 20s are used largely for partying, your 30s are for building yourself a career and then in your 40s you decide what you want to do when you grow up. You wake up at 40 or 41, all of a sudden, you have these feelings that you have to re-evaluate" Ms Esbitt says.
"The problem is that if you put off having a family for your career you diminish your chances." Despite in vitro fertilisation treatment, it was not meant to be.
Ms Esbitt is typical of her profession. A recent survey found that just 21 per cent of female architects had children. Ms Esbitt now mentors younger women architects in their careers but tells them to keep an eye on the clock.
"I think the answer is industry and government partnerships. There needs to be recognition that having kids is part of life," Ms Esbitt says.