CANBERRA, Australia (NNS) -- The U.S. Navy Vice Chief of Naval Operations joined more than 200 representatives from the Australian Defence Force and the national security community at the inaugural Gender in Defence and Security Leadership Conference in Canberra March 12-13.
Adm. Mark Ferguson represented the U.S. Navy at the conference which provides an opportunity to examine how gender diversity builds capability in the defense and security arena.
Australian Chief of the Defence Force, General David Hurley, said the conference invites debate and discussion about what action is required to achieve greater equality, diversity and inclusion across the international defense establishment.
"[We are] is not starting from a zero base but the key to success in this endeavor will be to continue to engage with our female workforce to understand their needs and ensure that the men in our organization are accepting and supporting as we move to address these needs," Hurley said.
Ferguson agrees and also sees it as matter of sheer numbers.
"Women comprise over 50% of college graduates in the U.S. today and we want that talent for the Navy now and into the future," said Ferguson. "Talent wins every time; women now serve in critical jobs in every mission we're engaged in around the world; they're in visible leadership positions, inspire others, and demonstrate that our Navy seeks only the best."
Hurley told the conference today's Australian Defence Force (ADF) had a very different demographic compared to when he first joined the Army more than 40 years ago.
"When I was a junior officer in the early 1970s, more than a few eyebrows were raised in the 1st Battalion when two female clerks were posted into the Battalion Headquarters.
"Today women are deployed to all operational theatres and serve as Commanding Officers of major warships, Air Force Squadrons and Army Units and they fill executive appointments across the defense organization."
Hurley said that gender equality was only the start of a much broader cultural shift toward increased diversity and inclusion.
"I want the Australian Defence Force to be recognized as an employer of choice; a fair, just and inclusive organization that sets the benchmark for other employers.
"Everyone at every level has an active role to play in living [our] values and meeting this intent," Hurley said.
Speakers included Member of the Australian Parliament and Minister for Defence for Science and Personnel, the Honorable Warren Snowdon, former Queensland premier, Anna Bligh, civilian expert Dr. Edwina Thompson and international speakers representing the U.S., the United Kingdom, Canadian and New Zealand militaries--travel and conference fees were funded by the Australian government.