Purpose: To provide an alternative focus on the gender imbalance on corporate boards and in executive positions in Australia, by moving away from the traditional focus on skills, education and experience, and examining the effects absences from the work force may have on key work relationships and access to critical networks. Originality: This research will be the first study to examine the decay or deterioration of key relationships and levels of social capital for women after absences from the workplace in Australia. Key Literature: The study will draw from Halpern’s (2005) micro, meso and macro levels of analysis to examine how cultural norms can affect individual behavior in establishing and maintaining key relationships at work, as well as network scholarship (Burt, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2002; Granovetter,1973; Ibarra, 1992, 1993 1997;Lin, 1986, 1999). Research Design: Both qualitative and quantitative methods will be used. Interviews will be conducted with successful women and men to gain in-depth information about true experience and behaviour. A survey will be conducted to gain a broader reach. Participants will be identified from the researcher’s own contacts and a snowballing method. Research implications: This research will shed light on barriers and facilitators that affect women’s pursuit of director and senior management positions through their access to critical career networks and the subsequent building of social capital and its outcomes. It will specifically address the effect on key relationships after absences from work and whether a ‘sponsor’ can ameliorate any negative effects on career opportunities due to absences from the workplace. Practical & social implications: This study will contribute to a greater understanding of the sociological factors that facilitate or hinder women’s access to board and executive roles. Identifying these factors will provide a basis for change at lower levels of the organisation where a significant drop-out rate of women occurs. It will provide a base for improving organisational procedures and policies, which may have being informed by gendered ideals and culture, and inadvertently extend inequality in access to key networks.