The problem with glass ceiling mentality

Mon 16 Oct

New data reveals women may not be applying for senior level roles in the same numbers as men – but anecdotal evidence shows that when women do apply for top jobs, they have a greater chance of securing the role.

That’s according to Clare McCartin, Group Manager for Executive & Boards at recruitment and HR consulting company Davidson, a company that recently launched a Top 50 Public Sector Women program in Victoria.  The initiative called for nominations for women who are doing impressive work in leadership roles in the state’s local and state government sectors and Statutory Authorities.

Ms McCartin said the Top 50 program is a milestone because it is the first initiative of this kind to directly focus on women in the Victorian Public Sector.

“Over the past few years, there has been a significant shift to address the gender diversity imbalance in senior positions in state and local government. While there has certainly been a positive shift in this area, we need a laser-like focus across the sector to increase the number of women in senior-level positions,” Ms McCartin said.

Recent data from Victoria’s Public Sector Commission (VPSC) shows that in 2017, women hold 48 percent of executive positions within the state government departments, up from 39 percent in 2011. The state government has an employment rate of 67 percent for women, an impressive 21 percent higher than the state average, with woman accounting for 46 percent of the general Victorian workforce.  The local government is recording slightly lower numbers, with about 16.45 percent of women in CEO roles and about 34 percent in Level 2 management positions.

But despite the disparity in numbers across the tiers of government, experts say it’s clear women in executive roles need ongoing support and mentoring to continue closing the gap between the gender divide.

VPSC’s research showed a higher representation of women in executive roles in the health sector and water and land management has one of the lowest number of female executives.

Catherine Morley, Chief Executive of Rural Northwest Health, made the Top 50 list and said she isn’t surprised the health sector has such a strong female representation. In her team alone, she has six female executives and a board made up of six females and one male.

“I believe that’s partly to do with our role model at the top, the Minister for Health and the Health Secretary who are both females, and in health we have to truly reflect the people we service and look after,” Catherine said.

“To just have male representation making all of the key decisions, doesn’t work as it misses half the audience of who we look after.”

Catherine admits a lot still needs to be done to encourage more women to take the leap and said a lot of that comes back to the organisation being more flexible with their offerings.

“We need to see more mentoring and flexibility,” she said. “A truly flexible organisation supports and is in tune with their staff and their needs to fulfil their roles at work and their roles outside of work.

“It’s even harder in rural towns where available child care options can let the process down. There are many external factors that we collectively, from universities, government, organisations to the employers need to address.”

The same research also showed a higher number of female staff in junior roles as compared to the executive level (EO1-EO3). The most Junior roles reported a 73 percent female representation compared to 32 percent at the highest level (EO1).

“(With the Top 50) we wanted to put a spotlight on inspirational female leaders, to highlight their work and to help create role models for other women working in the sector,” Ms McCartin said.

To view the full list of the Top 50 Public Sector Women (Victoria) visit