The glass ceiling still looms large over some industries in Australia. Women looking to progress into leadership roles find themselves butting up against invisible barriers to success, despite having the necessary qualifications and experience.
For Asian Australians, there's another obstacle to contend with. It's known as the "bamboo ceiling", a term coined by American executive coach Jane Hyun back in 2005. Like its transparent counterpart, it describes a series of cultural and organisational barriers that prevent an individual — in this case, Asian employees — progressing in their career.
Dr Yumiko Kadota encountered both ceilings while working as a surgeon in a public hospital in New South Wales.
The bamboo one, she said, is built largely on the 'docility myth'.
"The 'bamboo ceiling' affects Asian people, both men and women, who try to go for leadership positions, because there's this idea that we're very timid culturally and that we're not interested in leadership roles," she told Mamamia's No Filter podcast.
"I had both a bamboo and a glass ceiling. And I couldn't break them."
Listen: Dr Kadota on the brutal reality of life as a surgeon.
Dr Kadota was raised in Singapore to Japanese parents, and moved to Australia when she was 15.
When she entered the workforce, the microaggressions — both sexist and racist — accumulated over time, adding to the weight of the tortuous work schedule (12-day weeks, 10 days of which involved 24-hour on-call shifts).
As Dr Kadota explores in her book Emotional Female, her working environment was toxic and, at times, outwardly hostile.
A senior male surgeon would proposition her in Japanese ("Take your clothes off") so no one else would understand, and then laugh about it. And at least one patient asked not to be treated by her because of her race.
"She saw me walk in, and without me even saying anything, she said, 'I'll have an Aussie, thanks.'" Dr Kadota recalled.
"I didn't know how to cope with it. So I went and hid in a broom cupboard until I could calm down... It took a lot for me to go back out there. I had to try to be as professional as possible, to just see it as my job. I'm here to help a patient; it doesn't matter what she said, it doesn't matter how I feel personally about that interaction, I'm just gonna go back and treat her.
"And in the end, when she realised that I knew what I was doing she was apologetic. But that was my first experience of racism in healthcare. And it definitely did affect how I felt about myself within the healthcare system for the years moving forward."
Then there were the more subtle presentations.
Despite being in the top three of her anatomy class and roundly praised by her superiors during her internships and residency terms, she was routinely passed over for learning opportunities for blonde, conventionally attractive female colleagues.