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International Women's Day

Chief of Army, Lieutenant General David Morrison AO, speaking at the International Woman's Day morning tea held at Russell Offices.

International Women’s Day Morning Tea, Army Headquarters Canberra, 8 March 2012.

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Lieutenant General David Morrison, AO
Chief of Army

Speech: International Women’s Day Morning Tea, Army Headquarters Canberra, 8 March 2012.

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I really wanted to say a couple of things around the whole idea of International Women’s Day. So firstly, to all of you irrespective of gender, Happy International Women’s Day.

I think we should pause and ask ourselves why we feel the need for an International Women’s Day. The two genders share the planet and yet we stop today to recognise one of those genders in particular. The reason for this is that women are under represented in our society. In fact, under represented in global society. I was at the International Women’s Day breakfast in Sydney yesterday and there are a number of very eminent women who spoke. There were a couple of matters that I really took away.

70 per cent of the world’s poor are women. This demonstrates that where women are not active members of a society are not educated and given the same opportunities as men, those societies fail to prosper.

All of the study that is being done now about organisations shows much the same. Where organisations exist and are dominated by one gender - and because of the type of world we live in that gender is invariably male - those organisations fail to reach their full potential. I think that is without question.

45 per cent of the Australian workforce is now female, and that is a great thing.

Only 10.1 per cent of Army’s workforce is women, and that is a matter of some real concern for me as the Chief.

It’s not about gender equality. It’s about capability.

If nations rise because they have a better gender balance, if organisations prosper because of that, then Army must be a better Army if we make our women more prominent, give them greater opportunity and encourage their involvement across our organisation. It makes perfect sense to this male. I want to do two things now, having set something of a platform.

Firstly, I want to acknowledge as publicly as I possibly can, the great work that our women in uniform and those in the public service who support us are doing. Not just for our national institution, but for our nation.

Everywhere I have been throughout my career, and certainly as a Senior Officer, certainly here in Canberra and certainly up in Sydney in Forces Command, and particularly on operations around the world; our women are demonstrably part of our great capability. On International Women’s Day to all of the women present - I say a very genuine and heartfelt thank you for your courage and for your commitment.

I am committed to Army realising our potential as fully as we can. So what can be done to achieve this? I have a personal stake in this, and I have thought about what I am about to say very carefully and am cognisant that I am doing this publicly.

I am committed to opening up during my tenure as the Chief, all areas of Army to the employment of women should they desire it. The standards that we have in all of our areas across the Army will remain unchanged, but every woman I have ever worked with would not have it any other way. That’s my first commitment.

My second commitment is to increase the number of women who join our Army. All of us know how wonderful our Army is and about the great work we do. As I said publicly in Sydney last week, our combat culture in the Army does act for some women, as a disincentive to join. I think this combat culture is the core of what Army is, and I’m not going to change that; but we, the Army, need to be more accommodating to gender, and to race, and to creed. And we will be.

I will set a target to take our 10.1 per cent to something that I think is achievable in my time as Chief. I will name that target because otherwise, I’m not personally accountable. I will stand and be judged as a success or a failure in that regard.

The third thing I intend to do is to ensure that our women at all rank levels are placed in areas where we recognise and utilise their potential to the fullest extent possible. So that at an individual level they feel their career is fulfilled, but more importantly, and above individual needs; the organisation, this national institution, this Army - thrives and prospers in the service of this nation. That’s my commitment.

I think we are all ready for this. No man that I have spoken to, since I came into the job has shown me in anyway, any reticence about adopting these types of approaches. No woman I have spoken to has done that either. That tells me that we’re ready to go.

There will always be some who disagree. There will always be some, human nature being what it is, who will find ways of trying to counter the change. My message to them is don’t stand still, because I’ll come over the top of you. We will be a better organisation. I make this commitment in my first year as Chief on this International Women’s Day, and I will undertake right now to give you a report card 365 days from now as to how we’re travelling.

I realise this has been perhaps a more serious speech on a get together in Army Headquarters than we would normally hear. I have taken this approach because the matter is absolutely essential for us – the Army. If we don’t make use of all who join the Army, we will go backwards. No one in this room, civilian, in uniform, male or female would wish that of us.

So – thank you very much. Happy International Women’s Day.