Australia’s defence department sets 50% recruitment target for women in STEM

By on 14/06/2023 | Updated on 15/08/2023

Australia’s Department of Defence is working towards doubling the number of women hired through science, technology, engineering and mathematics recruitment programmes.

The 50% target announced last week will apply to the STEM Cadetship Program and the research and innovation pathway of the Defence Graduate Program, which currently have a women’s participation rate of 25%.

“Increasing diversity and representation in these key fields ensures that more people can benefit from skills and employment opportunities, and helps strengthen Defence’s capability,” the federal government said. It added that the move would “help secure a workforce that better represents the diverse talent of our nation”.

The department also hopes to fill half of the roles available through its Navigate Program with women. Navigate was developed to bring experienced STEM professionals into defence from industry and academia, who typically complete two six-month stints in different areas of the department before being offered a placement in the Defence Science and Technology Group.

The programme will run indefinitely after a successful pilot last year, when it received over 800 applications and hired 69 participants – 43% of whom were women, beating its initial target by 3%. Like the entry level programmes, the defence department has increased its target of women Navigate participants to 50%.

Matt Thistlethwaite, assistant minister for defence said increased STEM targets “open significant opportunities for women to amplify our force’s capabilities” and that the government backed efforts to attract STEM talent to the defence department’s “challenging, yet rewarding, field of innovation and technology”.

He described Navigate as a “mechanism to build a team of top-notch specialists” and that launching it with explicit gender goals “underscores that determined participation targets bring tangible results”.

Professor Tanya Monro, the federal government’s chief defence scientist, added that setting targets for women’s participation in STEM entry programmes meant the department could “draw more fully on our nation’s talent pool” and would allow defence science to “deliver greater impact” for the Australian Defence Force.

She described the targets as “bold” and said continuing to ensure the success of women would require “strong leadership and a commitment to change”.

“Defence’s transformation agenda includes becoming an exemplar in attracting, training, retaining and providing career opportunities for women. These measures demonstrate in practical terms how we are taking steps to achieve this,” she said.

Applications for the next round of Navigate close on 25 June.

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About Mia Hunt

Mia is a journalist and editor with a background in covering commercial property, having been market reports and supplements editor at trade title Property Week and deputy editor of Shopping Centre magazine, now known as Retail Destination. She has also undertaken freelance work for several publications including the preview magazine of international trade show, MAPIC, and TES Global (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) and has produced a white paper on energy efficiency in business for E.ON. Between 2014 and 2016, she was a member of the Revo Customer Experience Committee and an ACE Awards judge. Mia graduated from Kingston University with a first-class degree in journalism and was part of the team that produced The River newspaper, which won Publication of the Year at the Guardian Student Media Awards in 2010.

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