The Western Australian Defence Women’s Mentoring Circle was privileged recently to host the Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds CSC, at their final meeting.
The Mentoring Group comprised female Australian Public Service members from a variety of areas within Defence and from geographically distanced bases around the Perth metropolitan area such as HMAS Stirling, RAAF Base Pearce and Campbell Barracks.
Meeting once a month for a year, the group was facilitated by Dr Lianne Cretney-Barnes who built a supportive environment where participants learnt new leadership theories and skills which could be applied in the workplace.
“This course assists in building a diverse and inclusive culture within the Defence Organisation and empowers the participants to develop themselves and advance their Defence careers,” Dr Cretney-Barnes said.
The course has run in Defence since September 2018, with over 133 participants around Australia completing the program.
The group was fortunate to have the Minister attend their final meeting and share personal insights and experiences on gender in both the military and political arenas in which she has served.
The Minister recounted that her professional “gender journey” had seen her join the military at a time when there were few females in the service and the culture was highly masculine.
“I learnt resilience and how to lead and manage a team and those valuable skills stood me in good stead when I entered politics,” Senator Reynolds said.
The Minister noted that it took her a while to realise women did not need to behave the same as their male counterparts or conform to the boundaries that were in place.
“I had to realise that I had my own voice and had to build my own networks,” Senator Reynolds said.
“As I observed, women lead differently, manage differently, and think differently and that diversity is good for an organisation.
“We need to have the courage to call people out on what are usually unconscious biases, speaking up for ourselves or for others and perpetuating a culture of respect for all Defence employees.”
As the course concluded the participants finished the program with an optimism about their futures within the Defence organisation and a commitment to support women in all areas of the organisation in the fulfilment of their roles and goals.