Women who hold a position of power within a company are perceived very differently to men who hold similar positions. While women don’t get credited for being strong or robust, they usually face critical slurs such as being overbearing and emotional.

McDonald Murholme Senior Associate Bianca Mazzarella explores industry stereotypes and the need for employers to address employees in managerial roles evenly.


It comes as no surprise that women in managerial roles are often perceived as emotional and bossy while their male counterparts who portray similar management characteristics are perceived as powerful, strong leaders.

The differences in perception of leaders has been analysed tenfold and yet there are continuous statistics that highlight men are perceived to be better leaders than women.

The most recent statistics released by Australian Government body, Workplace Gender Equality Agency shows that women in leadership positions are still the minority.

While women comprise 46% of employees in Australia, just 14% of women hold chair positions, 15% are CEOs, 23% in directorships, and 27% are key management personnel in Agency organisations.

There are many hurdles for women to achieve higher managerial or leadership positions. These include maternity leave which can in some cases reset the ‘career clock’, unequal pay, and gender discrimination that is on the back of traditional patriarchal structures that are still present in organisations today.


For a female manager or leader, to portray characteristics that are seen to be masculine can often be misinterpreted.

Risk taking is traditionally seen as a masculine attribute that is reflected positively upon males in the financial game. A popular theory called the ‘Lehman Sisters Hypothesis,’ states well known bank failures throughout history would not have taken place if there were more female staff in management as women are more risk adverse.

The research proven theory highlights that women are more risk adverse but gendered behavioural stereotypes link this to aggression.

The political stage is no stranger to gender inequality with Australian Commonwealth Parliament comprised of only 33% females, according to the Parliamentary Library Figures.

For women who choose to lead within the political sector, their choices are scrutinised by way of stepping away from domestic life, being called emotional, and dissecting appearances. Women who lead in politics fall under the stereotype of emotional yet detached, whereby a male counterpart would not.


In order to even the playing field and to reduce the risk of litigation for the employer, employees within managerial roles should be addressed evenly. In doing so, employers alleviate potential for discrimination.

Employees should be managed on a business level, not personal and irrelevant of gender.

When assessing management through performance reviews, employers need to identify elements of competence and confidence; attributes that are distinctly separated but often blurred.


The Fair Work Commission is strict on employers who discriminate against their employees based on attributes of race, sex, sexual preference, age, marital status, family or carer’s responsibilities, pregnancy, religion, and political opinion.

If your management style is coming into question and you believe that the motives are due to your gender, than you can lodge an application under the General Protections provisions under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth).

The responsibility would then fall upon the employer to prove that they have not discriminated against you.

Another pathway may be making a complaint to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010.

If you feel that you have been discriminated against in the workplace, we recommend seeking legal advice.


Reference: Is your management style in question?, This Woman Can, 8.12.2017

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