New General Motors CEO Mary Barra.

Huge job: General Motors' new chief executive, Mary Barra.

Women. Get right away from that people management role you are in right now.

Yes. Step away from the communications team. And you, yes you with the pencil skirt, leave the marketing division today.

If you decide to stay in that comfortable job with those apparently "female skills", recognise it's your decision to lean away.

If you are a woman and you are ambitious, there are two things poking you in the eye. One is the idea that you, as a woman, will somehow be more nurturing, more caring, maternal, and therefore you will - should - somehow use those "innate" skills to transform your work environment.

The other is that even if you think you don't have a maternal bone in your body, it's something you will definitely develop. So maybe don't apply to be in the leadership team until your ovaries have dried up.

Fortunately, if Mary Barra ever had that kind of idiocy directed at her, she ignored it. Barra, the new chief executive of General Motors, is the first woman with two children to run a global car manufacturer. Oh sorry, she's also the first woman.

Barra has a huge job, those two children and a husband. And I list them in order of their global importance.

Her new position, running General Motors, is a big deal in an industry run by men - and in their imaginations, run for men. (Just as an aside, I reckon the only time the car sales people don't address their remarks to your male partner is if you don't take him with you. Even then, they ask after him.)

But more important than any of the personal details is Barra's training for her leadership position. She is an engineer. Or was an engineer. Now she runs the place and replaces the years of GM being run by "financial" experts. The moral here is that she did her training in the key area in which GM makes its money. As more women enter those workplaces with core business skills, there will be less and less opportunity for workplace resistance.

It's a lesson for all women, says Marian Baird, professor of employment relations at the University of Sydney.

"We know women dominate human resources, marketing, communications, but getting to the top leadership means stepping out of traditional gender roles," says Baird.

"Stepping out of those traditional roles and into the core business is the most critical [aspect] if women are going to break through the glass ceiling."

But even more critical than an individual woman breaking through is this: what will she do when she gets there.

For decades, much of the culture around gender equality has been based on the top positions. It's all about women on boards. Women as CEOs. Women in management. I'm as guilty as the next feminist of focusing on pinnacle positions. And it is exciting.

But government boards are now hitting 40 per cent targets and the corporates will be dragged along after them (how is it that these organisations, which are supposed to be filled to the brim with entrepreneurship and innovation, can't innovate diversity into their thinking?). And those targets were hit well before Sheryl Sandberg published Lean In.

So, now the feminist focus will need to be what happens below.

Do we really imagine women who have learned how to deal in the male workplace are somehow going to bring innate kindness and goodness to the culture in a working environment which never rewards those attributes?

If we are going to bring gender equity to the front, let's confront this idea of what men do versus what women do.

Let's not expect of women what we don't expect of men. And, conversely, expect of men what we expect of women. If women are going to lean in and make their organisations stronger because that's what diversity does, they should bring a few women with them. And so should the men.

It is not just about what happens at a management level. Workplaces need to factor in flexibility not because it is good for women with families but because it is good for everyone to have a choice.

Not every man wants to be CEO. Not every woman wants a job which allows her to pick up the kids or take her mother to the doctor.

As Nareen Young, chief executive officer of the Diversity Council of Australia, puts it: "The whole of the workplace needs to change and it is a big call to have our sisters at the top responsible for that."

Barra's GM appointment marks the beginning of the end for male domination of corporate culture. It's too big to go missing. But we can't expect her to fix the rest of the rotting modern workplace culture from the top down.

We will have to do it ourselves, working together from the ground up. Part of that will be ensuring our daughters don't go into girly jobs. And reminding them that workplace change happens collectively.

Twitter @jennaprice or email jenna_p@bigpond.net.au