Home' Defence Magazine : Issue 2 2015 Contents VARIETY ADDS
32 Defence Issue 2 2015
Why does Defence need recruitment targets for women, Indigenous
people and other groups? Because workforce diversity not only
improves capability but brings with it a host of other benefits.
FROM THE CDF
Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin
VENTS such as NAIDOC Week
and International Women’s Day
highlight the value and importance
True workforce diversity is
achieved when an organisation not only includes
people, both APS and ADF, who represent
a good gender balance and a range of ages,
ethnic and cultural backgrounds, religious
beliefs, sexual orientation and family or carer
responsibilities but also values the variety of
experience and perspectives diversity brings.
Defence actively supports the inclusion of
all our members, regardless of their background
and we have committed to a range of initiatives
that promote a diverse and inclusive workforce.
However, when I speak to people throughout
the Defence organisation, I am often asked how
diversity improves our capability and why we
need recruitment targets.
A diverse workforce is the antidote to “group
think”. The greater the diversity, the greater
the range of ideas and insights to challenge the
accepted norm, assess risks and develop creative
In my own office I have a culturally diverse
staff of male and female, non-commissioned
and commissioned military personnel as well as
a number of APS staff.
Collectively, they represent a good cross
section of the Defence organisation in both a
professional and a personal sense.
From corporal to colonel and equivalent,
each person brings their own view of the
organisation to the table. They are the first
people to tell me how it really is and their
candour on behalf of their peers and the mix
of unique insights helps me see issues from a
different point of view.
If you take the example of women in
the ADF, the Australians who deployed to
Afghanistan as part of the Female Engagement
Teams (FET) provided an invaluable link
between International Security Assistance Force
and Afghan women.
The FETs opened a new avenue to reach
out to the women and their families. Cultural
sensitivities had prevented their male colleagues
from achieving this. As a result we were able
to deliver healthcare and education programs to
some of Uruzgan’s most vulnerable people and
make a direct contribution to nation building
and security in the province.
In order to serve our community, the modern
ADF should represent the contemporary
Australian population we are drawn from.
Women make up 51 per cent of the national
population and 40.7 per cent of the APS
workforce but represent only 15.3 per cent of
the ADF workforce and, on average, women
make up just under 14 per cent of our total
When you look at individual operations,
that number rises to 25 per cent for Operation
Mazurka and 21.5 per cent for Operation
Accordian. On the recent Exercise Pacific
Partnership, the total female participation rate
was 38 per cent. This is due largely to the
exercise’s medical focus but it also points to
one of the key change issues we are trying to
We already have more women in the
ADF today than we did a year ago, but the
majority of women choose health, logistic and
administrative roles. Removing the restrictions
that prevented women from serving in some
ADF roles is only part of the solution.
The other aspect is about changing attitudes
and our challenge is to encourage women
to consider “non-traditional” career paths –
for example, those in the combat, security,
engineering and aviation fields.
Defence-wide programs such as Project
Suakin, which provides a broader, contemporary
range of flexible service arrangements, are
making an enduring military career more
appealing to both men and women.
Each of the services has also introduced its
own initiatives aimed at supporting women.
The Navy and Air Force have set targets to
increase female employment to 25 per cent by
2023, with Army’s target at 15 per cent.
Unfortunately, the notion of “targets” is
not well understood. It is often misinterpreted
as counter to merit-based recruitment or
Selection should always be based on the best
person for the job but the idea of increasing
diversity without introducing a target is like
saying you want to be an Olympic champion
without setting some goals along the way.
It’s an admirable ambition but you will never
achieve it if you don’t have a plan with strategic
milestones to accomplish.
In the same way, we will never reach our
goal to increase the number of women in the
ADF if we don’t set ourselves realistic targets
and put programs in place to help us achieve
Closely associated with our diversity targets
is the notion of proportionate representation.
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