The first opportunity I had to speak on or around International Women’s Day was only about eight months after I took over as the Chief and that was actually here in this room 2012. The second opportunity was at the United Nations in New York in 2013 and of course I’m back here now coming to the conclusion of my time as Chief.
When I stood here in 2012 and I started to explain how I was thinking about these issues around the involvement of women in society across the international spectrum, within Australia, within our Defence Force, within our Army, I named a target for this Army in terms of women’s involvement in our workforce. Twelve per cent I said, based on the advice that I’d had from the workforce modellers who’d told me I could go to 11 per cent and I said well that won’t work, 12 per cent is where we should be.
And when I explain this in public there’s always a bit of laughter in the audience because we’ve gone from just under 10 per cent to aim at 12 per cent. But of course, when I take the time to explain that that’s an extra 600 women in our Army in the course of two years, it does make people pause to reflect.
When I spoke in the UN last year, the themes around which I spoke were similar to those I had addressed in 2012. It is about appreciating men and women for who they are. It’s about addressing the challenges that we face within our Army culture. It’s about the underlying reasons why we respect each other as people, as soldiers, as citizens of Australia. We’ve come a long way in this Army in two years, but we haven’t come far enough. We will close in on 12 per cent by the time I finish as the Chief at midnight on the 3rd of July this year and that will be something of great pride personally for me, but also as a leader. I need to thank everybody throughout the Army and indeed in the personnel directorate here, for getting behind this for the right reasons.
I want to say now that this is only the first of many steps that we need to be taking because the underlying premise to all of this is that it’s about being a more capable Army.
I am for altruism, I am for giving people a fair go, male or female, but it’s about providing a fighting force for this nation now and into the unforeseeable future. I know very well now, that a better balanced, a more inclusive and diverse workforce, will deliver that for this country and if we don’t do this, we will not be the force we need to be.
I want the women in our Army to be role models. I’m not challenging anybody when I say this, but I think that what we are achieving, what our women are achieving at an individual level, what they are achieving as a group in the Army, what we are achieving as a great national institution needs to be spoken about with pride. That isn’t to set aside for one moment the fact that we are still behaving poorly. We are not showing the respect we should at an individual or even at a collective level, but we are celebrating victories much more than defeats in this regard and I would ask the women of the Army to step forward where they are comfortable, to say how proud they are to be in an organisation that is starting to face up to its facts, that it is seeking to be more capable by being more diverse and inclusive. And I would expect the men of the Army to support them in doing that.
I won’t be so bold in conclusion to name another target. Whether we hit 12 per cent or not will be a matter of degree but it is as I said, only a step. I would like to think that 15 per cent of our workforce in the Army will be women by no later than 2017. I don’t think that is at all unachievable. We should be at 20 per cent by the turn of the decade. I’ll talk to my successor about whether he is prepared to name that target. When he is replaced, he or she may determine where we go after that.
This Army is changing. It is changing for the better and it is more capable as a result. You, the men and the women of the Army, have made that possible. And for that I am eternally grateful.