Wanted ... parents with nannies seek tax deductions for childcare.

Wanted ... parents with nannies seek tax deductions for childcare. Photo: Gabriele Charotte

Parents must be able to claim childcare - including nannies - as a tax deduction if Australia is to increase the number of women in the workforce.

That is the directive from a coalition of high-ranking female executives pushing the federal government for changes they say are needed to lift the numbers of women in paid employment and their ability to seek promotion.

Members of Chief Executive Women include Belinda Hutchinson, who is chair of QBE Insurance, Diane Grady, who sits on the board of BlueScope Steel, Rosheen Garnon, a partner at KPMG, and Jenny Fagg, a senior finance industry executive.

"In Sydney, it's about $550 a week for full-time childcare. For two kids that's about $50,000 out of your after-tax pay. You're left with very little to take home," the organisation's president, Ms Hutchinson said.

''A Telstra survey found 71 per cent of women say childcare was the biggest obstacle about coming back to work."

Ms Hutchinson said companies were struggling to get women to return to work after having children because of the high cost of childcare and the difficulty finding places.

Ms Hutchinson and other members of the organisation said the government needed to consider tax deductibility for childcare and nannies if it was serious about helping women who wanted to move up the corporate ladder.

''Tax deductibility for childcare would send an important social and economic message of endorsement to working mothers,'' Jillian Broadbent, who sits on the board of the Reserve Bank, said.

"Tax deductibility for childcare, even means tested, would assist the economics of childcare providers and users and ultimately contribute favourably to Australia's economic growth and productivity.''

Ms Fagg, who has worked in senior executive roles for Linfox and the ANZ, said the main problem confronting business was ''keeping those women in the workforce after they have children to enable them to progress into senior leadership roles. One way of doing this is ensuring that women who choose to have children can afford to return to work,'' Ms Fagg said.

''[Chief Executive Women] would like to see the federal government make childcare, including nannies, tax deductible. This will help remove one of the main barriers to women returning to work after having children, which will balance up gender parity at the senior levels and in turn boost economic production."

Australia ranks 44th in the world for women's workforce participation. Sixty per cent of women are in paid employment.

The federal government's tax summit will look at the two childcare payments. The summit, to be held next month, will also examine how the tax and family payments systems interact after Treasury found returning to work was often financially unattractive for parents.

Extending the childcare rebate to nannies is not policy for the government or the opposition. Both say it is too costly and would be accessed only by high income families.

But many families say nannies are often better suited to their needs.