Women and the Glass Ceiling in Australia: Myth or Reality?


The purpose of the report was to establish an understanding of the way glass ceiling concepts impacts women in Australia. Many organisations are beginning to improve on this idea with some good number of women getting to managerial posts. Companies has realised that if they do not implement retention tactic they will loose the high calibre female workers. Basically employees are realizing that the idea of denying women progress into management due to their biological orientation or perception that women are weaker is illogical. Rather this is blatant segregation based on gender. Women have received lower pay compared to their male counterparts and have also missed promotion opportunities for being women.

Gals ceiling has been used for discrimination, making women look inferior. This in most cases ends up having a subtle impact that interferes with the woman’s peace of mind. This domination has been very common for the past decades in the society that is very stereotypic in making women feel inferior in physical abilities and even mental capacities. There is a strong them of radical feminism implied the struggle for equality.

Gender discrimination and sexism notions are major aspects of the glass ceiling impression and has been a great setback in the progress of women as they are often regarded as gender minority. Recent studies have revealed that 95% of senior executives in Australian are men.

Literature Review

Glass Ceiling Issues

The concept of glass ceiling has been very common in many organizations throughout the world yet many organisations still deny this fact (Australia 2006, p.67). Those who oppose the idea base their arguments on some flimsy reasons that they have invented. For instance, some people believe that women usually have inadequate job choices to drive them to the executive track. This hence makes them be kept off corporate advancement. Other organisations tend to believe that women are not educationally well prepared to take on the jobs in executive positions like having master’s degree in Business administration (Australia 2006, p.67).

However when women have career choice leading to managerial positions ands have the relevant educational credentials, some people then claim that these women have not been in the corporation for enough time to have the relevant experience for executive duties (Booysen & Nkomo 2006, p.22). These have often corrected themselves with time and should no longer be part of the problem.

Basically the point that glass ceiling present is that the women often get denied of the privileges and chances that they can and willing to compete because they are qualified for these positions. Basically, this is just part of the report according to those who oppose glass ceiling idea (Booysen & Nkomo 2006, p.22). The reason being that inasmuch as the report claims that men are eight times likely to end up as managers 10 years after finishing an MBA, the report does not talk about how women choose different career lines.

This does not in itself constitute discrimination. It is a feminist heresy to claim so but its evident that almost all women even those already in management usually put their families ahead of almost everything. In the fast advancing and aggressive world, getting to the top management involve a cutthroat competition which may need even up 90 hours of work every week, fanatic dedication to the work and frequent movement (Booysen & Nkomo 2006, p.24). Basically, it’s argued that very few women are willing to undergo such taxing duties.

Currently women are equally competitive as men in various fields but despite the effort, there are some cases that have indicated that women are discriminated in terms of pay (Australia 2006, p.67). This is a major issue of concern since Australian government requires that employees exercise the equal opportunity principle where both men and women get equal and fair treatment at work places. This includes equal payment for relatively same about of job, equal chance to promotion and equal allocation of responsibilities at any time (Eagly & Carli 2003, P.806).

So Why Do Women Get Paid Less?

On the surface, the women in Australia are seen as succeeding in their effort to break the glass ceiling as it can be seen on the political scene (Kee 2006, p.409). The deputy prime Minister is a woman, Julia Gillard, and one of the state premiers is Anna Bligh these are only tow of the many other examples. According t a research by NATSEM, women in Australia still earn less that men. On average, it has been estimated that men earn about 17% more that the female counterparts.

This is about $224 in one week alone (Australia, 2006, p.69). On the whole, the research sought to find out the reason behind the outcomes and it was revealed that the major facto contributing to the difference was that one was either a man or a woman (Eagly & Carli 2003, p.806).. It was estimated that this accounted for over 60% of this gap in the pay for men and women. Removing the effects of being a woman, it’s shown that the earning would go up by at an hourly rate of at least $ 1.87 which is equal to $ 65 in one week.

When the whole world is on the verge of taking out any form of discrimination, it has very had to understand how the gap in Australia seems to be persistent. The Public service Association official, Kennelly said that it was only until the late 1960s that women started getting equal pay for relatively similar amount of work (Canberra Bulletin of Public Administration 1994, p.7). In the past, some jobs were considered to be women’s while others were regarded to be men’s jobs. This meant that it was permissible for women to get lesser pay than male counterparts for doing similar work (Eagly & Carli 2003, p. 806). This assumption does not take into consideration the critical thing about work which is the skills behind it.

The major aspect to be blamed is the way structure in Australia. This has evolved towards an unjust direction creating a lot of inequalities that now need fixing. The system seems to have been build around the evolutionary impulses of the men. These impulses have affected the workplaces even up to date making industrial or occupational favouritism major factors that contribute to the gap between men and women (Wellington et al 2003, p.18).

The working environment in many corporate departments is 61% male. On the other hand, this has lead to grouping of work in many professions. This divides the individual skills on gender basis and this entrenches the pay difference even more. When certain skill are considered to be feminine skills like teaching and communication departments, they also tend to be less appreciated and are seen as less pertinent to the organization hence deserve lower compensation and respect compared to those traditionally considered masculine responsibilities (Wellington et al 2003, p.18).

Women tend to be disadvantaged when it comes to competing in the corporate world since they are charged with responsibility of mothering and caring in natural sense (Baxter & Wright 2000, p. 276). This is even tougher when there needs be that they balance with job responsibilities. Even traditionally, society organisation was very biased though well defined as the men were responsible for work while the women took care of family issues. Women handled the domestic chores and the stress of bringing up an good family as a result of this, the changes of developing stress were very low in case the mans was required to increases concentration at work (Baxter & Wright 2000, p. 276).

However a serious change occurred in the 1970s as more women got to the job market. This societal change blurred the traditions of division of gender roles that had defines who was to handle family issues and who was to deal with work (Kee 2006, p. 409). Both men and women in the corporate working environment are now required to handles the issues of home making and also breadwinning at the same time.

Break the Glass Ceiling

Women today seem to have mastered the concept of self-reliant very fast and are working tirelessly towards it. Investing and venturing into corporate world is becoming their way of life. The vision of women in Australia is to become world leaders in corporate industry (Loutfi 2007, p. 84). Looking at the trend at which the nation is growing, achieving that vision can be made possible (Baxter & Wright 2000, p. 276). The society which used to be patriarchal with total oppression of women is completely transforming. Men are encouraged to spend more time with their families and engage in social and community activities.

On the other hand, women are getting equal appointments into managerial positions. Women are encouraged to attend school, college and enter the job market (Baxter & Wright 2000, p. 279). Many women will now be getting advanced degrees and this will increase their competitiveness and performance in the job market.

Women are no just meant to be wives and mothers but also to work hard as prospective leaders. As the country moves forwards, so should the women. Australian government believe that in the modern economy, men and women should be equal partners (Baxter & Wright 2000, p. 279). However there is a very big challenge considering the fact that even in the western nations where women empowerment begun long ago has not been able to attain the perfect compromise. Regardless of the government’s effort to infuse more women in corporate world, very few of them are actually seen to rise up to the challenge (Cotter et al 2001, p.655).

Different Communication skills and Glass Ceiling

In management, communication usually becomes a factor. This is because management required delegation of duties, making decision and communicating them out plus creating strategies. However, men and women communicate differently. Radical feminism holds that each sex has distinct way of communication. Men and women request activities and advice in different ways. The verbal reaction and timing is also thought to be very different making the whole style of expression at workplace very distinct. The consequence of this can be miscues and misinterpretations (Cotter et al 2001, p.655).

Basically there are three things that indicate the different ways women and men communicate; the way of thinking, the way of speaking and decision making. Men are said to be compartmental thinkers while women’s thinking is global. Men are likely to be emotionally separate and keep their information in a very ordered manner like use of file-cabinets. Other things like hobbies, social life, work and family are kept differently. Women on the other hand view things with connection and take life events globally (Kee, 2006, p.412). They focus on details and how the information interrelates. This is why they can bring up something that took place years ago during an argument. This has often given men an upper hand in management positions as they will not bring personal issues to workplace (Loutfi 2007, p. 84).

Decision making is also very different. Women are used to hinting when inquiring for something they need. Unfortunately, men never get the hints since they take language plainly and concentrate on context rather than deeper meaning. While women like expressing their feelings, Men focus on facts and avoid emotions thus in management they are likely to perform better (Still 2006, p.184).


Research design: the study included both the qualitative and quantities research models. Primary tools for collecting data were used. Secondary research was also conducted to offer support to the findings and help draw conclusions.

Target Population: The sample population was the corporate executives in Australia where about half of the participants (54%) were women. The rest were men so as to offer a balanced view of the problem at hand.

Sampling Procedure: participation was voluntary though sampling was had to be stratified to allow gender balance so as to avoid biasness. The workers who expressed knowledge of glass-ceiling concept were allowed to participate after signing the informed consent form. Sample Size: 217 employees were selected from various leadership positions including directors, subsidiary head and CEO’s.

Sample Characteristics: Of the 217 respondents, 117 were women while the other 100 were men. This balance in gender was not by default, rather it was by design. 41 percent of them were directors, 30 of the participants were chief executives while the rest were subsidiary heads.

Admission of Interviews: The rationale of this research study was to evaluate how and why glass ceiling has been impacting on the Australian corporate environment. The study put emphasis on the internal and external causes of discrimination at work. These factors included individual factors, societal and organisation factors. The study also addressed the causes and the impact of glass ceiling effect (Wright & Baxter 2000, p. 815). The study also evaluated the various alternatives that that can be used to attain the same goals of gender balance and work especially in the management positions. The questionnaires used were structured (and semi structured) in nature.

Data Collection: A number of methods were utilized in the process of collecting data from the field. They included use of focused interviews, mailed questionnaires, telephone survey, and group interview, structured and personal interviews. Several primary methods of data collection were used to ensure high credibility of the data that is collected from the field. The ultimate result is that the quality of the study is enhanced.

Interviews enabled the researcher to understand the underlying reasons in relation to a certain individuals like work planning (Wright & Baxter 2000, p. 815). Group discussion on the other hand allows people to open up as they share problems and realize that they could be having some things in common or had different opinions. Use of voice recorder made it possible to re-play the interviewees response later. This made it possible for the researcher to analyze the responses by identifying the thematic elements. The research study employed semi-structured interviews. This was attained by asking questions in which the respondents had an opportunity to express themselves at length.

Data Analysis: the process was done subjectively with use of another investigator with full understanding of the objective of the study and the related information was used to identify the themes in the research. Meaning condensation was applied as themes were revealed. Depending on the named factors above (individual, societal and organisational) a likert questionnaire helped a great deal in analysing the factors that had the greatest impact on the ability of a woman to raise to the top management positions (Cotter et al 2001, p. 655). Fundamentally this was set to identify which was the biggest setback to women advancement.

The individual factors included career choices, professional competence, assertiveness, ambition and mobility. The societal factors include equal employment policies, equal rights program, promotion procedure, and male supremacy in workplace and management. The organisational or company factors included transparent promotion procedures, flexible hierarchies, supportive bosses and good integration (Still 1992, p.345).


The sampling was not random per se considering that the sample was selected from corporate world only and particular those on management line. In essence the sample consists of only manager and therefore lacks the random element that is supposed to be achieved by other methods like the ‘snowball effect’. Another limitation is the measurement of the validity and reliability of the responses that will be obtained. There are not proper measures to cater for this.


There have been better advances and gender is no longer a major limiting factor in progress to the corporate world or management position. Most of the women in management position more have a post graduate degree (87.5%). Of all of these, 62% reached executive height without any ‘hiccups’ (obstacles) due to gender. The common reasons why women felt there was an obstacle towards executive jobs included, lack of support from the organization in terms of flexible promotion procedures and lack of mentoring programs (Davies-Netzley 1998, p.339). Feminist ideas offer reasons like greater mobility, long hours to work, emphasis on performance against all odds, time for family issues, and lack of support from family, increasing stress and strained schedule.


Three major trends were evident from the study. They are that gender was no longer a major problem at workplace (Forster 2002, p. 81). The available mentoring and coaching programs by the various originations are not tuned towards helping women achieve their personal goals and finally the women in the corporate world now believe that organisations have improved a great deal in ensuring equality at workplace (Antoine 2006, p.34).

The advance is much greater than the society in general. The facts are actually brining up a mixed story. The number of women in corporate management has greatly increased to slightly over one third (Davies-Netzley 1998, p. 341).

Feminist still maintain that women are still underrepresented in the management level jobs. There is lack of support from their families, difference in educational credentials and the persistence of the men dominance notion. Gender itself is not a major obstacle since the results revealed that only 20% thought that gender was a limiting factor in their advance to management level (Antoine 2006, p. 34). 35% of the women reported that they were not affected by their gender in career advancement. 20% were not sure whether gender really affected them or not (Rindfleish 2000, p.174).

The male observer said that due to the insufficient institutions by the society, few women were able to reach managerial positions. Most of the women who are already in the corporate management credit their success on their individual efforts rather than the advancement policies by the organisations they work for (Antoine 2006, p. 36). About 85% of the women interviewed attributed their success to their personal ambition and 84% responded that their assertiveness was their major driving force towards success.

The companies are achieving a great height in attaining equality at workplaces. Over the years, equal rights and fair treatment has been a key issue. Many of them have been dealt with through legislation with the government being a major instrument for this (Forster 2002, p. 83).

Others have been achieved through very strong social movements. The response showed that 60% of the women agreed that there was gender equality in their organisations. 42% of the women believe that equal chance should be the core concept in any organisation. The mane on the other hand said that their firm were committed towards achieving female quality with a response of 75% agreeing with this. Overall, there has been great achievement towards attaining gender equality meaning that the glass ceiling is now being broken (Still 2006, p.186).


Glass ceiling in Australian corporate management is not a myth it is a reality. Women have been segregated for so long. However, in the recent past some considerable improvements have been made whereby 95% of the people who participated in the study agree that women have indeed made progress in their various workplaces over the past decade. Still 82% believe that the glass ceiling is yet to be broken even if it has been cracked.

Reference List

Antoine, S., 2006. The Anatomy of the Glass Ceiling. Barriers to Women’s Professional Advancement. Accenture 45.

Australia., 2006. Equal Opportunities Women’s Agency. EOWA Census of Women in Leadership. Sidney.

Baxter, J & Wright, E. O., 2000. The Glass Ceiling Hypothesis: A Comparative Study of the United States, Sweden and Australia. Gender and Society, Vol. 14, No. 2, pp. 275-295.

Booysen, L & Nkomo, S.M 2006. ‘Think Managers-Think (Fe)Male’, International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences,Vol.1, No. 2, pp. 20-24.

Canberra Bulletin of Public Administration., 1994. The Glass Ceiling: Illusionary or Real? Canberra, Australia: Canberra Bulletin of Public Administration.

Cotter, D.A., Hermsen, J.M., Ovadia, S. & Vanneman, R. 2001. The Glass Ceiling Effect, Social Forces, Vol. 80, No. 2, pp. 655-681.

Davies-Netzley, S. N., 1998. Women above the Glass Ceiling: Perceptions on Corporate Mobility and Strategies for Success. Gender and Society, Vol. 12, No. 3, pp. 339-355.

Eagly., A. H & Carli, L. L 2003., The Female Leadership advantage: A Evaluation of the Evidence. The Leadership Quarterly: 807-835.

Forster, N., 2002. Another ‘Glass Ceiling’?: The Experiences of Women Professionals and Managers on International Assignments, Gender, Work & Organization, Vol. 6, No. 2, pp. 79-91.

Kee, H. J., 2006. Glass Ceiling or Sticky Floor? Exploring the Australian Gender Pay Gap. Economic Record, Vol. 82, No. 259, pp. 408-427.

Loutfi, M. F., 2007. Women, Gender and Work. What Is Equality And How Do We Get There? Geneva: International Labour Office.

Rindfleish. J., 2000. Senior Management Women in Australia: Diverse Perspectives, Women in Management Review, Vol 15, No. 4, pp. 172 – 180.

Still, L. V., 2006. Where Are The Women In Leadership In Australia? Women in Management Review, Vol. 21, No. 3, pp. 180 – 194.

Still, L. V., 1992. Breaking The Glass Ceiling: Another Perspective. Women in Management review.. Vol, 7, No. 5, pp. 343-387.

Virginia, E. S., 2007. Women in Management: Reflections and Projections. Women in Management Review, Vol. 22, No. 1, pp. 6 – 18.

Wellington, S., Kropf, M. B & GerKovich, P.R 2003., What’s Holding Women Back?, Harvard Business Review, Vol. 81, No. 6, pp. 18-19.

Wright, E.O & Baxter, J., 2000. The Glass Ceiling Hypothesis: A Reply to Critics. Gender and Society, Vol. 14, No. 6, pp. 814-821.

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