Ep #84: From the Broken Rung to the Glass Ceiling: The Systemic Challenges Keeping Women Stuck - Part 1

May 21, 2024 • 16min


The journey towards gender equality is riddled with obstacles that hinder progress and limit opportunities for women.

The first step to tearing these barriers down is to identify and understand them, so today I’m sharing some of the biggest systemic challenges I see women facing.


Gender Bias and Stereotyping

Although things for women have greatly improved, gender bias and stereotypes still run deep under the surface of many organisations. Traditional gender roles and societal expectations can overshadow individual abilities and preferences, which then influence hiring decisions, promotions, and daily interactions in the workplace. These biases impact not only women's career advancement but also contribute to the underrepresentation of women at all levels of organisations.


Maternity and Family Bias

Many women face barriers and discrimination in the workplace when they balance their career with motherhood. Assumptions about women prioritising family over work can impede their professional growth, leading to challenges in promotions and credibility. This bias also forces women to make difficult choices between their families and careers, perpetuating the gender gap in senior roles.

Lack of Representation

The lack of representation of women at senior and executive levels within organisations reinforces stereotypes and limits the aspirations of future generations of women. If they can’t see other women in those roles, it is difficult to picture themselves there. This problem is especially bad in industries like construction and real estate, where women hold only a fraction of leadership roles.

Workplace Culture and Harassment

From overt sexual harassment to subtle forms of discrimination, workplace culture can be unwelcoming and hostile, especially in male-dominated industries like construction. Exclusion from informal networks, being spoken over in meetings, and derogatory graffiti on job sites are just a few examples of the challenges women face in these environments.

Wage Inequality and Career Progression Barriers

Many industries, especially in male-dominated industries like construction, do not have pay equity. They have men in higher-paying roles, and women are relegated to lower-paid administrative positions. A significant factor in this is “the broken rung” which refers to it being more difficult for women to take the first step into management than it is for their male counterparts.


The path to gender equality is complex and challenging but by addressing the barriers in our way, we can pave the way for a more inclusive and equitable industry.

Tune in to our next episode for part two of this conversation, where I’ll share strategies for breaking down barriers and driving meaningful systemic change.


Get Your Copy of the Exceptional Leadership Framework
Book a FREE Strategy Session

Enjoy the show?

Never miss an episode, follow on Spotify and subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcast

Love the podcast?

Don’t forget to subscribe, rate & leave a review


I acknowledge the Traditional Owners and Custodians of the lands on which I conduct my business, the Wangal and Gadigal Peoples of the Eora Nation. I pay my respects to their Elders past, present and emerging, and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait peoples.