Harnessing the power of parity

Published on CMDR Chloe Wootten (author), LEUT Miah Hammond-Errey (author), LSIS Helen Frank (photographer)

Dignitaries, female guests, Ship's Company and personnel from Joint Task Force 635 at the International Women's Day 2016 celebration onboard HMAS Canberra in Fiji. (photo: LSIS Helen Frank)
Dignitaries, female guests, Ship's Company and personnel from Joint Task Force 635 at the International Women's Day 2016 celebration onboard HMAS Canberra in Fiji.

Each year on 8 March, International Women’s Day celebrates the economic, political and social achievements of women and for the Australian Navy, it’s a day to recognise the capability that diversity brings to the workforce. 
Deputy Chief of Navy, and Head Navy People, Training and Resources, Rear Admiral Michael Noonan, said that highlighting the contribution of women in the maritime environment was essential to breaking down stereotypes and creating career pathways for Australians of all backgrounds.
“The Australian Navy has had generations of inspirational women in our ranks, but only three decades of women at sea,” he said.
“We acknowledge there is more work to be done to attract and retain a diverse and therefore capable workforce, and in the case of women, we have committed to a female participation rate of 25 per cent by 2023 up from 19 per cent currently.”
The Service has made significant achievements in gender equality since the Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service joined the Royal Australian Navy in 1985. Women have served in ships since the mid 1980s and in submarines since the early 1990s.
Women‘s contribution to the leadership of Navy is increasing and women currently hold command positions of major fleet units and bases, including the frigate HMAS Anzac, and shore establishments HMA Ships KuttabulWaterhen and Harman.
“More and more, Navy is adapting our policies where we have not previously harnessed the skills of our total workforce,” Rear Admiral Noonan said.
“We have seen women achieve great things in our Navy in what have been traditionally perceived as supporting functions, but we are now enabling more of our war-fighting women to do the same.”
Navy recently marked 25 years since the end of the First Gulf War, during which seven of HMAS Westralia’s ship’s company became the first women across the Australian Defence Force to serve in warlike operations in a combat role. 
“The Australian Defence Force has come a long way in the quarter of a century since and it is important that every sailor and officer who joins today has the same choices and opportunities as the next, irrespective of gender,” he said.
Navy is actively addressing areas where choosing the military as a career has not been common and identifying barriers to recruitment and retention.
“Our capability is stronger because of the diversity of our people and increasingly better reflects the Australian community and the nation we serve,” Rear Admiral Noonan said.
“That’s why the new Navy Women’s Leadership Strategy, which gave rise to the Navy women’s mentoring, networking and leadership programs, will be refreshed in 2016.
“Last year we formalised our flexible work policies to allow our workforce to combine the demands of work and family, and continue to challenge assumptions about how and where the right experience can be generated to make great military leaders.”
The theme for International Women’s Day this year is Pledge for Parity which highlights gender inequality in society and in the workplace. Men and women are encouraged to pledge to take action to accelerate gender parity, by helping women and girls achieve their ambitions, calling for gender-balanced leadership, respecting and valuing difference, developing more inclusive and flexible cultures and challenging stereotypes and workplace bias.
Defence personnel across the globe are taking part in activities to mark International Women’s Day recognising the important role women undertake in not only the Australian Defence Force, but during, and post conflict.
For more information about International Women’s Day visit: http://www.internationalwomensday.com/