We’ve come a long way since the times when a woman would have to give up her career when she became a married woman. Given that this was last enforced in 1966 you’d think we might have even eradicated gender disparity in the workplace by now.

My experience in working in two quite different workplaces however, have really driven it home that change might not be happening as fast we think.

In a previous position, men dominated the workplace in small but significant ways. It wasn’t just the footballs that flew over cubicles during discussions of last night’s games. While there were in fact, more women in total than men, all managerial and leadership positions were taken up by men. The boys club culture was also prevalent; the women of the office were always someone left out of steak house lunches. It might feel small, but when business decisions are often informally made on these outings, you start to feel the difference.

My current job has an equal amount of men and women, even in leadership positions. You can really feel the difference. When you’re included in all business decisions, both formally and informally as well as surrounded by female role models you can look up to, it really helps your confidence in advancing your career.

While feeling left out of a few business interactions may not seem all that important, if we look at things on a societal level we can begin to understand why it makes all the difference.

As a society, Australia has been working towards offering equal opportunity to women in the workplace and there has been some progress. However, it’s advancement towards getting rid of gender disparity is happening at a glacial pace.

According to the Australian Government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency, the gender gap in our workplace is still quite prevalent. Women are less likely to advance in their careers as far as men, we accumulate less retirement or superannuation savings as men, and we still earn less them men. In fact, some recent dismal findings suggest that Australia may even be 50 years away from closing the wage gap. Elizabeth Lyons, Workplace Gender Equality Agency boss, was asked during Senate estimates hearings how long it would be before the pay gap was closed. Her response was a stark remind about how far we need to go. She said, “The analysis estimates that Australia is 50 years away from closing the pay gap, with some countries being as far as 300 years away.”

Some industries are doing much better at this than others. Typically, masculine roles have remained that way throughout the years. While we have Gina Rinehart as Australia’s most well-know mining CEO, the industry itself only has 2.6% of chief executive officers and only 16% of employees overall as women. Despite the massive investment being put into promoting STEM subjects to young girls, only quarter of IT graduates and fewer than one tenth engineering graduates are women. According to the National Innovation and Science agenda, women occupy fewer than one in five senior researcher positions in Australian universities and research institutes, and around one quarter of the STEM workforce overall.

This is why the conversation and attitudes need to change, and fast. If women are consistently being left out of business decisions, with no prominent role models to aspire to, we cannot progress as a society. The outdated “boys club” mentality needs to be stamped out and business models made to be more inclusive.

Avril Henry, internationally-acclaimed keynote speaker and provocateur who is passionate about transforming leadership models sums it up well. “If we can change the language, we change the conversation. We can start changing policies, practices and attitudes,” she says. “When we do that we not only liberate women but liberate men, who are then able to pursue other interests and hands-on parenting.”

Rebel Boylan|@rebel_deborah
Rebel dreams of freelancing from cute hipster coffee shops. Currently can only afford to work at Reid