This research focuses on senior academic women in Australian universities in the 21st century with particular attention to issues surrounding the politics of career progression, research culture and knowledge governance. In asking why so few women succeed in reaching senior executive roles in Australian universities, the discussion sets out to identify and expose some of the politics of gender equity in the academic environment of higher education, in context of the pressures of research accountability and knowledge management of the restructured university. It claims that if we are to identify and interrogate impediments for women academics we need to understand these issues in broader political contexts of the institutional cultures of globalisation. Data of women in senior academic roles in Australia provide the starting points to review recent literature, identify impediments for women and raise further questions. The discussion then turns to ways of seeking solutions through nation-wide measures in Australian universities. It concludes with a brief examination of the implications for women subjects and the recasting of academic identities. The Australian academic context is the focus but the applications are wider than this one location.