Australian Council of Trade Unions president Ged Kearney says the glass ceiling will get higher under a Coalition government.

Ms Kearney says Labor brought in paid parental leave and is looking at introducing more family-friendly work arrangements.

"Compare that to what the Coalition is doing. We've got Tony Abbott very much stuck in the 1950s," she said.

"You have Julie Bishop saying women can't have it all.

"You've got Barnaby Joyce not doing anything for families or women."

Ms Kearney said unions weren't perfect and needed to lead the way.

She said women made up half of the workforce and half of the nation's union members.

"But less than one third actually rise to positions of secretary, assistant secretary, presidents or vice presidents," she told the Australian Workers' Union national conference on the Gold Coast.

"We need to make sure that women's participation in the union doesn't drop off when they move off the shop floor into the union management structure."

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