how learning & development propels gender equality and organisational growth.

According to the 2024 Randstad Workmonitor research, 72% of women surveyed highlight the importance of learning and development (L&D) as vital to them in their careers, compared to 66% of men. 

Despite this clear desire and need for L&D, women are less likely to have received this support from their employer, with less than half of women (46%) indicating they have received L&D support from their employer to future-proof their careers, compared with more than half (55%) of men.



These worrying trends highlight a more significant challenge for women as workers face the spectre of job disruptions caused by generative AI. It also increases the risk for employers that as women move through the talent pipeline into roles with more responsibilities or seniority, they may not have had access to the same qualifications or certifications compared to their male counterparts, putting them at a disadvantage later in their careers.

Hidden obstacles quietly impede women’s career progress, posing significant risks and future costs for affected women and employers. This issue is especially critical for businesses facing talent shortages or striving to enhance gender equality, as they might overlook the importance of equal access to educational and professional development opportunities. From implicit biases to the underrepresentation of women in critical roles, these covert factors demand our attention. Here is why workplaces that offer equal opportunities are set up for success, not just for women but for the collective benefit of organisations seeking to harness the full spectrum of talent within their ranks.

an image of a survey of the Randstad Workmonitor research
an image of a survey of the Randstad Workmonitor research

3 reasons why having a strong L&D focus on women is the best investment for gender equality and organisational growth:

  1. It improves retention. 

    49% of women surveyed have said career progression is a priority for them right now, compared to 44% of men.

  2. It helps attract the best talent.

    Among surveyed individuals, 72% of women prioritise training and development when evaluating potential employers, while only 66% of men express the same sentiment.

  3. It brings more agility and innovation to your organisation.

    The future of work is not set in stone, but change is inevitable. A strong strategy for improving women’s access to L&D signals that an organisation is adaptable and future-focused. Adaptability is key for organisations to remain competitive and for women to maintain their career resilience in an ever-changing skills market and an AI-driven world. While more than half of women (54%) share the sentiment that their employers are failing to help them develop future-proof skills (such as AI), investing into upskilling can help you get the edge over your competitors.

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invisible barriers preventing women from accessing development opportunities.

From a L&D perspective, there are specific invisible barriers that may affect women’s access to educational opportunities and professional development. These barriers can create disparities in skill development, hinder career progression, and contribute to gender inequality in the workforce. 

an image of a woman leaning on her desk smiling
an image of a woman leaning on her desk smiling

Download the report for actionable tips on how to identify and deal with these barriers. 

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implicit bias in training selection.

Implicit biases can influence decisions about who is selected for training opportunities. Suppose decision-makers hold an unconscious gender stereotype bias. In that case, they may be more inclined to choose male employees over equally or more qualified female counterparts, perpetuating gender disparities in skill development.

Gender stereotypes can influence the types of training deemed suitable for men and
women. For example, there might be a tendency to steer women toward soft skills training (e.g. communication) rather than technical or leadership development programs, limiting their exposure to diverse skill sets. Women are often underrepresented in technical and leadership roles. This underrepresentation can result in fewer tailored training programs for women in these areas, limiting their opportunities for skill development in critical areas of the workforce.

When looking at the Workmonitor research data, when asked to prioritise development opportunities, women predominantly chose AI training (13%), coaching & mentoring (10%), and wellbeing & mindfulness (10%). Furthermore, 65% of women express a desire to take on more managerial responsibilities, compared to 58% of men. However, women are less likely to have received support from their employer to develop skills to future-proof their careers (46%) compared to men (55%).

an image of placing sticky notes on the glass walls of the meeting room
an image of placing sticky notes on the glass walls of the meeting room


Research suggests that women may sometimes underestimate their abilities and be less likely to apply for technical training opportunities. This hesitance
can stem from societal expectations and stereotypes. At the same time, when it comes to expectations as to who is responsible for career development, women tend to place more responsibility on themselves for training and career development, with 24% believing it entirely sits with them, compared to only 14% of men, who say the same. Additionally, 18% of women feel entirely responsible for their motivation at work, compared to 15% of men. (workmonitor 2023).


workplace culture impacting learning.

The overall culture of a workplace can affect the learning environment. If a workplace lacks inclusivity, is not supportive, or has a competitive culture, it can create barriers for women to pursue learning opportunities and participate fully in training programs. An unsupportive workplace culture not only hinders employee development but forces women out of business, with 48% of women reporting to have left an employer due to a toxic workplace, compared to 36% of men who reported the same.

an image of a man talking with a woman while seated in front of her
an image of a man talking with a woman while seated in front of her

work-life balance challenges.

Women often juggle multiple responsibilities, including work and caregiving. Limited flexibility in training schedules, coupled with a lack of support for work-life balance, can create barriers for women who may find it challenging to commit to
additional learning outside regular working hours. Responsibilities outside of work also disproportionately affect women, with 18% reporting that their career
ambition changes depending on external factors, compared to 13% of men. Notably, 30% of women report that their employer has become stricter about staff coming into the office in recent months, compared to 22% of men.



Invisible barriers preventing women from accessing L&D opportunities present a real cost to both employers and professional women who want to grow in their careers. The findings of this report highlight the pressing need to address the unequal access to upskilling opportunities between men and women in the Australian workforce.

The research underscores the significant disparity in perceptions and experiences regarding career advancement, training, and development, with women consistently expressing a greater need for these opportunities compared to men. Moreover,
the data reveals that women are disproportionately affected by workplace challenges such as toxic cultures and limited flexibility, leading to higher rates
of attrition. 

By recognising and addressing these invisible barriers, organisations have the opportunity to not only promote gender equality when it comes to access to L&D but also drive organisational growth through a highly skilled workforce who stay with the business longer. By fostering a culture of inclusivity, providing tailored training programs, and prioritising work-life balance, employers can create an environment where all employees, regardless of gender, can thrive and contribute to the organisation’s success.

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“In the current work landscape, employers that will keep their competitive edge are the ones to invest in women’s L&D - not only as a matter of equality, but also as a strategic imperative for sustainable business success in the evolving job market.”

Madeline Hill
general manager - equity, diversity and inclusion talent strategy & advisory randstad australia

how can randstad help?

Randstad is the world’s largest talent company and a partner of choice to clients. We are committed to providing equitable opportunities to people from all backgrounds and helping them remain relevant in the rapidly changing world of work. 

We offer specialised recruitment and HR solutions across the broadest range of skills, disciplines and industry sectors. Through our local expertise, we are powered by a global footprint. 

Want to learn more? Download our report to find out how to invest in women through upskilling. 

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