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Modern Militaries and Capability: The Importance of Women

A Public Discussion with Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick

In association with:
Maison de la paix Gender & Diversity Hub logo


6th Floor Conference Room, Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP), Maison de la Paix, Chemin Eugène-Rigot 2D

The inclusion of women in militaries across the world has been increasing in recent decades. Changing attitudes towards women’s role in society and the workplace, shifting workforce patterns and imperatives, and changing laws and policies regarding women’s participation in the armed forces have all contributed to the increase in the representation of women in many militaries across the world. However, progress has been sporadic, slow and, in some instances, it has stalled. Across most militaries women are underrepresented. They are particularly underrepresented in leadership roles. But why is this an important issue? Why should the armed forces care about the representation of women in their militaries?

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) has grappled with these questions over the past few years. The ADF has achieved significant cultural change and has accelerated efforts to increase the representation of women in its three Services – Navy, Army and Air Force – across all ranks. At the heart of these reforms is the issue of capability. The senior leadership of the ADF now recognise the critical link between an increase in women’s representation and the future sustainability of its Defence Force. This has led to the implementation of strategies to ensure that the ADF is an environment that is optimal for, and takes full advantage of, the strengths of both men and women.

This discussion addressed the issue of women in the military and capability and use Australia’s military as a case study.



Ms Elizabeth Broderick
Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Australian Human Rights Commission


Contributing to Q&A

Lieutenant Colonel Brad Orchard, CSC 
Infantry Officer, Australian Regular Army.
  He joined the Army in 1986. Brad’s current role is as the Liaison Officer to the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), where his focus is on cultural reform in Defence and specifically the AHRC’s efforts to assist Defence in embedding the cultural reform agenda, Pathway to Change.

Ms Alexandra (Alex) Shehadie 
Director of Defence Cultural Reform, Australian Human Rights Commission 
Prior to that she was the Commission’s Director of the Review into the Treatment of Women at the Australian Defence Force Academy and in the Australian Defence Force.



Ambassador Christian Dussey
Director, Geneva Centre for Security Policy

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