Australia’s defence minister has warned against creating artificial barriers to women’s participation within military ranks, saying including females is critical to capability and success.
Marise Payne, the country’s first female defence minister, stressed the importance of gender diversity in the armed forces at a conference on women and national security on Tuesday.
Senator Payne drew on the example of replacing patrol boats for Pacific Island nations, where Australia learnt of the difficulty some countries faced in sending women to sea because of the lack of separate sleeping quarters.
“By identifying this in the planning stage, Defence has been able to include the requirement for separate accommodation for men and women in the design of these guardian-class patrol boats,” she told the Canberra conference.
“This relatively simple redesign removed a barrier to women’s participation and it will help Pacific Island nations harness the capability of the full workforce available to them.”
On home soil, the minister said Defence’s continued capability and success relied in large part on cultivating a diverse and inclusive workforce.
“To ensure that we have an ADF that is broadly representative of our society it is crucial that we attract, retain and nurture our talent – all of the talent – available to us,” Senator Payne said.
“It is essential we are consistent and persistent advocates for gender equality, for change, both at home and abroad.”
Men and women experience conflict differently and women have an important role to play in the prevention and resolution of conflict, humanitarian crises, and peace and security efforts.
“We know that armed conflicts and disasters for that matter contain elements that are inherently gendered. They affect men and women, boys and girls, in different ways,” Senator Payne said.
“There are gendered differences in risks and threats, and in capabilities. Effective crisis responses will reflect a sound understanding of these differences in policy, plans, training and operations.”
Senator Payne spoke of her great pride in the women she worked alongside in Defence.
“No matter where I go, no matter what I do in this job, I meet the most extraordinary women working in national security,” she said.
WOMEN IN DEFENCE BY THE NUMBERS:
* 16.1 per cent of permanent, full time Australian Defence Force personnel are women;
* 266 women serving overseas on ADF operations (about 14 per cent of total deployed force);
* 82 women in senior officer positions (compared with 48 in February 2012);
* 41 per cent of Department of Defence public servants are women;
* More than 40 per cent of Defence graduate program now female;
* 43 per cent of appointments in most recent recruitments for Defence senior executive positions were women (compared with around 30 per cent in existing senior executive cohort).