IT and human resources must work hand-in-hand to increase flexible working arrangements, according to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency's (WGEA) public affairs executive manager Yolanda Beattie.
Speaking at the recent 10th-anniversary event for ACS Women in Sydney, Beattie said that largely inflexible workplaces were a structural barrier to women's ascension of the corporate hierarchy.
"Workplaces - other than the highly-feminised workplaces - have been built by men, for men," Beattie said.
"They're still largely inflexible, you still have the stereotypes of the ideal worker very much drawn in masculine traits.
"The idea of being in before the boss arrives and out after they leave is still very ingrained in Australian workplace culture, [and there's] a 'cloning of self' tendency that means that those that hold positions of power tend to recruit and develop people that look like them.
"And of course [as] the positions of power are still dominated by white, middle-aged, heterosexual men, lo and behold it's white, middle-aged, heterosexual men that tend to ascend those corporate hierarchies."
Beattie said that workplace inflexibility could be resolved via collaboration of IT and HR.
"IT plays a really important role in partnering with HR in tackling the bigger structural issues that we face around flexibility," she said.
"Flexibility has to move from this conversation between managers and employees to being seen as the future of work, and IT and HR have to work hand-in-hand as happy bedfellows to change the way we see work being done in workplaces across this country."
However, she used her address at the ACS Women event to issue a rallying call around gender equality - particularly at the executive level - which she described as a "systemic problem" and one that necessitated a more complex - and complete - fix.
"It's not something that will be fixed by initiatives and programs. It will not be fixed by mentoring and women's networks," Beattie said.
"We have to change the system and that takes a root-and-branch review of all of the decision-making forums in workplaces, all of the management control systems, put [a focus on] all of them and find out why women aren't getting attracted to those industries and being promoted accordingly.
"Once we diagnose a system within workplaces we can then develop a long-term strategy that puts management and leadership on the course to a long-term structural and cultural change."
Beattie produced WGEA statistics that showed women make up "just one in five of the top three layers of management in the ICT sector".
However, she said pay gaps for women compared to men were far lower in ICT than in other industry sectors - and the gap shrank the further up the corporate hierarchy women were able to climb.
"When women do enter the industry they actually enter at reasonably high paying levels," Beattie said.
"At the executive level, that gap goes down to just 2.7 percent which I was actually quite stunned about, [while] at the senior management level the pay gap's in favour of women.
"But the fact remains that there are very few on the ground when it comes to those senior roles."