Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Expectant mothers and absent fathers: paid maternity leave in Australia.

Ainsworth, Susan; Cutcher, Leanne


Susan Ainsworth

Leanne Cutcher


In this paper we explore how reluctance to introduce a national paid maternity leave scheme in Australia reflects gendered norms and constructions of parenthood and work. We report on findings of a study of selected media texts that show how the public discourse that surrounded proposals to introduce such a scheme exhibited deep-seated resistance to women combining motherhood with continued attachment to the paid workforce. Drawing on Kress and van Leeuwen’s (1998) multi-modal approach to discourse analysis we show how gender and maternity are constructed using cultural and historical discursive resources that reinforce a conservative national identity. By focusing on what is both absent and present in the media texts we show how ‘actual fathers’ are rendered invisible and the space filled in by the government as ‘symbolic fathers’ impregnating a production line of maternal citizens.


Ainsworth, S., & Cutcher, L. (2008). Expectant mothers and absent fathers: paid maternity leave in Australia. Gender, Work and Organization, 15(4), 375-393.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date 2008-07
Deposit Date Oct 4, 2013
Print ISSN 0968-6673
Electronic ISSN 1468-0432
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 15
Issue 4
Pages 375-393
Keywords Maternity; work; masculinity; media;
Public URL
Publisher URL

Downloadable Citations