Home' Defence Magazine : Issue 8 2010 Contents 66 www.defence.gov.au/defencemagazine
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THE LAST WORD
Defence is involved with a diverse range of external organisations, and in line with
the Chief of the Defence Force’s Action Plan for the Recruitment and Retention of Women,
we have spoken to the Sex Discrimination Commissioner and Commissioner responsible
for Age Discrimination, Ms Elizabeth Broderick.
Please tell us about your day-to-day role
as sex Discrimination commissioner
and commissioner responsible for age
My role is about advocacy, advising the
Government on legislation and policy, research and
It is quite a varied role. The object is to promote
equality between men and women in Australian
society and also ensure that people are not treated
unfairly on the basis of age.
Each day is different and can be anything from
appearing before a UN treaty body to camping
out with indigenous women in the Kimberley’s,
or giving evidence before a Senate Committee to
visiting a women’s refuge, corporate boardroom or
Defence conference, speaking to peak bodies in
the age discrimination area.
When you were appointed in september 2007,
what were your main priorities, and have you
been able to tick any?
I spent the first six months travelling the length
and breadth of Australia, listening to the concerns
of women and men about gender equality. I set a
2008-2012 strategic plan which had five priorities,
Achieve a paid parental leave (PPL) scheme
Increase the number of women at decision-
making level across Australia
Strengthen laws to address sex
discrimination and promote gender equality
requires systemic intervention and real attitudinal
and cultural change. If we are to build a modern
defence force we need to harness all the talent
that exists and this will require us to remove the
barriers to women’s full participation. Attracting
and retaining more women is a business critical
issue for Defence.
Firstly, we should stop trying to ‘fix’ women. Up
until now much of the focus has been on ‘fixing
women’ – on providing more assertiveness
training, mentoring, networking and self-branding
Instead of ‘fixing’ women, we need to realign
or ‘fix’ the system so that it works for everyone.
These are the discussions we have had around the
ADF Women’s reference group table. We need to
agree on what gender equality in the workplace
looks like and then put all the options and
possibilities on the table so we can work out how
to get it. It should be our ambitions which define
the methods and tools, not the other way around.
Without a significant change in approach the only
thing we can expect is more of the same.
Secondly, our plan can’t just focus on women. I
firmly believe that we will only see significant
gains when men start working with men to solve
this problem. After all it is men who dominate
nearly every institution in this country, including
in the ADF. If there is to be change, male leaders
have to champion it. We need senior men working
in flexible work arrangements, we need senior men
taking parental leave and we need men making
this issue a priority, investing in job redesign and
– Sex Discrimination Commissioner
and Commissioner responsible
for Age Discrimination,
Ms Elizabeth Broderick
Drive down the incidence of sexual
Reduce the gender gap in retirement savings.
We have had good progress on the first
three priorities (PPL to be introduced on 1/1/11,
400 per cent increase on women on boards
in last six months, a bill to amend the Sex
Discrimination Act 1984 was passed through
House of Representatives and we hope will
be passed in the Senate shortly).
We are still progressing work on points 4 and
5 and we are also focusing on the issues of
violence against women for the remainder of
my five-year term.
You are also an advisor on women’s issues to
the chief of the Defence force and a number
of other agencies. Please outline your role
with the cDf and how it came about?
My role is to assist the leadership of the
ADF to understand the current thinking and
strategies on attracting and retaining women
and to make recommendations. This may include
recommendations to overcome systemic, cultural,
attitudinal and behavioural barriers that directly
or indirectly negatively influence the recruitment,
retention and progression of women.
What advice have you been able to give the
cDf in terms of promoting diversity in the
australian Defence force?
I gave a speech to the ADF during the last week of
October, which included the following points:
Solving the issue of women’s under-representation
One male leader who is recognised in Australia
as committed and needing no convincing of the
importance of strong and committed leadership is
the Chief of the Defence Force, Angus Houston.
The CDF and his team have demonstrated their
commitment to gender diversity in the ADF in a
number of ways, including last year’s launch of the
CDF Action Plan for the Recruitment and Retention
of Women. That Action Plan identifies activities
which will strengthen leadership.
For example the proposed refinements to the
performance appraisal and reporting framework,
maximising feedback loops and listening to
employees more through using surveys. To embed
the initiatives in the Action Plan, the plan needs
to be embraced by all of your leaders – and you
as leaders – and I suspect that will be part of the
cultural challenge that you will be tackling over the
next few years.
Thirdly, we should aim for a critical mass of
women at the most senior levels and this includes
the ADF. It is critical mass that will create change
rather than change creating critical mass.
When we achieve this, diverse viewpoints and
appreciation of difference will occur. In the
corporate sphere, this means a minimum of 40 per
cent of each gender on company boards within
five years. In the ADF it means thinking about and
discussing what targets might be appropriate given
the different starting points of each of the services.
Targets need to be transparent and responsibility
for achieving them should be set at the highest
level and devolved through the management
levels. This picture will not change without
everyone doing their part.
And finally, the fact is that much of the
discrimination that exists against women
today is a result of ‘unconscious bias’. And
while the impact of any individual instance of
‘unconscious bias’ may be subtle, over the course
of repeated workplace interactions, judgments
and decisions of a small bias against women will
deliver a large impact.
Defence has a plan and it’s a good plan. But you
can have the best plan in the world and if it’s not
implemented properly there will be no change.
Gender equality will not occur simply because
we want it to occur and we have policies and
directives in place. It requires a commitment from
all people in the ADF – women and men – to
counter the attitudes and assumptions that lead to
discriminatory and unequal outcomes. It requires
the transformation of workplace cultures, which
in turn requires sustained commitment from
individuals at all organisational levels, women and
What does diversity mean to you personally
and how have you been able to encourage it
in your workplace?
Diversity is about ensuring that the talents of all
people, irrespective of race, sex, religion, disability,
sexual orientation and age are brought together for
the common good. In workplaces, diversity results
in a greater ability to think outside the square, to
innovate, to respect difference and to move away
from group think. Diversity helps organisations
deliver creative and collaborative solutions.
Diversity is very important in the Defence Force
because the Defence Force serves the community
and we live in a very diverse society. The diversity
in the ADF should reflect the diversity of the
community which it serves.
Since 2008 Career
Manager Army (CMA)
Brigadier Matthew Hall
has conducted 14 Army
Women’s forums across 10
Defence locations, capturing
approximately 925 personnel.
By Leading Seaman Paul McCallum
He said the common themes presented at these
forums included difficulties with balancing work
and personal commitments, accessing suitable and
affordable childcare, impact of breaks in service
for career progression, cultural and attitudinal
change required for accessing flexible working
arrangements, the challenge of establishing
a positive organisational presence in a male-
dominated workplace and accessing senior
female role models within Army.
“These forums give Army an opportunity to
promote new initiatives, raise awareness of
gender specific issues, provide guidance on
networking and mentoring and discuss strategic
developments affecting personnel,” Brig Hall said.
“The information and feedback we get from the
attendees goes through the chain up to Lieutenant
General Gillespie (Chief of Army) and helps us
identify issues that affect how attractive a career
in the Army is to women.”
This gives Army an opportunity to shape
developments in support of the CDF Action Plan
for Women, refine policy; or implement change
based on the recommended outcomes.
While aimed at women in Army and promoting
access to initiatives such as flexible working
arrangements, more men are attending including
brigade commanders, commanding officers and
Guest speaker Sex Discrimination Commissioner
Elizabeth Broderick said it was important that men
attend these forums as well.
“While forums like these are important for
networking and encouraging mentoring among
Army women, empowering women is not enough,”
Mrs Broderick said.
“We need to realign the system so that it works
for everyone. With such a large percentage of
men in senior management positions, we need
men to help us implement these changes, not just
for the benefit of women, but for the benefit of
Some issues facing women in the corporate
world are a lack of affordable child care, a lack
of flexible working options and a paid parental
leave program, all of which are features of Army’s
conditions of service.
Due to the success of the forums, CMA will
conduct another series in 2011 for both women
and men at major bases and adapt content to help
personnel develop the skills and knowledge to
seek guidance on initiatives and policies available,
and provide coaching on how to access these
The following forums will engage more with the
chain of command to tailor the content in order
to indentify potential opportunities for personnel
CMA is developing a mentoring program that is
intended to be implemented across the wider Army
and will continue to offer various professional
external development activities for women.
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