Leadership | Diversity | Inclusion

Gender workplace experiences

As part of CEDA's 2013 Women in Leadership survey, respondents provided their personal experiences of gender issues in the workplace.

Personal experiences of gender issues in the workplace

Participants were also asked to tell us about an experience that they've had, good or bad, with gender issues in the workplace. CEDA received almost 400 responses to this question, with the following recurring themes emerging.

Good experiences included:

  • The enforcement of meritocracy and commitment to gender diversity in the office;
  • Successful application of flexibility, including effective use of job sharing and flexibility enshrined across the organisation; and
  • Mentoring and other support programs to promote women's (and men's) career progression.

Bad experiences included:

  • 'The boys' club', which appeared 32 separate times, with variations on the theme (one of the boys, jobs for the boys, blokey behaviour, pack mentality) also featuring prominently in responses. The boys' club is seen as holding women back from networking opportunities, excluding them from promotions and contributing to inequality of opportunity;
  • The challenges of balancing career and motherhood, in particular the conflicting demands of senior roles and caring responsibilities. Some respondents suggested that motherhood should come before career, while others discussed the benefits and drawbacks of flexible work practices. Many respondents reported that flexibility is detrimental to career prospects and does not work within the status quo expectations of long hours and travel for senior positions;
  • Outright discrimination at interviews (for example, being asked if candidate intends to start a family) and change of behaviour when pregnancy is announced. Covert discrimination (unconscious bias) has also been experienced;
  • Women experiencing workplace bullying, harassment and intimidation by men. Intimidation usually happens without men necessarily realising they are doing it. There were numerous mentions of sexual harassment;
  • The belief that men are threatened by highly-qualified women changing the status quo, particularly in leadership positions, and as a result, are resisting change;
  • Experience with male leaders (e.g. CEOs) who have stay-at-home wives or wives who work part-time. This leads to the association of women with caring work or the belief that motherhood comes before career and other assumptions about gender roles;
  • Assumptions from managers regarding the career choices of women once they are married/pregnant/a parent; and
  • Double standards in the workplace, for example, men taking time off to look after kids perceived as good while women doing the same seen as lacking commitment to the workplace.

Also read

What are the barriers to women's equality of opportunity in the workplace?

What would contribute most to improving women's equality in the workforce?

All the responses received

Challenges relate predominantly to unconscious bias and stereotypes, many that will take time and generational change to rectify (and that are reinforced often unconsciously by 'old boy/'old school' /mentality and Australian humour) at the most senior levels in organisations.

A direct reference that if I was to be successful in a promotion my husband would need to do more 'babysitting'. No reference to my actual ability to deliver the work or the fact that I worked longer hours and delivered more flexibly than the rest of my colleagues just that a promotion would only come if I changed my home life (which was not impacting my work at all). Because they view me as a mum first and an employee second.

Many senior men don't take women seriously, and still form "boys' clubs" sharing jokes with other men. Many male staff don't like having a female boss and don't respect female bosses. Intimidation of males over females happens regularly, and I doubt some men even know they do it - the towering over females, the raising of their voices, the not developing relationships with females, the making of lewd comments about good looking females. It can be difficult to get a word in at meetings as the men just speak louder and deeper. However, there are some men who do not exhibit these male qualities and see everyone as the same regardless of gender!

My workplace provides me with excellent flexibility - I can basically choose my own work hours spread across the week.  At the same time I find that it comes with some assumptions about part-time work and what I can or cannot achieve.

Barred from equity shareholding due to part-time status - 30 hours per week - despite being senior by up to 15 years on other equity holders. Part-time status is choice to manage school-aged children family commitments. 25 years' corporate experience.

Assumptions made by male managers about my aspirations changing because I married.

My experiences have generally all been positive as I have had the benefit of working for individuals that allowed me the flexibility to manage both home and work challenges. I am however, continually disappointed to see that not all women have been as lucky and I have and am particularly disheartened at the lack of women in senior management positions in general.

Under qualified men are always promoted and offered job opportunities over more qualified women. Although performance rated higher than my male counterparts, I have until only recently been consistently significantly under paid against them on the premise that "my husband earns enough and I don't need it".

In a previous role similar to my current role, I demonstrated leading, decision making and strategic qualities and was promoted to a leadership role within two years. Because of my husband's career, I had to change city and jobs and started in a different industry at my current (experienced employee) level. The leadership roles occupied by males who have worked with each other for a long time and rose through the ranks almost together. I do not get any opportunity to show my capabilities because of the hierarchical structure. Nevertheless, I demonstrate good work, however when it comes to career discussions I am let known that the leadership would feel "more comfortable" with the male peers in relation to promotion.

Acting opportunities provided to men over women.

I've found Australia to be incredibly sexist in both social settings and the workplace. I recently listened to the chairman of the board relay the comments of two major recruitment agency principals that there wasn't a single female in Adelaide who had the right skillset to sit on our board. Unbelievable.

In senior management in a Queensland Government department there are fewer than five women in senior leadership roles across the department. Need I say more?

I started 25 years ago as a lawyer working in very male-dominated environments and quickly had to sink or swim. That experience and the status that accompanies being a lawyer have helped me to avoid being the victim of sexism. Lower status roles and less supportive environments continue to create risks of sexism to women and resulting blockages to advancements because of gender. I also think that a key to women's advancement is mentoring that enables women to develop the necessary confidence to succeed. I still see lack of confidence as being a key obstacle to women's success.

Roads & Maritime Services generally treats women well in the workplace, and encourages women in leadership roles through various programs.

Overall relatively good but in a male dominated industry which has had its hurdles. There is an expectation that you know little of the industry until you prove them wrong, whereas there is no assumption made on men.

I can remember working in a car service area where you were either one of the boys or love and sweetie. That was when I was first out of university and it allowed me to get my first car checked over before buying it.

Currently it is not so much gender but issues on the basis of part-time work (which I do so that I can spend time with my boys) e.g. have been told I cannot have more senior positions and additional training while working part-time. From my experience and that of my friends, a significant number of corporates would be benefitting from highly skilled/experienced female workers being in more lowly paid/junior roles because they work part-time to fulfil family or other caring duties.

I have been lucky enough to have a great sponsor who knows of my abilities as a person (not male, female, mum or single). As such they have benefited from creating roles for me that are flexible today, by having the ability in someone they trust working for them (it's a two way street!). On the other hand, there's a large boys' club culture and the pay differences are immense.

Active promotion of young women in middle management within an organisation I worked for has yielded outstanding results with the four of us all in executive roles today in the biotechnology industry.  Small program with a big result.

A good experience: The managing director enabled me to go back to work (as General Counsel) when my youngest child was five months old by providing flexible work practices - no management meetings before 8.30am and any to finish by 6.00pm; two days per week I could work from home.

I have attended an all-male board presentation where I have been the presenter and the questions were repeatedly asked addressing my more junior male colleague although I had to answer every one of them.

Currently pregnant and also the main income earner. My company does not pay maternity leave, therefore reliant on husband to support on a low wage while I am off work. Makes it hard to take much time off work as I am the main income earner but I need to take enough time off to care for baby and recover.

Sexual harassment. Inequality in pay and recognition. Having to give up my career growth for 15 years when I had children as there were no flexible practices or return to work policies in those days.

I was assessed by a male peer who was acting in my new boss's role as being competent but having "sharp edges". I have never heard this about a male or heard a no nonsense approach from a male seen as a potential issue.

I have always strived to be the best I could be and while there are times I had to work harder that my male colleagues to be seen or heard I know I was highly regarded and respected by my peers and industry (predominantly male). There is however still a high level of cronyism at a board level and that will take generational change.

Thankfully reducing over time. There was overt sexism and sexual harassment when I entered the workforce in the late 1980s - it was part of the territory. These days there's much less sexism but it is still there, often subtly. For instance, having a bullying male senior leader who only responds to other aggressive males - makes it difficult for many women to have a voice. Mentoring on how to manage such different styles would be hugely beneficial.

Women take low-level administrative jobs because they already have so much going on (that they are responsible for) at home - i.e. getting kids to school/sports, being the primary point of contact for all correspondence and interactions for the children, being responsible for managing the domestic logistics within the household) that they are too stressed and tired to take on a high-flying role which may in turn demand travel, long hours in the office, intensive thinking and problem solving.

I remember my male managers indicating when they thought I should commence maternity leave - on the basis they had found my replacement and I "should be taking it easy". I thanked them politely and offered that decision was for me in consultation with my doctor. They decided to pay me to stay at home. Returning was difficult in as much as I lost some (pre-pregnancy) benefits and had to lobby hard to return full-time. I learned a lot but know these issues affect many women returning after child birth - I am talking in the last five years!! I'm happy now though and appreciate the levels of flexibility - to have flexibility enables you to stay at work in a more productive way. Without it, I would have had trouble maintaining the load.

Too many to share.

I was once positively discriminated for because I was a female and they had an informal quota system.  I believe that the best person for the job should get the regardless of gender, race or culture, however for this to be achieved salaries would need to be the same regardless of the status of the employee.

I'm in a very senior role in a large listed company and have always been rated in top 5 per cent but returning from having my first baby (12 weeks after the birth of a very sick baby) I hit up against the feedback that "you used to work a 70 hour week so now that you're only working a 50 hour week, you're not contributing enough. You've lost your edge." I had left a tiny, sick baby in order to help my boss out and to hear him say how I wasn't up to prior standards made me realise, without any doubt, that the entire weight of the "balance" rests on the shoulders of returning mums. Even great organisations do very little to help women manage competing responsibilities. That is okay - but we should all be a bit more up front about where the burden rests - it rests on the shoulders of women.

Jobs being given to a mate or someone they know rather than the best candidate - reinforcing the male culture bonding arrangements.

Throughout my professional career I have been employed on a lesser wage then males in my position and level of experience. One former employer mentioned that over the years I may "reach an annual salary of 75,000 p.a. which would be a decent wage for a female".

I have missed out on career opportunities based on the assumption that I have had based on the perception that I would have children soon impacting on continuity of the leadership role.

Only good in my current workplace, it is a huge focus.

Both men and women are frustrated with the lack of change but the dialogue still continues to be about women and not gender. Until men and women jointly take responsibility and accountability for change, I think systemic and sustainable change will not happen. Taking the family-friendly approach falls into the stereotypes/reality and seems to encourage incremental change. You hear very little - from women or men about the lost potential or contributions companies need from women or having greater gender balance, particularly among leaders. As long as the debate is mostly about accommodating mums and some dads - businesses will likely do token things. The debate needs to be about business performance and what is lost when men and women are constrained by outdated cultural and company norms and behaviours.

I was the only female manager within a leadership group of eight at a company with predominately male employees. At the boardroom table other managers would swear and then apologise to me specifically. While some might consider that sweet, I felt it only highlighted my gender in a negative way.

Not invited to meetings (only female in team) including all the 'informal' meetings over drinks. Lack of opportunities to attend events (usually football).

Performing the same role as a male for less remuneration and benefits.

Pleasingly we seemed to have moved on from debating the 'why'. We are struggling now with the 'how'.  Seeing increasing evidence of men feeling (incorrectly) they're missing out to the 'token' woman.

I have always felt that men in the workplace have supported me just that the opportunities have not been available to progress to higher levels.

I have no female role models in my area of work. All role models are men, most of them have a wife at home/or working part-time. Little understanding of the logistical challenge of managing work as primary breadwinner and combining with challenge of raising a family. Very little change in workplace expectations over the last 20 years. Still the expectation is to prioritise work over family.

ALWAYS asked how I managed my senior executive position and raising children. Husband NEVER asked the same question.

I have a young family, and a senior management position in a large male-dominated workplace and have never experienced gender issues - nor any issues with returning to the workforce in flexible circumstances. I also have an external board position for a medium-sized financial institution - and while the first female board member, I have similarly never experienced any issues.

Flexible working in the workplace is not the domain of women and women with children. Women are being lost to the workplace who are highly experienced and qualified due to perceived difficulties of managing working and a family. I do believe though that a lot of the pressure is being exerted by other women and that is why female mentors and role models are paramount to retaining women in the workplace and for them to be happy and guilt free doing so.

Overtly reverse discrimination where females only hire females leading to single-sex operations with no diversity. Gender balance is important as well.

Even in firms which say they are promoting females and flexible working recent redundancies showed a much higher number of part-time females being made redundant.

I have been afforded a lot of opportunities in my career and on the whole my experiences have been positive. My best mentors have been males in their late 50s and 60s who have been great champions of me and challenged and mentored me to achieve great things.

Political play and divisiveness about other women i.e. going around saying I am all about career not about having children, therefore I am better for the role. It is a terrible stereotype to portray.

Having a job offer disappear because of my husband's promotion in a rival company.

Male superiority. Lack of confidence in female opinion.

The prevalence of the "boys' club" still exists in many organisations and capable women leaders often overcompensate for this, at time ending up in a worse situation. There still needs to be a shift in thinking at board levels in many male dominated organisations that I had experience in working with and for.

I am not aware of specific examples of discrimination in my career - which is a good thing!

Certainly the availability of support from partner/family has been absolutely essential in allowing me to balance work and family life, raising two children. Keeping professionally engaged when the children were young, through voluntary involvement with my professional association and small part-time contracting jobs has been incredibly important both in terms of professional self-confidence and also ensuring that you are not "left behind" on the career ladder.

I work for Caltex at Kurnell Refinery. Caltex has in my opinion, made great steps forward in the last two years to change the work culture and increase diversity including gender diversity, with numerous workshops to increase the confidence of women to step up and apply for management roles, as well as flexible work arrangements and return-to-work programs. However, whether that is reflected at the end of the day in a real increase in female representation at management/executive/board level or whether it is just lip service/good for PR, remains to be seen.

I think there are improvements but it is slow going and maybe will require generational change.

The positive outcomes from a program that builds female presence in leadership roles where it did not exist before.

Women being reprimanded for drinking at work functions/conferences when men have been equally as intoxicated, if not worse.

I have never considered mandatory quotas for females should need to be a solution, however I have recently changed roles and this has significantly shifted my past 20 year work thoughts. My current role related to sport asset management and the male culture, sexism and arrogance shown in this industry is astounding. The only way I see it could be changed is enforcing women to be awarded positions (as they are highly unlikely to win them) and thus collaboratively change the culture.

Stereotyping. Assumptions about career. Ageism. Part-time impacting on career.

Being excluded from meetings, not being given opportunities (air time) in front of senior managers (the old boys' club culture).

I have been treated well since returning from maternity leave. However, I do believe returning to work part-time has made it difficult to further my career and ask for a pay rise

Senior males going for coffee and bonding - bullying - ignore female managers.

After initial resistance from my previous manager, my current leader is very supportive and encourages the work I am leading on gender diversity at work. Happily, this is paying dividends, with an increase in women achieving leadership roles in the last 18 months.

Company states that it supports part-time work but actual culture of 24/7 availability means that anyone with serious home responsibilities is not doing their job as well as those without.

The status quo of men employing people 'like them' and whom they feel comfortable with, into positions, even without the realisation that this is sexist, needs to change.

Twenty-five years ago, being blatantly left out of being invited to apply for a senior management role being filled internally, when I was clearly a better choice.  Essentially I determined from that experience that the glass ceiling was there to be moved; I studied, applied for roles and moved on whenever there was a perceived or real "block". I have been in senior executive roles for over 20 years now - almost ready to retire and I will do it my way and ease out. There are still positions available for the 65+ if you have the skills, drive and knowledge. Use the network to find them, stay in touch with all generations in the work force. Don't pull the ladder up behind you is my motto. Mentor/assist other women and men in moving forward with their careers.

Working in a predominately male-orientated industry as a professional who is viewed to be in a support role, I know for a fact that I am underpaid in comparison with my peers in other industries.

It's a long time ago now, but I was the first female appointed as a branch manager for a bank, five men appealed and the appeal tribunal which had been removed many years prior was reinstated (all aged men on the tribunal panel) and I did not win the appeal. I have also experienced behaviour that undermined a senior female manager under my leadership by men who did not respect her i.e. withholding information, exclusion from conversation and meetings, discrediting her work among their peer group etc.

All male executive don't realise they act like a pack and make anyone not in the pack, especially women, feel excluded and that opinions are not/less valued.

I regularly speak on the issue of women in the workforce, specifically on women in engineering. While equality is an ambitious endeavour, I'm doubtful. Women speaking to women about working women issues without a specific goal will not achieve much. A more equitable mixture of women and men are required for true organisational change - but, if 'women' is in the title, many men 'tune-out' and don't attend/participate (case-in-point... was the percentage of men to women attending the last CEDA Women in Leadership session about equal or skewed?). Separating working women from all workers perpetuates keeping working women separate. Consider some other means of getting equal participation in these types of events, with pre-identified goals for the events, for true change to occur. For women in engineering (or the STEM fields), the reach needs to begin in junior school and it needs to be fun and interesting to the girls. Once they are further along in their education or in the workforce, it's nearly too late to impact the gender balance in the workforce.

There are still issues around women who work and have little ones at home. We live in a conservative society, so I always feel like I have to justify my family situation. There are so few senior leadership roles offered on a part-time basis - until this happens it will continue to be difficult for women who genuinely want to continue growing in their careers (albeit at a slower pace) and also be there for their children. It's also still seen as a 'female" issue instead of a family issue - men need to be included in the debate/solutions.

I have always had good opportunities offered to me, but I have also put my hand up and made it clear that I am ambitious, demonstrated my capabilities, deliberately worked to broaden my skills, and worked/paid for my own education.  Women need to be prepared to make their own way, and organisations should encourage them to do so.

I work in a male dominated field and workplace. I seem to be the only person (single mum) that juggles kids and work on a daily basis. The men seem to have the fall-back position of a part-time working wife or stay at home wife.

At a recent senior leadership meeting, our CEO asked all of the people in the room who had joined the company in the last six months to stand. There were no women standing. The CEO welcomed the newcomers and stated that he never wanted to see that result again. From that point forward, he expected to see women in at least 10 per cent of the newly hired leadership roles. Separately, recruiting firms have been advised that if they don't propose women candidates for all senior roles, their contracts will be at risk.

GOOD: Working for managers who are married to women who are working and career orientated as well as have children. BAD: Working in an environment where men had all the top managerial positions and were not supportive of women who had ambitions.

Don't shy away from the problem. If you are having problems, do something about it. Humour helps.

In my industry - financial services - there is still the expectation that to be promoted or have access to opportunities that you need to be 'one of the boys'. It's unfortunate that a lot of discussions occur at the pub after hours and as a young woman or as a mother with children this seriously limits your opportunities unless you are willing to do the same. If you do this the opportunities are afforded to you, however, not in the same manner they are to men. There is still an undercurrent that having children is a lifestyle choice which I fundamentally disagree with. If it's a lifestyle choice then we need to be looking at our immigration policy and ensuring the country can sustain itself in the future as the 'baby-boomer' generation retires. Having children is not a 'lifestyle choice' in my opinion. It's a fact of life that having a baby requires time off work - this should not be a reason for women to be discriminated in the workplace.

Being the only male in an all-female leadership team has led to the opposite effect for me. (I guess I now know how it feels?) Being on the end of a now investigated and declared, vexatious sexual harassment claim against myself as a male leader. Both strongly support my view that it is a culture issue, primarily, then a gender issue.

Over many years I have seen women sacrifice pay and opportunity by taking up flexible work options (often due to caring responsibilities) only to see males take the same flexibility without sacrificing pay or their reputation for 'commitment' i.e. the males just take the time when they need to whereas women want the transparency of a formal arrangement. This is a generalisation but I think it comes back to organisational/personal values and an inherent sexism in the workplace i.e. women are still grateful to be here whereas men assume flexibility as one of their many rights. The women still meet all deadlines and deliver required outcomes but organisations continue to focus on inputs and old fashioned presenteeism despite technology being a game changer when it comes to flexible work.

Often there are good policies in place but the implementation at the operational level can be a little behind the times.

Being told I did not meet an essential selection criteria for a senior position - playing golf at a particular club on a Friday afternoon, and when checked up with the club Fridays were a men's only day. Offered a contract leading to a continuing position at a senior level, rather than a continuing position - when enquiries made as to why I was told informally that I would then be out of normal childbearing years before a decision would be made on 'tenure' or 'permanency'.

Many women choose to work part-time so that they can do school drop offs and/or pickups but still end up working full-time and getting paid part-time. Their employers allow them to work part-time, but make no allowance for the fact that the job is a full-time one. These women have to get a job done and so, end up picking up the rest of their day's work from home when the kids have gone to bed. This is particularly prevalent in the case of women in senior management. If they want to keep their role they just have to do what it takes to get the job done.

Promotions based on 'boys' club' syndrome.

Accessing flexible work practices outside the current policy guidelines but a better option for me, my team and my family. It was a difficult and uphill battle, I got there in the end and it was acknowledged that this was the best option but it was difficult to change preconceived ideas and opinions.

Return-to-work incentives are not always supported by the person's colleagues, despite management recognition. This means the returning employee is sometimes not offered appropriate or challenging or new work, leading to discouragement.

Pay inequity still exists between roles which are typically filled by women e.g. an HR director is often paid less than an equally banded/graded director in other roles (i.e. with same level of responsibility). This then flows down from the top into the more junior roles. This then drives market salary rates making it difficult to address this type of gender gap.

My organisation tries to offer flexible work arrangements to employees but there are some fundamental challenges around job design that make this challenging. We need to get more creative in this area. We also need to have more males and females take up these options so it's not just seen as a post-parental leave issue.

Female leaders being contemptuously called "ball breakers" if they are tough, but tough male leaders are simply accepted.

Women are supported up to a certain point in the hierarchy but at the most senior levels, it feels as if women are expected to be "perfect" or more accurately, facsimiles of their male colleagues whereas there is more tolerance for senior men to develop and address flaws. My organisation generally has one token woman in each leadership team who is invariably the first to take a fall when restructuring occurs.

Good - my employer has recognised the diversity issue and is actively working to address bias.  Bad - personally passed over for promotion in favour of men in a very male dominated industry.

The reason why I am currently in a senior management role is because of senior male managers encouraging me to apply for the role. I thank them for providing me encouragement and support and making me believe that while I may have not worked in the area previously I am still very capable of undertaking the role. I have now been in the role for nine months, the group's behaviours and attitudes have changed and have become very positive. They now are more active in engaging with their stakeholders and making a positive change and contribution to the business. While senior management gave me the encouragement initially. In the end I believed in myself and my abilities. I have not looked back once.

Can't seem to avoid the 'boys' club' - an opportunity arose where I or a fellow male peer were to be selected for a high profile engagement. During the meeting I sat there without being acknowledged (no eye contact either) and was subjected to "sorry mate" (directed to my male peer) but I've got to give the job to "her" (being me).

Bad experience after presenting at a conference: "I loved your presentation, I don't know what you talked about, but you're very hot". Many similar comments etc. in a male-dominated industry (engineering and waste management).

Inequality of wages.

It was evident with one of my previous employees without them communicating their beliefs, that women were not management material as not one single management role was held by a female. A family run business that needed to change its views.

A rapid change in all diversity ratios has occurred after a recent change of government due to perceived abandonment of "political correctness".  This indicates that no value is placed on utilising all the skills and qualities offered by a diverse workforce.

I worked in three different countries and unfortunately, I feel that Australia is way behind other Western world countries on support to women when they have children and want to have a career. There is a clear lack of support for affordable childcare and also transport for kids to go to school. One parent has to do it and unfortunately, there is a tendency for men to ask women to do so. This is a major constraint in the society here. I am Canadian and we are much more advanced on these dimensions which allowed me to have a wonderful executive career.

I was on track to partnership in a law firm in about 1995, but once I had a baby and returned part-time, I was categorically told there was no place for a part-time partner. So, that was that, I left. Also upon returning to work part-time, I was fed almost no work by partners, which made it difficult to make budget. Prior to having a baby, I was one of the top billing performers. Perhaps times have changed (?!) since then.

An older male taking exception to me being a new mother and leading a significant community organisation and working against me.

Lack of flexibility around childcare work practice. Males applauded for taking time off with children.  Women who take time off with children viewed as not coping.

When I received a promotion eight years ago and a male executive gave a speech about all the people who received promotions, he referred to me as the "girl with kitten heels". On the flip side, I have received tremendous support and sponsorship from a number of senior executives (male and female) who have provided me with a number of opportunities which I wouldn't otherwise have had and which has paved the way for further promotions. Fortunately, I think the former example is becoming less common or if it did happen, I think people would be called on it.

Teaching, all senior positions were men.

Working as a field engineer for an oil and gas company my gender was cited as reason I could not transfer to another field position.

It's generally hard to be taken seriously in your career as a woman unless you are prepared to work full-time.  As a result, I 'opted out' of corporate world to set up my own consulting business while I had heavy family obligations.

Sat at a table of senior credit managers and their male people leader: seven men and one woman. The woman made a suggestion which was ignored by her peers and her people leader (a General Manager [GM]). One of her male peers made exactly the same suggestion less than 15 mins later in the meeting. She was then publically instructed by her GM to adopt THIS MAN's idea. It was a clear case of unconscious gender bias.

Generally, the men in the workplace would not believe that they are anything but fair to women in the workplace. Generally, however, I find their unconscious bias against women dominates their decision making and the culture they create within a workplace. They pay lip service to diversity and change however, from a practical perspective they have no incentive to support change as in effect they are limiting their own career prospects. I have seen diversity policies created by men and voted by men with no consultation of women or a wider group of people within an organisation.

Men struggle to engage with women who are in leadership roles - there continues to be inappropriate and awkward behaviour displayed by men.

A key difficulty lies in the ability of women to network out of hours and for working mothers to travel overnight for business (especially when they have recently returned to work and may still be breastfeeding).  There is a lack of understanding of this issue as I have personally (and uncomfortably!) experienced.  Unfortunately, this leads to some of the more interesting work necessarily being given to colleagues - frequently males - without these responsibilities.  With regard to networking it also unfairly leads to male colleagues being seen as more committed and ambitious.

My employment situation is very flexible which is great for parenting, however, I feel that there is little recognition of the extra responsibilities taken on by women in the home.  Men will often brag about how much work they get done in the evenings, whereas for most women, this is out of the question with cooking/housework/childcare, even with a supportive partner.

Open mindedness to flexible work practices (working from home) was limited to begin with - it took a degree of negotiation and re-education on behalf of employer for them to realise that I could make it work and was prepared to make compromises and sacrifices to ensure I still delivered a professional product in line with client expectations, while meeting my need for flexibility. I truly believe compromise, open mindedness, and realistic expectations on the part of both employer and employee are needed to make this work long term.  Both parties need to understand the other's concerns and needs and work out how they can be accommodated.

Women generally don't network as well as men and as a result a miss out on a lot of opportunities that may not be advertised.

Very good commitment by senior leadership to keeping my skills in the business.

This is a difficult question to answer - the "bad" experiences as a senior manager are often hard to describe. I have listed workplace culture as the most important because unless the culture supports women in workplace right through to top level then nothing will change. A positive experience was in Brisbane City Council in the 1990s and early 2000s where there was a clear direction to have women at the leadership level as well as at all other levels. Supports (mentoring etc) were in place to develop women, there were flexible workplace practices to support women and management set the tone about what was expected.

Many but anecdotal so suggest you need more scientific substance.

Great female leaders. Also exposure and support for Office for Women activities.

Discriminated against for turning an organisation that was on the brink of insolvency when men that did the same job elsewhere were praised. Harassed, bullied and intimidated by male colleagues.

No barriers to entry (supportive to an extent), but very challenging while at that level of management due to the unconscious bias experienced. Lack of emotional intelligence of males impacts how they handle staff issues.

When my kids were young, my manager kept telling a story that I cannot have overnight trips or training course due to family commitment or I am very good at what I am doing now so I should keep doing my current job rather than looking for promotion.

In one workplace, many more men were promoted to senior levels than women. The CEO dismissed a query about this by pointing out that fewer women had applied for promotion. This ignored the strong messaging in the organisation that you waited to be tapped on the shoulder before applying.

Women in leadership roles are gossiped about and called 'aggressive' where a male in the same situation and behaviour is admired and considered 'ambitious'.

I have the same job title and more experience than two other employees in my team.  The other two employees are men and are paid $20,000 more than me.

General assumptions about the validity of my contributions in a very male dominated work environment, hard to get a voice at the table sometimes.

I've recently been told by a man that he felt he needed to take a paternal role! How many women would say that to a man!

Culture change is needed before any other interventions are implemented otherwise they will not get engagement and traction.

I have been denied access to professional development and long service leave because, having been paid maternity leave for my first two children and partial may leave for my third (over a period of eight years) I was told the company had 'given' me enough.

No major issues, however, I have noticed that many women actually create the gender issue. Even for me, I had always felt that I needed to be better than my male colleagues to be successful, and then I finally realised I just had to be me, and be confident in my own abilities.  The difference this made was amazing.

Everyday women leaders are not heard, not included and passed over. Problem is endemic.  Problem is NOT about maternity leave and children and frankly focus on that particular issue means the real central problem is not being addressed.

Have been overlooked for promotion on more than one occasion.

Too many to document. Have worked in a male-dominated environment always and have managed but have many experiences either personal or observed that reflect uneven treatment based on gender.

Subtle undermining of women in senior roles, propagation of gossip about women in senior roles, sponsorship of male employees through higher education (e.g. MBA) but not for females; disrespect for family obligations, refusal of promotion unless established flexible work practices are given up - shall I go on? :-)

Telling the chair of the board, to whom I report directly, of totally inappropriate behaviour of my colleague and getting responses like - what do you expect, he's a boy, what do you expect, he's an artist - instead of dealing with the issue of workplace behaviour and supporting me to do it.

Bad experience - Assumptions about what my career aspirations may/may not be based on my gender. I expect that if I'm good enough I can be CEO and I want others to realise that is possible also. Good - excellent mentorship from senior men in the business who recognise traits in me that they see as important for the business. Senior leaders who are prepared to break the 'model' of what an employee in my industry (which is very male-dominated) looks like.

Resigned from job only to discover unexpectedly pregnant which put me back into job market.  Severe discrimination from recruiters due to being pregnant - was told by a recruiter "Good luck getting a job now that you're pregnant" (I was incidentally applying for contractor roles and sought only contract work while pregnant for this reason).

Female mentors have been fantastic.

My experience is that the inherent bias in executive and senior managers is extremely strong and many of them fail to even comprehend some of the issues which face women who seek to be successful in their careers. Ours is quite a sexist society. Daily and subtle ways of putting women in their place from calling them "darl", to failing to value contribution, to culture made by women in the organisations (i.e. women often spend time on people and culture and brand, marketing and relationships). They act for the good of the organisation and not themselves as they often value something other than money/salary - dismissingly called "soft" skills) to not giving women the best work for no reason other than the senior men see the younger guys in their own image and so identify with them and therefore give them far more opportunities than others; unequal pay for peers; reason given for promotion of a man as he has a wife and family to support; telling senior women not to act like a "princess"; allowing gossip to circulate regarding women and participating in that; being dismissive of a female's skills in order to prevent their advancement in the organisation; and the list goes on. Often the younger top executives are the worst as the inherent sexism in our society and the business world is a very powerful tool which is often used successfully to neuter significant adversaries.

Thankfully my current workplace is very understanding and gives me the flexibility I require to be successful at work and care for my children. However, I have also worked in an office which did not encourage women to aim for the top jobs. While mandatory quotas for women in leadership may be the only way to close the gap, I do feel such a quota would demean promotions for women. However, it's probably a sad fact that such a quota is required, at least in the short-to-medium term, to assist women in proving their value in leadership roles.

Competent women often end up being the woman behind the senior man contributing to making the man look even better than he is already perceived to be.

I think a lot of women don't want to break the mould of being the at home parent.

None, always been supported to take on additional challengers.

Having to give up a career progression opportunity and subsequently leave a job because of too demanding travel expectations.

Mentor was the initiator of job-share with person I do not know well: it has been extremely successful.

I've been lucky to have very flexible work arrangements at two employers since having children. A lot of the difficulties I have found with adjusting to a 'step back' in responsibilities coming back after maternity leave, have really been about working on a part-time basis. It is difficult to know how much of the 'being passed over' for career opportunities etc. is really to do with gender/sexism at all in this respect and more about the choices I have made to take the flexibility to have a reduced role for the time being while my children are young.

I have experienced women versus women in the workplace and this becomes a large negative.

Until there are a greater number of women in senior positions, men will always promote their mates.

Experience I have had predominantly based on being bright/strong and totally different style of management. I am focused on delivery and so I think and don't feel which I, as a woman, am expected to do.

Many men that are not tertiary qualified and have obtained their senior positions via on the job training feel threatened by intelligent woman and don't like the personality change that women bring to a workplace.

My company has a gender diversity program including information, training, leadership role targets, flexible work practices, incentives for returning to work after childbirth.

Restructure of organisation occurred. As the only female of five people in same role I was told I would not be directly translated into the new role whereas the 'boys' were told they would. Much protest through the system meant I was eventually directly translated along with my male colleagues.

I have had good experiences where I have managed the best people which includes approximately the same number of each sex.

In Queensland public service, for the last 15 years I have had excellent work/life balance despite having four children and being in a technical male-dominated profession. Government policy supported this, along with my individual managers at the time (now all gone). I hope this continues for other women here. My progression is mainly limited by distaste for the culture above me - it seems harsh, aggressive, competitive and brutal. Much like we see in Parliament every day, and on the rugby fields. I elect not to be party to these sorts of environments. I prefer collaborative, gentler models, so will probably never progress.

I think if you work hard enough with positivity and enthusiasm you can overcome a lot of issues faced in the workplace.

Medical Doctor (MD) informing regional CEO that he was concerned about my mental health and concern for my unborn child as he didn't think I was accepting of my pregnancy. Real motive wanted: he wanted to make my position redundant but knew this wouldn't be accepted by regional leadership team so he changed tactics to character assassination to achieve his desired result. Outcome: Regional HR director notified me of what had been said, I challenged the MD (my direct manager) on his comments which he admitted to saying but that they were taken out of context. Apology received and accepted, I left the business 11 months later due to lack of confidence and trust in local MD. Regional management team worked hard to convince me to stay however, the damage for me had been done to my working relationship with my direct manager.

The possibility that during my career I might need to take time off to start a family should not be ignored or avoided or be a taboo topic of conversation - it should be discussed and managed.

Overlooked for a promotion - given to a male who was less qualified than me.

Returning to work after maternity leave was not an easy process. The culture of the organisation is not open to flexibility although there are processes to enable flexible work arrangements.

I have found that there is a "jobs for the boys" culture where I work. Our team is 70 per cent women, but most of the work goes to the other 30 per cent. The work is not allowing junior team members to develop, and my skills (backed up by 24 years of experience) are not being used. This is frustrating, and a missed opportunity for the company.

Roles that are in the professions [sector] are more accepting of women who are able to exhibit expertise on merit.

Unconscious bias about how one should behave in positions of leadership. Excluding women from opportunities based on assuming what they wouldn't want.

Have been excluded from opportunities because of gender. Have been bullied by male supervisor in the past.

I don't have a specific experience but overall I have been overlooked for promotions in favour of male colleagues and have been paid less in some organisations.

Bad experience - I have noticed a significant attitude change while pregnant that I did not experience previously. I think some males find it offensive. I have also found that other than my own interest and drive, performance management and training options were suddenly less of a priority to my male manager. I became 'backfill' to other consultants rather than getting new client work or projects. I really become 'less important' and had to voice my unhappiness with the changes only to be given excuses that made me angry as they weren't valid. I still question if I will return post maternity leave. Prior to being pregnant, I felt my opportunities were equal to other in my all male team. I really feel disadvantaged having to have my family.

Sexual harassment by way of 'ogling' and commenting on young women's appearance; making advances towards the opposite sex, asking about private circumstances, e.g. 'Are you married?'; emailing sexist pictures and jokes.

There are still very few women in executive management roles across the public service because women take time out of the workforce for parenting and caring roles. I am not sure if this will change but if it does, there will need to be a shift in social values and expectations which are achieved slowly over a period of time. I think gender issues are improving in the workplace but only slowly.

Appointing a woman to a CEO role, after dealing with others' concerns and encouraging the woman - knowing that if I hadn't been proactive then this appointment wouldn't have been made.

I've been passed over for roles because I was considered to be of a child bearing age and I find it hard to be considered for senior management roles because my company is extremely top heavy with males. Not one woman on the executive team.

Missing out on leaderships positions to younger men who are much less qualified and experienced (on a few occasions). Being viewed in a negative way for pushing for greater remuneration and conditions. Male peers (CEOs) dominating meetings. Masculine cultures in leadership forums.

Appointment decision made on grounds other than performance (bad). Wonderful mentor - colleague (good).

Very limited senior managers in the workplace. Limited flexibility to work from home.

Constant exclusion by male colleagues from networking opportunities and actual sexual harassment when younger (inappropriate remarks, touching etc.).

We have been able to create positive change over a three year period through an intense effort around cultural and procedural change, supported by quantitative targets.

Bad - in the mid-80s men weren't able to work in roles which required typing/keyboarding. If a man was 'caught' typing/keyboarding he would be removed and replaced by a female to complete the work. Gender targets in the workplace can be counter-productive - should always hire the right person - regardless of race/sex etc. - policies and culture which make a supportive work place will encourage good applicants from all walks of life into roles.

I have had good experiences up until the point of senior leadership.  Working in a very male-dominated industry I started experiencing more challenges once I had children and experienced a very high level of unconscious bias - they thought they were being supportive but had no idea in respect to the assumptions and comments made. Having just returned to work into senior leadership following maternity leave for my third child I felt it very difficult to achieve flexibility with meetings always scheduled after hours (too hard to change to suit just one or two people) and expectations for being seen. My perception is that it all seemed too hard to manage to them. No attempt to understand what might work for me or how we could work together. I have now just been made redundant despite internal publication that they are actively supporting gender diversity.

My organisation is well engaged in righting the gender balance. It understands the impact on staff engagement and client engagement in getting this right

1)My female HR manager did not allow me to return to work after maternity leave on a part-time basis. Just before I submitted my resignation, the male OH&S (Occupational Health and Safety manager offered me a part-time role in his team at hours that suited my family needs. I went on to advance in my career having not had a break in service but may not be where I am today had it not been for the opportunity I got 16 years ago. 2)My request to take time off to attend my daughter's primary school graduation was not seen as critical and therefore not awarded the time off.  However, the male manager's need to take time off to oversee the building of his swimming pool (two years later) was ok? (ote, the manager did not have kids). 3) In meetings, input from my male counterparts is viewed more positively than comments from me and my female colleague. We have both observed a suggestion one of us made being recounted by our male colleagues and accepted when it was earlier rejected when we proposed the very same thing.

As a young female architecture student requiring professional paid placement as a prerequisite to my undergraduate degree, I was continually not offered positions that I applied for at Brisbane architecture firms (both big and small). These positions went to the males in my cohort. I was not offered any support at my university. I already had completed an undergraduate degree and so had a little more experience than the boys in my cohort that were straight from school. With this initial bad experience in the industry, I stopped my architectural studies to pursue another career. This has been my biggest regret to date. As an older and wiser employee now, I know that I should have kept going and not given up on my dream. This experience was in 1996. I can't comment on what it is like for female architecture students in 2013.

Even though I was an experienced and long-time employee, new employees are paid more than me, especially the male colleagues.

Worked on an international assignment where all male participants conducted their research at company expense in the overseas location. As the only woman on the team was not able to complete my research overseas (no funding)! Found out later that there had been local women engaged with the male workers that the male workers did not want their partners/wives back in Australia to know about - and I may have been able to disclose this to them!

Those that talk it up but don't walk the talk.

1) I have seen many very good senior female managers who have been acting in a senior role who have not won the job at interview i.e. been beaten by a man. The worst thing is that I have also seen the successful applicant then try and push all their work back to the unsuccessful applicant in one case saying "I like a clear desk, I would like you to take on these tasks" i.e. all the stuff the woman was doing before! 2) Men predominantly outsource their responsibilities outside of work thereby enabling them to focus more attention in the workplace. Women predominantly undertake dual roles i.e. work and caring. This adds stress and causes us to split our attention between work and home. 3) As Sheryl Sandberg noted - we will not have equality in the workplace until men are doing 50 per cent of the caring and women are in 50 per cent of leadership positions. I don't think leadership numbers will vary greatly until there are non-mandatory targets in place for women in leadership positions and recruitment processes are transparent and an appropriately qualified external independent panel member from a reputable organisation such as Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is on the panel.

To date I have had no issues with gender equality. I am three weeks away from commencing maternity leave. My employer has been very good about me taking maternity leave. They are still keen to involve me in projects in the lead-up to my leave. It will be interesting to see their attitude after my return when I only want to work part-time hours.

With my first pregnancy my role was removed two weeks prior to going on maternity leave, I was made redundant during my maternity leave for my second child and following the birth of my third child I missed a promotion that a childless, single female was awarded.

When reviewing pay increases for staff, the men get an automatic increase with little justification,  where the women's reviews have to go through a lengthy justification and then get 1/3 of what the male doing similar duties was approved.

I work in engineering and construction, but the most significant issues come from the men who are organisationally above me, not below.

Not being promoted because it would be seen as playing 'favourite' when this issue never arises when men are promoted - with rider that "you aren't unattractive and people make assumptions".

Good - have secured flexible work in a senior advisory capacity with a respected professional services firm, who values my contribution enough to think outside the box.  Bad - I work as a gender balance consultant and have seen too many examples to name - from sacred cows in sales roles who behave like frat boys on college break to bias in remuneration against part-time workers to a complete lack of understanding as to why women are important to workforce participation in the first place. I would rate the level of knowledge of the business case for gender balance at poor to low for the majority of middle managers I come in contact with - they just don't have adequate understanding of the issues and opportunities at all.

I was not able to be a clerk because I was female in the Victorian public service, I was able to be a teller in a bank, I had to have a lower superannuation scheme. I received 70 per cent of men's wages for the same duties. When I was able to be promoted men appealed against me taking a man's job.  The gender discrimination was greater than the discrimination on the basis of my disability. Although things are better now, it has come at much work and we must remain vigilant.

I have never found to have been discriminated against on a gender basis. But I see from many of my staff that the burden for childcare usually seems to rest on the women. Both parents might be working, but it usually seems that it is the woman who takes time off when the child is sick, it is the woman who works part-time, etc. Not the case all the time, but I would say in the majority of cases. I'm currently expecting my first bub later this year, and my workplace has been fantastic. Very open to discussion and essentially leaving me with a lot of flexibility. I was very sick last year and it was the same deal...so I guess the flexible workplace stuff probably applies across the board (i.e. if they're flexible and supportive generally, you'll probably find the same with return to work/maternity leave type issues). There seems to be no glass ceiling, yet there aren't many women at my level or higher in the organisation!! I work in an engineering organisation, so it's not atypical, but it's been nice to see a steady progression of more women through the ranks, but it still seems to stop at middle management.

Cultural change (not easy!) plus assumption that all women have/want children and applying barriers to all for the same reason - none of which is valid (children/no children).

I work in the services/construction/mining industry. It is a male-dominated workforce with men that have been here for their whole lives. It is hard to change their cemented views when it is still a boys' club with only 12 per cent per cent women in a very large organisation. I have been told more than once that women should only be receptionists, sometimes I feel like I am in the Stone Age. There are glimmers of hope though, new graduates coming in with fresh minds and some key inspirational women in the workplace that I have been lucky enough to be managed by. They are some of the strongest women I know. At the heart of it the stubborn views of the boys' club spur me on to work harder and be more successful (I can't help the small sense of satisfaction I get from exceeding expectations!). I guess I have stayed with the industry because I enjoy the challenge and see it is an industry that I can make positive change in for future women in this field.

Until I reached the level of Principal, I was not aware of many issues, but I am now encountering unconscious bias.

It was a long time ago when I was junior that I experienced really bad sexual harassment and sexual discrimination based on my family responsibilities and inability to go to "client" dinners and functions. However, most recently I have realised that my family circumstances are likely to make my organisation be less likely to consider me for some roles that require relocation - not that they think I can't do the role but they just assume I can't be flexible in my ability to travel or relocate but generally the company I work for is amazing however, I note that there are very few women in the very senior roles and up until recently we did not have any women on our board.

Senior women need to be able to be on call 24/7 which is untenable for women with children. All the senior women in my organisation are childless. Patronage and nepotism are common and mentoring and career coaching is not equitably made available to women in this organisation.

Working in all-women feminist workplaces - good. Experiencing sexual harassment - bad.

My own reticence - following a merger between the company I worked for and another, I applied only for the position I was in at the time (a minor supervisory role). When I was awarded that job, I was told that if I had applied for the higher role I would have been awarded that too - but I automatically discounted myself from having a chance because I thought I didn't meet the full criteria. My own enemy!

Negative perception towards flexible working (e.g. part-time). Inability to reach targets on a part-time basis. Strong expectation and culture of returning to work quickly after parental leave.

I have not experienced any gender issues. I believe it is women themselves that hold themselves back because they are trying to balance work and family and the pressure seems too much so they hold themselves back from taking on leadership roles.

Not being included in project discussions, especially "after hours" when the boys' club meet and discuss important issues.

Great experience where senior female leaders take the time to tell their stories - the successes and bumps along the road - with real authenticity to more junior staff (men and women). Helps to build role models (as there are fewer women role models) and younger women in particular resonate with stories that they hear of how others have managed their lives as mothers, wives/partners and successful business leaders and start to feel that this is a real possibility for them in the future.

Good - have achieved senior management positions on the basis of merit (I hope!). Bad - training and development opportunities are less available.

Generally at higher levels it is subtle - but it exists and is often presented as being in your best interests (e.g. we didn't consider you for this role as it would mean a move and we know your husband has such a great role locally).

I was working abroad and a female manager was promoted in a very male orientated environment.  She was promoted because she was in fact the most qualified to do the role and she was promoted by a male CEO at the time.  It took about six to 12 months for the team underneath her that was 95 per cent male to recognise her capabilities and what she could bring to the table, but for those first 12 months it was very tough indeed for her and several times she thought about walking away but in the end her determination prevailed and in fact she lead a very successful team across Europe and became a well-respected manager, colleague and individual in her own right. It was all about perceptions and not knowing her background in the first place even though she had been in the company for a considerable time she was promoted within not externally. Persistence and being strong was the key in this case.

Too many to mention. I don't harp on them. I get on with it. It is what it is. Sad to see that a country which is supposed to be progressive and modern is still so chauvinistic and masculine. Women are as much responsible for where we are as are men. We need a shift in thinking and mindset, urgently, as we are going backwards.

I have worked in industries dominated by women employees and yet, time and again, management is male. The work is underpaid and undervalued by society because of the gender bias.

Good: Numerous male mentors. Good: Appointed to board positions by male and female contacts.  Bad: Male group think about who they know personally to fill board vacancies. Bad: Queen Bee syndrome where entrenched female board members veto other female candidates.

On advising my employer that I was pregnant with my third child, I was told that "I may as well resign". On another occasion, a senior partner told me women don't advance in the profession because "they keep opting out".

Males protect other males at the expense of females due to the ongoing prevalence of "boys' club" type culture, even in young men. Inappropriate behaviour by men including harassment and bullying are covered up by men due to incompetence in their own workplace practices and perceived threat to show their shortcomings.

Required to resign from partnership prior to birth of first child and then having to negotiate to return to the firm on a part-time basis at a lesser stature.

Issue is not overt discrimination but the prevailing attitudes - consciously or unconsciously held- which serve to diminish women's ambition, hold them back from advancement and create a reluctance to be exposed. People will take on higher roles if they think the powers that be and key people around them have their backs. Women often don't feel this degree of support and make the rational choice to stay one step behind or in the shadows.

Employer focuses on output rather than time at desk.

Openly sexist comments and jokes bordering on sexual harassment.  General acceptance of language and behaviours that are offensive to women.

While in a job interview I was asked if my husband and I had plans to start a family.

I work part-time and have done so now for six years. There are still some people who believe you cannot be effective part-time even when you have proven otherwise. Opportunities are not offered, but then men who work part-time do not seem to suffer this issue. They are usually worse at managing the part-time work as they have had less practice at it. As I have got older and more experienced I now push the point and have been very successful, however, this was hard when I was less senior. I see others struggle with this, and try to help out where I can. Our Australian Board is also full of men with wives who are at home caring for their children. This causes subconscious bias in our work place. It is a common thought that we will not have a woman on that board with the current members there. As I work in engineering, it is still very much a boys' club, even though most are in denial!! You need to be more assertive as a woman to get ahead. Also, when I left a previous job, I was told they would love to have me back, but maybe after I had children as I was nearing that age!

Told I would not be allowed on large-scale commercial negotiation as a young buyer as those we were bargaining with "don't negotiate well with women".

Recently I was been offered an interesting and challenging training opportunity. The catch - 20 sessions over two years all 9.00 to 5.00pm in a city location more than three hours' drive from home. An approach to the program co-ordinator to explore other more flexible and family friendly time options for the course was not greeted favourably. I was even threatened with having the cost of the program billed to my project team if I withdrew without even starting! Clearly, only those staff members who are young enough or old enough, not to have primary care responsibilities, or have someone else primarily caring for children will be able to participate in this training. Obliquely a gender issue but one that is typical of the most common type these days in my experience... Somehow an institutional inflexibility that skews opportunity and then promotion is recast as "your problem"!!

On returning to work after maternity leave I was offered a lesser management position instead of my previous role and told "why not take it as now I was a 'new' mother, the role would be a lot easier and far more flexible for me!!!!"

When I returned from maternity leave after having my first child, I opted to return on a part-time basis. The men in my work place, while supportive to my face, were critical of my decision to work part-time to my other colleagues when I was not there. I found that very concerning as all their wives worked part-time also.  I also worked for one of the largest chartered firms, and was very, very concerned, when for international women's day, the firm celebrated a female director who continued to work while labouring in hospital to have her fourth child, then returned to work at 8am the next day. An absolutely terrible message to send to the women of the firm - you won't be celebrated or rewarded if you want to spend time with your baby after birth.

Always been positive.

As a generalisation women do not get along with other women in the workplace. Women need more training on personnel matters and how to mix better with staff. Otherwise I have found them equal or better than men in their knowledge and abilities of work issues.

Manager ceased to interact with me on announcing my pregnancy and previous promotion expectations did not eventuate despite only having 12 weeks off and maintaining involvement in certain work during that time.

To succeed in the corporate field you need to have a thick skin, a supportive partner and a 'champion' within the workplace who has 'pull' and whose views are valued.

Approaching maternity leave, becoming more aware of gender issues which are viewed as male counterparts as issues for women to sort out amongst themselves, rather than organisational issues to be addressed by senior management as a whole.

My organisation is traditionally male dominated. Females are often talked about in a derogatory manner by some males. There is a lack of good female leadership.

Comments made to degrade female in role from senior male leaders to do a duty below them as they are a woman.

I have been lucky to have had a series of very supportive bosses (all male) in my career. I have been able to juggle part-time (four days/week) work and having a young child. Although in my experience not everyone can make part-time effective in a senior role - you have to show a large degree of flexibility.

General support but still an underlying concept that men are better in a role long term due to presence of men in other peer senior positions (e.g. ease of interaction) and risk of women leaving for children.

The bullying behaviour by partners of legal and accounting firms continues unabated.

Without doubt, every firm I worked within, there is a specific brotherhood that seems to support and create good positions for those they consider important. And 8/10 times it would be a male, mid-age and Caucasian. Those that don't fall under that category, find it hard to gain support with their career to proceed up the corporate ladder- hence they opt for other options that are more fulfilling like motherhood.

Paid parental leave (mother with first six months entitlement, father with second six months) in Sweden in mid-80s. Discrimination (often subtle) regarding pay, career opportunities and, hence, learning has been the norm.

In my experience "lip service" is our greatest enemy, where organisations might offer the right degree of flexibility and support and yet, the numbers just don't stack up! The prevailing mind-set that women offer a diminished return in the workplace must be tackled by creating a new narrative for our senior leaders to espouse, based on case studies and her-story.

Many personal experiences in my earlier career, but these days it is the younger women I think feel the brunt: sexist attitudes in non-traditional businesses being used as excuses not to promote extremely capable women - they just won't 'fit in' with the 'vibe' of the place; overlooking capable women for fear that blokes will take offence at having to work for a woman, so denying the line management roles that are needed to get to the higher ranks.

The opportunities are equal but until recently, many females made other life decisions which men did not need to make. It is not discrimination which has led to the current imbalance but it has occurred over such a long time, it will take time to become better balanced. Quotas will be counterproductive other than with the numbers.

I have witnessed sexist comments in meetings and I was in a position where all I could do was sit there and listen to them.

Still no such thing as equal pay. It still remains difficult for many women to break into the 'boys' club' - intimidation. Women still do not promote their achievements.

I've had a balance of both positive and negative gender issues throughout my career. I continually try to role model positive gender behaviour and mentor young men and women in this respect. Success has always been my best revenge for the negative experiences!

I have worked in heavily male-dominated workplaces for 30 years. While some men might have out-dated notions, on the whole, the culture of the places where I have worked has viewed people on the basis of merit and have been keen to promote and look after people who perform well - of either gender. Primary carers, however, tend to be at a disadvantage if their hours are limited by childcare responsibilities etc. This is not targeted at women - it's a fact of life in the workplace and I do think it is hard to be a part-time leader at work.

Male bosses and/or key leaders who are clearly more comfortable hanging out with the boys, both socially and professionally.

Perception that when a female is not in the office, that she must be dealing with child-related issues; whereas when male is not in the office, he must be out at clients.

Generally I have not experienced anything too specific. The issues relate more to how some men, generally in the 50+ age group, relate to women. There are times when they will say something to me or challenge me and I'm very aware of the fact that if I was a male, the issue would not be raised or would have been approached quite differently.

Have been told in past (by a very senior manager) that I will do well when I let go of the apron strings - I found that insulting. Also during pay negotiations it was suggested to me that I shouldn't be paid a pro-rata salary given that I was not there full-time. The insinuation was that part-timers were less productive, in fact I have found it quite the opposite. Again I was very insulted and have never forgotten this - it only happened a few years ago and I am no longer with that employer. While working part-time I did get upward support from a manager, which worked really well. However I always made myself available on the phone and online for emergencies. I think it is important for the part-timer to make the part-time work for the employer and client, which can mean being flexible. Excellent out of office computer service is vital to help part-timers assist out of their contracted hours, even in the early hours of the morning before the kids get up. When I was going through this phase my connection to the work network was shocking and there was no out of hours computer support. This was soul destroying for someone who was trying to not let the part-time thing fail. Workplace recommended childcare is a joke - my current employer offers Expect A Star nanny service which is not subsidised and is about $30 or more per hour. Most staff can't afford that out of their take home pay, especially when you have to add your travel time to and from work onto the nanny cost. I think it is great if an employer can assist you limping the career through difficult times when the kids are young. There are excellent long term benefits for employee and employer.

When I went to take maternity leave with my first child I knocked on the lead partner's door to say goodbye for 12 months.  I had established a three year track record as an exceptional management consultant and intended to continue my career after a year's maternity leave. The comment from the partner when I shook his hand "Oh well you won't be back - none of our secretaries ever come back". Gasp.

A female director who was demoted by a male because of personality clash. The male was a member of a 'boys' club' and witnesses perceived that this boys' club may have been threatened by the female's intelligence.

I work in an environment with flexible work hours. This is very helpful.

Too many to mention.

I have seen a department that was led by a team of senior and capable women - to be then led by a man. While there are no issues with that per se, since the change in leadership, a significant portion of new hires (including to other senior roles) have all been men. We did need more of a gender balance, but you do wonder how long the like-for-like hiring will go for. And what it also means for our ability to compete for promotions/opportunities when they arise.

There are only 6 per cent of middle management that are women at my organisation. I think this is quite common in a lot of organisations. I think it's due to a combination of flexible work, societal expectations (a lot of men are the 'main bread winners' and also the struggle to juggle a management role with raising a family.

Bad experience which was resolved by strong HR presence and guidance for male manager. Situation returning from maternity leave in my absence my manager thought I would benefit from changing from a team leader to a program manager. I had not been consulted, I was feeling vulnerable regarding my work abilities having spent six months with my first child, it was not my preference at this stage of my career I wanted to consolidate my people skills. HR manager ensured I maintained my team leader role.

Very difficult for women to work post-birth in construction management on-site due to working hours (7am-6pm Mon-Fri + Saturdays).

The boys' club is still alive and well and I think it's going to take a few more years yet. I've never been put aside for a job in favour of a male colleague. It's just the way you are treated differently by the predominantly male colleagues.

Dealing with the 'assumptions' - in my 20s that I would not be a long-term employee as I would leave to have children - in my 30s that I would not return after maternity leave - in my 40s that my salary was 'optional' (i.e. that I was not the primary breadwinner) - and in my 50s that I lack the 'experience' of men of a similar age.

I don't feel women are actively held back. But I think men are more commonly given support which leads to their success.

Women who express opinions strongly viewed as emotional and hard to deal with; men exhibiting same behaviours viewed as strong leaders. Being told I can't handle a role because I have young children and being asked what would be my priority if I had to choose between family and work commitments.

Some comments from older men about me being more domestic, assuming that I am in the meeting to take notes (I am a civil engineer, and have postgraduate qualifications in my field).

Men and women work in different ways, different strengths and weaknesses - culturally these are not recognised.

My experience has been mostly positive. However I reached a senior role early in my career and that made it easier for me to stand my ground.

Spending most of my career in a male dominated industry, trying to fit in so much I changed my style rather than being myself. I get tired of arguing or being challenged by men and whether it's because of gender or not I often don't know how to avoid taking it personally and am afraid of being labelled as emotional.

Not being able to take leave or reduce hours for family reasons - but awarded the same leave when reason provided was a 'holiday'.

My manager tells me that I manage my own time, but the job still needs to be done. This leads to long hours on the computer at night time if I have dropped off the kids to school etc. Flexible means I can work my own diary as long it still means that I am at every meeting even ones that are called at short notice.

One of my strongest supporters and one who encouraged me to develop and push myself was male. However, I also believe that when I was a younger female, male counterparts judged me on looks and included me in industry events on that basis.

The men are not accepting of a female leader which has led to hostility and resistance.

Working part-time as a partner in a professional services firm has worked well when I've been in a team-oriented, collaborative and flexible team. But it has been very difficult when in a more "traditional" team that values being seen to work long hours in the office and where individual performance is prioritised over team results.

I have been fortunate that I have had strong mentors both male and female who have helped me develop my technical and general works skills in my field and gain my own confidence. That confidence has then helped me achieve in ensuring that my positive work results were given merit, recognised and compensated (monetary or promotion). I am also fortunate to work somewhere where there is flexibility in work practices so long as the job is done. What is amazing however, is that 'black mark' placed against you if you decide to have a family which you are clearly told will hamper your further promotion. It is also seen as some huge obstacle when in reality a workplace usually has at least six months to plan for the female worker taking maternity leave compared to an older 'male ' worker unexpectedly taking ill for an extended period of time. I have had two children and taken approximately 12 months 'off' each time but that did not limit my capability to stay in the loop of my workplace and maintain my skills and knowledge. There is also an assumption that if you return part-time, other workers are somehow 'carrying your slack' due to your family commitments when in reality that is far from the truth.

I have observed attitudes to particular women change depending on whether they are considered to be on the "mummy track" or "committed to their career" - suggesting that they are mutually exclusive alternatives.

Very few females in any middle or upper management.

It depends on the workplace and the underlying culture. My previous company had a strong boys' club culture, with token females in leadership roles. Current company has females in key leadership roles because they deserve to be there in their own right.

Particularly in traditional male-dominated industries such as mining - bullying and lack of knowledge or ability or skill to deal with these issues. Early day as a single mother and the need to deal with children's issues but feeling like it is not acceptable to take time off for such matters.

It is difficult to answer a lot of these questions based on my current employer as I don't believe there is a barrier to women in leadership here. In fact there seems to have been the opposite in some states. I think that there is still some equality in the general workforce and that equality is being addressed quite well. There are still places where there is a strong inequality and that needs to be addressed. Conversely I believe there are some places where the desire to redress the inequality has gone too far and the inequality has swung the other way.

I am in a professional services firm which, in many respects, leads the field in trying to address the gender issue. But, after well over a decade of focus on the issue we are at the stage where only 20 per cent of our partners are female while a significant majority of our senior associates (the rank below partner) are female and well over half our graduates (entry level intake) are female. These stats have remained relatively consistent over the years with only marginal improvement - so it is not simply 'a matter of time'. Part of the problem is around expectations. If our MBAs and other 'leadership' training programs start from the assumption that a CEO must work 24/7, you have just eliminated a huge proportion of some of the most talented 'people managing', lateral thinking and frankly, great 'leadership material' people because, shock horror, they also want a full life outside of work as well. It is a generalisation but, it seems that more very talented females fall into that category than males (who are often more willing to 'sacrifice' life outside of work or don't even see it as a sacrifice). It is the same for partnership where there is an automatic connection between high billing, 70 hour week commitment and being 'partner material'. Is there really any correlation between high billing and a leader with strategic insight and vision or great people development skills? If anything, the correlation could be inversed. But the system self-perpetuates because those that attain the leadership positions (including the superwomen) will naturally bring that perspective of 'merit' to their analysis of the candidates next up for selection. With the best will in the world (and despite a genuine desire to treat the genders fairly) they will make a judgment on merit (in their eyes) that selects the candidate ticking the same old boxes. It is really frustrating even though, helped by my male ways, I was a beneficiary of this very system!

Having been advised there would be a pay freeze except in exceptional circumstances, later found out all my male colleagues had received pay rises because they'd 'shouted the loudest'.

One experience, as a recent graduate aspiring for a more challenging role after commencing a graduate recruitment program within a major bank, I was told that "Treasury is no place for a woman".  Times have changed since then thankfully.

Meetings late in the day. Requirements to work late hours and over the weekend. Same males selected for key roles each time. Two people working for the same firm, husband and wife. Each decided to work 0.4 [0.4 FTE] after the birth of their first child. She was told she was no longer serious about her career and she no longer was given key roles/projects. Her career came to a halt. He continued to be given interesting work and his career progressed after the birth. It took her more than twice as long as a male peer to reach the next stage in her career.

Has not been an easy transition returning from maternity leave. Missed a performance review round and therefore seemed to have missed two pay reviews - which put me behind - even though I was on maternity leave less than a year. Corporate cultures usually not in line with flexible working arrangements.

Supportive environment - professional association. Australian Computer Society. Unsupportive workplace - ageism plus bias as had a partner in full-time work, so why did I need to work?

I think the issue is about general bias rather than a specific example. Working in highly male dominated industries can be both a blessing and a curse. Good in the sense that often they will listen to you because of your gender but bad because there is an expectation about the sorts of roles that women should play.

Women managers are judged far more harshly for any human foible compared to their male counterparts.

I have been fortunate to have had a workplace that I believe does not differentiate between genders and I have been fortunate to have had very experienced male and female mentors who had been very enthusiastic in their help and guidance throughout my career.

Bad - I work in a male-dominated field and am known as a high performer. If in a peer group where someone new is present, assumption is that men can do the job and implicit question is how did I get it? Good - When I had my daughter, I was given paid maternity leave and when I returned to work (as a single parent) my company arranged for me to be able to travel as required by arranging paid care for my daughter wherever I went (I met all standard costs at home), but this meant that while it was harder than for others, I still had the opportunity to work to my ability.

I left a senior partnership role and relinquished ownership in a business due to bullying and discrimination by senior board members.

I work in construction where there is a very low percentage of women on project sites and a high percentage of crusty old foremen and rough nut labourers. However, I have consistently observed these blokes treat the women with the same respect as the men. The number of women on site has quadrupled over the past 10 years. I mentor two female graduate engineers and they are doing really well. They are already very valuable employees and are improving every day.

I don't think it is "good" or "bad" experiences. I think that it is two things:  1. Women need more confidence to sell their skills and go for executive positions.  2. A workplace culture, where flexible working arrangements are accepted that allow women with children to balance work/life.  In my experience, women are treated with respect and listened to in the workplace. I would love to see women take it to the next level and have the support mechanisms in place to do so.

I applied to be part of a senior leadership training program for two years in a row. I was better qualified than most of the others who were accepted especially the men. Part of the issue was the choice process where the executives could choose who should be given priority. One year they chose who they wanted to be trained as part of succession planning and mostly men were accepted.  The next year they chose those who managed larger numbers of staff and as I had a specialist role I was not chosen. It felt like I was always discriminated against and the key to being chosen was based on whether you had an advocate to push your case; the men mostly had other men who pushed for them but I did not. When I entered the public service we had a graduate scheme that was decided by test and interview and I was chosen for this as it had a merit-based process. There are ways to exclude senior women from progressing in organisations, this is an example.

Three senior leaders chosen but my position was graded at a lower pay scale and attributed more 'soft' skills.

Inconsistent application of criteria for promotion as compared with other male colleagues.

A question was asked of me and I gave an opinion but the senior manager said I had better get a man's opinion to see if you are right.

To answer question five ["Do you believe that there are barriers to women's equality in the workplace?] with a "no", I have based this on my experience with my current employer whom I have been employed with for the last three years. My current employer is very focused on ensuring it is the leader in setting the standards for women's equality in the workforce, breaking down the barriers and most importantly providing opportunity for women in leadership roles.

The concept of chivalry remains strong in Australian culture, which changes expectations about the gender roles. More significantly we work with a lot of other cultures that are not as progressive on women in leadership, so this can create barriers or pockets of male-dominated leadership teams.

New CEO actively recruited 19 women into senior roles. When CEO changed and old guard CEO succeeded, within a year all of those 19 women were individually exited from the organisation. It was systemic and by design not accident.

Very positive experience with gender in the workplace, program across whole company to raise awareness of unconscious gender bias and rethinking what good leadership looks like etc.

I have had a very supportive employer, providing me with a career break which guaranteed my re-employment after having my children. I was also fortunate to have an exceptional female leader for about 10 years.

Dealing with the 'old boys' club' - that is gender bias in older men in high ranking positions.

Having to fight the general corporate perception that women of a certain age will have children and are therefore excluded from development opportunities. Observing the company's unwillingness to facilitate flexible work arrangements on return after parental leave.

Twenty years experienced direct discrimination with a male manager stating that pregnant women lost 80 per cent of their intelligence and working mothers were the most unreliable employees - a complaint to the HR manager resulted in me receiving counselling to accept the nature of the managers cultural upbringing (he was Argentinian but living and working in Australia for 20 years).

On the other hand, I have worked in teams with strong women leaders which have created a culture of mentoring and support for me to progress and develop skills which benefit the business as well as myself personally for future opportunities.

Probably not relevant now but when I was first applying for professional positions one of the big four accounting firms at the time refused to employ females. So when you consider this statement in today's context women in the workforce have come a long way over a period of 40 years.

I've been frustrated when I've not been offered an opportunity because a partner I worked for didn't want to put more pressure on me (not because he thought I wasn't capable). I told him it was my call and if I couldn't do it, I would say so but to please not make decisions for me.

In my experience, women have become more prominent in leadership roles within organisations and also in terms of numbers within organisations. In my early years of employment there were no women in a leadership role. Now I would suggest that at least half of our leadership team are women and have earned their positions.

My employer has struggled locally with keeping female leaders. Many of the structural things such as flexible work hours etc. have been in place for some time, however there is a dearth of female role models within the organisation.

I work flexibly so I can collect my children from daycare 2-3 days per week, however I feel like it is looked down upon, and I feel guilty doing it, even if I started at 7.30am and worked 10 hours the previous day. I have previously had questions from senior male employees asking why I am leaving early, and I feel like I need to make excuses.

Men feeling threatened by intelligent and well-educated women, therefore keeping them from being promoted.

I have been fortunate not to have experienced external barriers as a result of my gender throughout the whole of my career.

Men often find it easier to deal with other men and there are no penalties for indulging that preference.

The biggest issue I have seen play out at work in relation to gender is the double standard. Women who press a point are being 'emotional' - men who press a point are 'having a legitimate stoush' that ends in a beer after work.  Male leaders who complain that women are too 'emotional' and thus 'high maintenance' make it impossible for younger women to know how to stand their ground in a productive way.

Male staff doing similar role with less staff paid substantially more. Discrimination due to marital status.

Every time I attend an industry related function I find I am one of two or three women in the room - often in a room full of 200 men. It's embarrassing. Worse than that - I am generally the only woman with any level of age or seniority in the room as most of my peers dropped out of the workforce years ago to have children, and so are not present at these events. Worse than that - it is extremely difficult to network at these events, as the men avoid you because they think their networking intentions might be misconstrued as hitting on you, and vice versa - it's all very awkward. I have often been the only woman in my team, and have been frequently subjected to porn in the workplace, sexist jokes (which are often genuinely funny), and witnessed genuine discrimination of female colleagues in other departments, or when considering women versus men to fill a vacant role. It's sad, but simply a fact of life. However - at the same time, the men on my teams took care of me as they would a sister. I may have been one of the boys most of the time, but they were quick to help, teach, compete fairly, compete unfairly, and include me in appropriate activities. Contrast this against an all-female environment - I have also seen the shoe on the other foot - having been a woman working in an all-female office environment - it was like being back at an all-girls high school, yet these were adults! It was bitchy, catty, petty, highly politically charged and absolutely nasty. Given the choice I'd take being the only woman stuck with the farting men and sexist jokes over the all-female environment any day. Thankfully I now work in a reasonably well balanced office - just in an unbalanced industry.

My main concern has always been the assumptions that people make about me, what my career aspirations are and what I can and can't do without engaging in discussion with me. Because I'm a working woman with caring responsibilities it does pigeon hole me into a certain stereotype. The only way that anyone will know what I want, and what I'm capable of doing, is to talk with me openly and authentically rather than making assumptions. I also have an issue with traditional gender roles that are peddled incessantly in the media as being the 'ideal'. There is no such thing as an ideal - everyone is different and this difference will drive better outcomes for organisations as well as the country.

Was in a project meeting that was getting nowhere, I had a (project manager) PM say to me "the boys are talking now". I replied "call me back into the meeting when you want a solution." Walked out the meeting with a big smile on my face.

In a board meeting where I was the only female, and when I was making a key point to address a negative discussion, I was asked if it was "that time of month or am I just a bitch all the time?"

You would need an entire book to capture 30 years of experiences, good and bad. My one closing comment is, in all those years of experience I have never seen a change program succeed or metric achieved without targets and measurement of progress so I do not understand why progression of women in to leadership is any different. The results, to date, speak for themselves.

A common experience is being one of only a few women in senior roles and the feeling that it is a boys' club and you are not included, so it can be quite isolating.

I have generally worked in male-dominated industries, where often the only females are in administration/support roles. I can't count the number of times that I have walked into a meeting with new people, and the rest of the room has looked behind me for my boss, or have assumed that the male that I'm with is my manager. Funnily enough, often they are my junior staff member.

Blokey behaviour that excluded women from full participation with our male colleagues, and prevented a level playing field. And not being invited to join the rugby scrum packing down in the boardroom (literally) wouldn't have been the solution I'm looking for.

Forty-six per cent of the management positions are [held by] females.

I see one of the major issues in my workplace as a lack of female leadership.  This tends to mean interviewing panels for leadership roles are always male, and male leadership styles are seen as the 'right' style for senior leadership. I think it is the unconscious bias, rather than the overt sexism, that really holds us back. On a recent interview for a senior leadership role, two of the three candidates were female but all the interviewers were male, and despite having well balanced criteria they should have applied, the team deviated from that to select the male candidate on the basis that he was seen as more likely to succeed in difficult times, which I think is a little bit of gender bias coming out about a 'tougher' leadership style being required.

The best manager, for both the males and females, in a male dominated work group was someone who had educated, career orientated daughters. Maybe it was a coincidence!

Female colleagues I would consider successful all have stay at home husbands or no kids. I fear that companies do not allow females to grow their career when they have kids, instead they get "stuck" (through child bearing years) on the same salary and management level as before their first child.

Good - the organisation had a programme to develop female leaders.  Bad - one of the first things to be cut in cost reviews.

Women can have the capacity to not be as supportive of each other in the corporate upward ladder climb or sidewards lattice crawl. In this day and age, we need to educate our sisterhood to celebrate and enable each other's progressions, even if our own is slower than preferred. We need to educate young men, about equality issues in the workplace and at home to get balance for families of the future and to enable individuals to achieve their goals.

Discrimination on the basis of leadership style.

Male-dominated board/council with set ideas and boys' club mentality in grooming other males for succession rather than females.

If there are four men and one woman in a meeting, the woman would be expected to take notes.

I cannot recall being affected by gender issues in the workplace - but I have also not had children. I have witnessed colleagues who have been left out of projects and not given meaningful work the second they have advised their managers they were pregnant.

I think the biggest issue over the years has been comments by mostly males - intended as jest - that when I walk out the door at 5.00pm or 5.30pm because of childcare commitments, I am having 'an early mark' or that my commitment to work may be lacking. This is part of the unconscious bias that I think is the biggest hindrance to progression in gender equality. That is why I think a combination of mandatory quotas for women in leadership is necessary until we have generational change and corporate culture change.

My experience has been that women promoted into senior executive positions are generally significantly more effective and capable in their jobs than their male counterparts. This is probably because they have had to rise to the top in the chauvinistic workplace that prevailed from post war days to the mid-1990s.

Missed out on promotion to Chief Financial Officer (CFO) role as awarded by Chief Executive Officer (CEO) to his squash buddy, who had less experience, was not as skilled - and was told by CEO that he just could not afford to lose his mate. The whole recruitment process was conducted to engineer the outcome he wanted, by inviting a short list of candidates that did not fit the criteria. He eliminated me in the first round and then took his mate plus one unsuitable candidate through to second round guaranteeing the outcome he wanted.

I work in a male dominated industry, the energy industry (oil and gas). I find that the biggest reaction to my gender as a younger female comes from middle to older aged males who I have to deal with outside my own company. They are not seemingly used to dealing with females and can at times be quite patronising in their attitude e.g. comments and assumptions about my level of knowledge or the fact that they are surprised I am female. I believe that gender difference can work to exclude you from a 'boys' club' - because most managers are still male this is often linked to internal politics or power. I think this could be overcome with a change in culture, with a focus on tightening female networks and increased mentoring and examples of women in leadership.

Very positive recent experience. Limited earlier experience positive or negative. I suspect that in some cases I have been impacted without being conscious to issues. Certainly noticed being in a very male-dominated environment.

There seem to be so many young men in senior roles, without relevant experience or knowledge, who have the confidence 'to give it a go'. Women tend to worry whether they can do 90 per cent of the job right before they even apply. It might be partly a generational issue because we now see 20-25 year old women with similar attitudes.

I have had a good experience at Santos whereby they have allowed me flexibility in my work schedule, without which I would not be able to hold a full-time job.

I am from the mining industry (now Brisbane based but still within a mining company). The key issue I see is a corporate culture dominated by unsympathetic/non-committal executive management teams. Most of these guys come from an 'old school' mentality of sex-based discrimination (simply assume that a woman's career is something that she does until she decides to have children, therefore we don't have to put in too much effort as not long term return). Alas these guys are now so well renumerated their respective wives don't work so they have ZERO understanding of a woman who may decide to return to work (after family years per se) and the issues that go with that. They have half-hearted attempts to provide flexibility in the workplace - in creating environments that foster/celebrate this sort of opportunity - in fact they are sort of forced by their respective executives to put these programs in place but "white ant" the very programs by not enforcing the policies. We have programs in place for nearly two years and still we are losing very capable females (for us many of them have significant technical skills that we actually so desperately require) and there is barely a whimper of the executive team to the situation. We brand those people as 'not any good anyway'/too whiney/too whatever.... it means that in essence we can continue to ignore and not actually walk our talk! I personally have had only one female supervisor and she was amongst the best that I've had. I've had many female peers who have been brilliant... but I can safely say if a few of those had been male then they would have made it too the very top - the mining industry is very tokenistic in its commitment to women's gender diversity and in some respects continues to play favouritism by promoting like-minded males - I hope for long term cultural change but share some despair. Would I want my daughters (I have three) to join the industry? ..afraid not!! Unfortunately it seems that law and accounting may be worse!!

I don't feel like I have ever been discriminated against in the workplace because of gender. I have worked full-time since graduating from uni, except for two years when I took maternity leave. My workplace is sufficiently flexible to enable women with children to rise to senior management roles. The four senior managers in my workplace, reporting to the CEO are all women, two with school age children and one who is a lesbian. I feel fortunate, not discriminated against.

In the water business there is a definite gender imbalance and some closet sexism. You really just have to rise about it. Having a male mentor/promoter definitely helped my career.

The strongest and most influential managers I have had have been female.

Bad: Been asked for sex in return for approval of accommodation when assigned overseas; not allowed to travel; denied access to meetings; been fondled in the lift; been continually confused with other female director (who looks and sounds nothing like me); my ideas ignored until a male has said them; receiving undue media attention purely because of my gender. Good: Being noticed when I outperform; being sponsored by supportive males in influential positions; the supportiveness of many other women.

If a woman has to drop off/leave the pick-up children from school (after school care  generally closes at 6pm) - not seen as good whereas a man - he tends to be a caring parent. If a woman vents, she is emotional, if a man vents, he is assertive as required.

I've had good experiences working with some teams where the slight differences in perspective or thought process has been seen as valuable to the work environment especially from the trades employees (I'm a civil engineer working in a maintenance and construction group). Ironically the only negative experience has come from another project manager (only about five years older than myself) being quite obviously patronising in his interactions with myself and other female colleagues (independent of role within the group - admin or engineer). I'd like to excuse it on the basis of age and learnt behaviour however, he's only about 40. Here's hoping that he does not end up in a position to influence younger members of the team as to appropriateness of behaviour in the workplace.

Being pressured to use up all my annual leave prior to returning to work from maternity leave. I preferred to use it up on a part-time (three days/week) basis so as to be able to return to work with some annual leave still up my sleeve to then be used for those inevitable clashes of parenting and working...or just to be able to take a day off to be with the children and not have to worry about falling deeper into negative leave territory. It resolved in my favour but at some emotional cost and embarrassing tears during negotiations. A company should know not to go head to head with the needs of a seven month old. It's no contest.

As I started my professional career in my mid 30s I have always had to balance work/family commitments, as well as the demands of my husband's career. This potentially limited opportunities/decisions I was able to make regarding work roles. Often found that I had to work hard to prove myself and earn professional credibility. However, had some fabulous, supportive and encouraging male mentors along the way.

I have been fortunate to work in two excellent organisations ([company names removed]) where the leaders of the organisation valued contribution and competence and were generally oblivious to gender. The culture was set at the top and gender has never been an obstacle for me (that I know of!). In fact, sometimes it helps you to stand out from the crowd and be remembered.

Too many to mention! However, my current concern is that women on flexible arrangements seem to be seen as less serious about their career. How can we help change that perception?

Clients assuming I'm support staff rather than professional staff.

I had a situation where I was eight months pregnant and my employer didn't want to go through the trouble of having to train someone up to replace me so they moved my role overseas.

I have had a manager suggest that I was not ready to return to work after having a baby and also use my personal childrearing responsibilities as an excuse for not providing me with an opportunity to be involved in work which would involve travel (as opposed to giving me an option).

I have been belittled as a younger female by older men who subtly patronise or try to intimidate as they believe they are more experienced, know more than you and should not have to listen to your opinions.

Toxic workplace culture with obvious 'boys' club' dominating for all meetings. Subversive practices such as heavier workloads for female staff.

Assumption that women with children are less able to travel or take on demanding roles.

Assumption that women engineers can be used as personal assistants by their senior managers.

1. Often felt invisible when I was younger. That is, it was difficult to be noticed over my 'louder' male colleagues. 2. My boss once said that it would be easier to give me the promotion my male colleague had "if I had a wife at home" like they did. Male colleagues also had promotion over me because they were the single money earners in their family and needed the money while I had a spouse who was in the workforce and thus didn't need the increment in salary as much.

Boys' club. Losing job because I got pregnant. Track record overcomes barriers.

Overlooked for various roles due to being part-time.

I have had good mentors and have never feared doing something out of my comfort zone - if the opportunity comes along a grab it.

No issues with being female in the workplace. It is just hard wanting it all - three children and a career is extremely rewarding but we have to remain realistic about what we can achieve in the workplace and be fair to our families - if you choose to have children then I think we have a responsibility to give them our best - first and then the career comes second. (Not a poor second but it is certainly not as important as giving kids a solid, secure growing environment.)

Senior roles within the organisation not being advertised so that women with the required qualifications could not apply.  Jobs for the boys in other words.

When I returned from maternity leave at the beginning of this year I had a new report [manager].  This manager had never worked with me before, and during our second conversation said that by coming back to work full-time I wasn't going to be able to give the time I needed to my child and insinuated I am being neglectful coming back to work full-time as a mother of a baby/toddler.

Discrimination in the form of male boss inviting male employee to events and not female employees, also preference in giving the male work over female employees. Finally, sexual harassment in the form of suggestive comments made.

I have complete flexibility in my work due to working on a consulting basis - I can work flexibly and get paid for all work I do - this is great. On the down side I experience almost universal surprise at my working conditions indicating they are unusual and also as a structural issue. Consultants do not receive professional development/structured advancement through the work place hierarchy even when they are treated as employees in other respects. I'm happy to trade these for the conditions if it means I get the flexibility. I need at this time I sacrifice the aspects of work that would lead to advancing me professionally.

My current employer is a leader in the gender equity arena, having high percentages of female representation at all levels, including executives, and a range of people management practices that have embedded a culture of gender inclusiveness. My employer (a university) is living proof that an organisation can be successful and also provide gender inclusiveness.

I haven't experienced any personally but I have seen a male Chief Executive Officer (CEO) decide not to make a sensible organisational structure change because the executive who would gain more responsibility was pregnant and he "didn't want to give her more stress".

Favouritism towards males in relation to promotional opportunities -women with kids shouldn't be directors.

Male champions of change are critical. Men must create ways for women to succeed; not just 'mentor' women. We are mentored to death; we need real opportunities created and barriers removed. Talking about their success is not helpful!

I am from a government organisation that states it is very supportive of women in the workplace and in senior roles, and supportive of flexible work practices. However, for operational work, the cultural norm that is walked out by executive is long hours and availability that makes tending to a family daily, very difficult to sustain both. I have an extremely supportive partner who carries the balance of this but I am finding with IT advances designed for work flexibility (dial in to network and portable technology iPads and handhelds) - the invasion and availability expectations from work continue to 'creep' into home life despite trying to put strong boundaries in place myself. Complementary cultural change from and guidance to all from my organisation would support this 'creep' not becoming unsustainable.

Over 10 years in the public service, I didn't feel discriminated against because of gender!

1. The gap in salary between men and women is not acceptable 2. I loathe that there are functions/groups for 'women' - this is reverse sexism. I would prefer to network with both sexes - to this point most senior executives are male, so networking with a group of just women doesn't make sense.

I believe it's up to the manager of the employee who helps in progressing careers, flexible working opportunities and mentoring. If you have a good manager then most of the hurdles can be overcome.

Looking for a new role when recently married, and of a "child bearing age" I felt as though I was over looked for roles. I had a friend experiencing the same thing at a similar time in a different industry. When a previous manager left his role, he suggested I was a suitable candidate to his manager at the time who was very 'boys' club' and did not agree.

My observation is that women are typically in head office roles, don't get offered the opportunities at formative key times in their career to take on line management roles (of course they are never quite ready) and so miss out on top executive roles in the long run. It's the norm for most Australian workplaces I believe. Furthermore, recruiters filter all applications based on stereotypes (I see this even when I am doing the hiring and have to push very had on this) and men will more typically prefer to hire men younger than themselves (ageism also being a problem).

Almost all of the senior management of my workplace is male, while the vast majority of the rest of the workforce is female. I once had a manager tell me that it is a "struggle to control a bunch of hormonal women". The work of the (predominantly female) workforce is greatly under-acknowledged while the (predominantly male) management team celebrate successes that they did not earn.

Male bosses hiring, promoting and talking up their mates regardless of merit. Lots of men like to talk the talk on gender diversity in the workplace but few really walk the walk when it comes to encouraging workplace culture that promotes merit-based hiring, promotion.

I have one manager who comments about career progression. He mentioned that if you are working part-time, there is no opportunity for your career progression. That to me is discrimination to women who are performing an important role in the society, taking care of the next generation and to guide them into being a responsible corporate citizen.

Again, I think women are our own worst enemy - some are judgemental about the choices others made rather than supportive and understanding. Everyone is different and that should be celebrated.

As CEO I initiated flexible workplace conditions, appointed a female managed onto the executive management team just before she went on maternity leave.  Chairman is pro women in senior positions.

In response to question four ["Have you ever been discriminated against on the basis of your gender in the workplace?"], I would prefer to say I suspect I have faced discrimination rather than yes or no. My experience of promotion would suggest it is likely that the boys' club mentality has prevailed.

Reluctant approval of working from home arrangements (one day) after returning to work full-time after second child. Approval given on six month trial basis only. Employers should be bending over backwards to ensure high performing women return to the workforce and can achieve work/life balance. If women fall off the ladder at the time they have small children, they lose the ability to contribute and compete in the same way that men do. Please note that in answer to the question above re: have you ever been discriminated against, it is the discrimination that one doesn't know about that is probably the most insidious.

Working in a firm that has a bias to promoting young white males I think that gender issues are largely a corporate cultural problem. Another problem is that men promote other men so we need more female leaders who are good role models. Finally, it is very difficult for women returning from maternity leave (less than 10 per cent of women in my firm stay more than 12 months after returning from maternity leave - I think the statistics say it all).

Performing the same role but paid $30,000 less a year.

Being asked in an interview how I would manage my children as the male interviewer felt the need to explain his wife would not leave their children to work.