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Going up? Women in the public sector

Mary McMahon (School of Education, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia)
Brigid Limerick (School of Education, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia)
Neil Cranston (School of Education, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia)
Cheryl Andersen (School of Education, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia)

Career Development International

ISSN: 1362-0436

Article publication date: 1 December 2006




This paper aims to document women's reflections on their careers over a ten‐year period to provide quantitative baseline data on which to frame follow‐up in‐depth interviews. The participants work in the public service in Queensland (Australia) and had been recommended for, and participated in, women in management (WIM) courses conducted in the early 1990s.


Data were collected by means of a survey (containing closed and open items) which gathered demographic data and data related to employment history, perceptions of success and satisfaction, and the women's future career expectations.


Findings revealed that the percentage of women in middle and senior management had increased over the ten‐year period, although not to the extent one might have anticipated, given that the women had been targeted as high flyers by their supervisors. While not content with their classification levels (i.e. seniority), the majority of the cohort viewed their careers as being successful.

Practical implications

Questions arise from this study as to why women are still “not getting to the top”. There are also policy implications for the public service concerning women's possible “reinventive contribution” and training implications associated with women only courses.


The study is part of an Australian longitudinal study on the careers of women who attended a prestigious women‐only management course in the early 1990s in Queensland. This is now becoming a study of older women.



McMahon, M., Limerick, B., Cranston, N. and Andersen, C. (2006), "Going up? Women in the public sector", Career Development International, Vol. 11 No. 7, pp. 609-618.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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