To read the full version of this content please select one of the options below:

The barriers and enablers to career and leadership development: An exploration of women’s stories in two work cultures

Susan Elizabeth Mate (School of Management, College of Business, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia)
Matthew McDonald (Asian Graduate Centre, RMIT University, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)
Truc Do (Asian Graduate Centre, RMIT University, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)

International Journal of Organizational Analysis

ISSN: 1934-8835

Article publication date: 7 December 2018

Issue publication date: 9 September 2019



The purpose of this study is to contrast how the relationship between career and leadership development and workplace culture is experienced by women in two different countries and the implications this has for human resource development initiatives.


The study used a qualitative narrative research design to understand how the lived experiences of Australian and Vietnamese early- to mid-career female academics is engendered.


The study identified a number of key barriers and enablers that affected women’s career and leadership development. For the Australian participants, the main barrier included the competing demands of work and life and male dominated organisational cultures that discriminate against women in covert ways. The main enabler was mentoring and the building of professional networks that provided their careers with direction and support. For the Vietnamese participants, the main barriers were overt and included male-dominated organisational and societal cultures that limit their career and leadership development opportunities. The main enabler was having a sponsor or person with power in their respective organisation who would be willing to support their career advancement and gaining recognition from colleagues and peers.

Research limitations/implications

Gaining a deeper understanding of the barriers and enablers that effect women’s career and leadership development can be used to investigate how culturally appropriate developmental relationships can create ways to overcome the barriers they experience.


The study analysed the contrasting experiences of barriers and enablers from two cultures. The participants narrated stories that reflected on the gender politics they experienced in their career and leadership development. The narrative comparisons provide a unique lens to analyse the complex cultural experience of gender and work with potential implications for human resource development.



Declaration of conflicting interests: The authors declared no potential conflicts of interests with respect to the authorship and/or publication of this article.

Funding: This project was funded by RMIT University, Vietnam and RMIT University, Melbourne internal research grants.


Mate, S.E., McDonald, M. and Do, T. (2019), "The barriers and enablers to career and leadership development: An exploration of women’s stories in two work cultures", International Journal of Organizational Analysis, Vol. 27 No. 4, pp. 857-874.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited