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Equal Opportunities Program

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Department of Defence


Key Objective: Increase the representation of women in Defence to better reflect the Australian society and strengthen the retention of the women Defence has recruited and trained. Improve opportunities and workplace flexibility to create a fairer and more inclusive work environment to position Defence as an employer of choice for women and men alike.


While women make up half the population, they are underrepresented in the Defence organisation. In addition, recent proceedings have highlighted a need for women in Defence to be treated more adequately, appropriately, and have the same opportunities as men in contributing to Defence.

The equal treatment of women should be at the core of any Australian workplace, regardless of its size, history or purpose. As such, Defence is focussing its efforts on implementing greater changes in the workplace to ensure greater representation of women generally within Defence and specifically in leadership positions. Actions are being taken to remove the direct and indirect structural and cultural barriers preventing women from achieving their full potential and full participation.

At 31 December 2012, women represented 13.95% of the permanent ADF workforce1 and 40.56% of the Defence APS workforce2, compared with 57.3% of the wider APS (according to the APSC State of the Service Report 2011-2012).

In 2011/2012, reviews were undertaken into the treatment and employment of women in Defence, specifically the Review of Employment Pathways for APS Women in the Department of Defence, and the Australian Human Rights Commission reviews, firstly of the treatment of women at the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) (phase one) and, secondly, a review of the effectiveness of cultural change strategies and initiatives required to improve leadership pathways for women in the Australian Defence Force (phase two)3. Actions have commenced to address the implementation of the recommendations from these reviews.

Some of the issues relating to the employment of women in Defence are not only challenges faced by women but by many men as well. For example, getting the balance right between work and family responsibilities is a challenge faced by both men and women. Therefore, improvements in the workplace applied through addressing these issues will be of benefit to both genders. Additionally, by encouraging men to utilise mechanisms typically accessed by women, such as those providing workplace flexibility, normalises these mechanisms.

By embracing the concept of diversity, valuing differences, demonstrating fair, respectful and inclusive behaviour, Defence will more effectively attract and retain women who can support Defence to better reflect the community it serves. The following specific actions will ensure that Defence has a consistent approach to the employment of women and men across the organisation.



  • Raise the profile of Defence as an employer of choice for women.
  •  Identify, recognise and proactively profile and promote the achievements of women in leadership.
  • Work with networks to attract women to our workforce.


  • Implement targeted programs to support the recruitment of women to Defence.
  • Increase the profile of women in Defence Force Recruiting marketing and public affairs.
  • Ensure all APS selection panels and ADF promotions boards to senior ranks include at least one female representative, with preference towards having a gender balance.


  • Ensure equal opportunities for women in all jobs in Defence.
  • Ensure that Defence provides a flexible and supportive approach to workforce conditions, career management and career pathways.
  • Employ and promote Defence policies and practices that are inclusive and accommodating of differences.
  • Provide appropriate and supportive mentoring and network frameworks that meet diverse needs.
  • Improve organisational performance by having a critical mass of women on decision- making boards and bodies.


  • Ensure that Defence provides a flexible and supportive approach to workforce conditions, career management and career pathways.
  • Improve employment opportunities, enhance workplace flexibility, and create a fairer, more respectful and inclusive work environment.
  • Employ and promote programs and strategies to balance work and personal and/or family responsibilities and commitments.
  • Provide targeted career management, skilling, coaching and mentoring to ensure a higher number of women in supervisory, management and senior executive roles.


  • Maintain connections with women taking a career break, extended parental leave, study leave break or any other type of extended leave.
  • Employ policies and processes to enable trained previous Defence personnel to return to the organisation.
  • Actively promote and facilitate discharging ADF members transferring into the Reserve force to maintain connection and strengthen the retention of talented/trained women.

  1. Compromised of ADF Permanent, CFTS and Gap year members.
  2. Including ongoing and non-ongoing employees.
  3. Australian Human Rights Commission web site.


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