Traditionally male-dominated industries such as mining and energy are doing a better job than other sectors at promoting women into management positions.
A new study by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency says companies were failing to maximise the potential of highly educated women, and a third of firms they surveyed had no women in key management positions.
On a positive note, some male-dominated industries - such as mining and electricity and gas and waste Services - were doing a better job at pulling women through the management levels, the study said.
The data collected from 11,000 Australian employers, covering four million workers, found women comprise close to 40 per cent of junior management, 26.1 per cent of key management but only 17.3 of chief executive officers.
Agency director Helen Conway said employers were failing to exploit the potential of Australia's highly educated female talent pool.
"Women face clearly defined structural and cultural barriers in the workplace that make it harder for them to rise up the management ranks," she said.
Gender bias was likely to creep into decisions on remuneration and pay raises.
There was a lot more work to do on increasing women's appointments to boards.
Ms Conway hopes the data will be a constructive tool for employers to lift their game.
Liberal senator Michaelia Cash, who assists the prime minister on women's issues, said the data showed there was much room for improvement.
She said increasing female participation in the workforce was essential to boosting Australia's productivity and economic growth.
EMPLOYMENT GENDER EQUALITY STATS
- Women 26.1 per cent of key management
- Women 17.3 per cent of chief executive officers
- 8.8 per cent of organisations have set a target to lift women on board numbers
- 13.6 per cent of employers have a strategy for flexible working
- Less than one in five employers have policies to support workers experiencing domestic