The Gender Diversity Landscape in Defence Industry

By Kinexus on 16 May 2019

Australia is not short on male-dominated industries: Mining, construction, manufacturing, warehousing, engineering; all sit well under the 50% mark when it comes to equal male/female representation. But that’s not even considering one of the most influential and male-dominated spaces within the Australian business world: the Defence Industry.

We need to talk about gender diversity within our industry: what does it look like, what are we doing about it, and why is it so important for us to get it right?

The Defence Industry still has one of the lowest rates of gender diversity in Australia. Overall, we’re one out of five industries in the country with female representation making up less than 20% of the workforce.

The number of women in management positions has dropped from 21% in 2015-16 to 17.4% in 2017-18. Not a great result by anyone’s standards, especially when you consider the fact that other notoriously male-dominated sectors – mining, for one – grew their female representation over the same period.

To see these stats explained in more detail, download your copy of our Defence Industry Insights – Fifth Edition here.

But it’s not all bad.

At the executive level, we’ve seen the number of women in CEO positions increase from 0% to 10% – a huge improvement, when you consider our history and putting us at just 6.5% below the national average. People like Christine Zeitz of Leidos, and Gabby Costigan at BAE Systems, are paving the way for women in STEM-related skill sets everywhere.

Females now make up 32.% of all graduates within the Defence Industry, an increase of 6.3% since 2015-16. This looks promising, especially considering that all but one of the Australian Defence Magazine (ADM) Top 20 Defence SMEs have committed to formal strategies to support gender equality.

So why is this so important?

You don’t have to look far to find evidence that diverse workplaces are more successful than others. Research has proven time and time again that teams made up of people of different backgrounds, gender, and personalities can create a more compatible, complementary, and cooperative work environment. Mixing introverts with extroverts, planners with people who are more spontaneous, detail-obsessed workers with big picture thinkers and women with men give companies a far greater chance of success compared to those that stay complacent.

People in mixed gender teams are more generous to each other and work together in a more egalitarian way. It’s all about building meaningful relationships and creating successful work processes through constant feedback and collaboration. Studies also show that teams with an equal gender mix perform better than those that are male-dominated; so, if you want to give your organisation the best chance of success, you’d better start mixing things – or people – up.

The Defence Industry knows this – that’s why they’re putting so many initiatives in place to encourage it. Some defence companies are taking a more subtle approach, like trying to change their culture to be more appealing to a diverse group of people. Others are being a bit bolder.

Austal recently made the decision to take on 45 female-only apprentices this year; no males. The previous year, their apprentice scheme was made up of one woman and 95 men. Austal’s CEO, David Singleton, offers a refreshing perspective, saying that the company realised they were fostering an environment that was neither inclusive nor productive.

In July 2018, the inaugural Australian Defence Magazine (ADM) Women in Defence Awards were held in Canberra, with the aim being to celebrate the contributions women make to the Defence Industry, with the next one coming up on 11th July this year. As a whole, the defence community is doing so much more to recognise and highlight the work women do, the challenges they face and the ground they’re gaining, and the overall positive impacts of our combined efforts.

Here at Kinexus, we’re also making changes. We created The Future Through Collaboration (TFTC) in partnership with some of the leading companies within the Australian Defence Industry. TFTC is a collaborative effort, where people from all sides of the sector are coming together to tackle the issue of gender diversity.

History can’t be changed overnight. The attitudes and culture that have led boys and men into STEM or defence roles will take a while to counteract; but the work we do now to address inequality – collectively and as a community – is helping to build a stronger, more diverse, sustainable Defence Industry; and, with that, a brighter future for all.

By Sophie Richards


Defence Industry Insights Webinar

Want more info on our Defence Industry Insights findings? Jump onto our webinar in a few weeks and chat directly to our Defence Sector lead Rob Kremer as he breaks down the insights and what they mean for you.

Back to blog

Related Posts

6 Things Going on in the Defence SME Market

By Kinexus on 30 May 2019
Small to medium enterprise businesses (SMEs) make up around 3,000 organisations within the Australian Defence Industry, comprising about 50% of total Defence Sector employment. With the top 20 SMEs seeing revenue figures of $670 million, it’s clear the SME market is a significant contributor to the Defence Industry. Every six months, Kinexus compiles the data and intel gathered from around 30,000 conversations with Defence Industry members, published as our Defence Industry Insights. From our conversations, a significant development we have noted is that the Defence SME market is experiencing a period of growth, and going through unique changes that will have a flow-on effect to the wider industry. In Kinexus’ Defence Industry Insights – Fifth Edition, we spoke to SME representatives about their thoughts on the current position and challenges of the Defence SME market, as well as their insights about the Defence Integrated Investment Program (DIIP). While there were a range of responses, we have identified several key themes. Read on for Kinexus’ summary of the collated responses of the Australian Defence SME market.
Keep reading

A Map of the Current Projects Across Defence Industry

By Kinexus on 2 May 2019
With so many projects and activities on the go, it’s hard to get your head around what’s happening in the Defence Industry. Lucky for you, Kinexus has made it easy with our Current Projects breakdown in the Defence Industry Insights – Fifth Edition. Get a glimpse of current and upcoming projects and activities across the Australian Defence Industry on the map below for a simple visual representation of the state of play throughout the nation.
Keep reading