How is The Aussie Defence Industry Tracking with Gender Diversity?

By Kinexus on 23 January 2020

How Is The Aussie Defence Sector Tracking With Gender Diversity

Gender diversity is always topical, and in a typically male-dominated industry such as defence it is particularly interesting.

To find out how the industry is faring we took a deep dive into the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA)’s most recent report (2017-2018), looking at the public reports from the companies featured in ADM’s Top 20 Defence Contractors to benchmark how defence industry performs against other industries in Australia.

Diversity starts at the top, and the 2017-2018 data shows there are now three female CEO’s at the helm of ADM top 20 contractors, which is a first for the list.

Although defence industry organisations are well behind most other industries in their proportion of females in leadership roles, this year’s analysis shows the industry is heading in the right direction.

Women in Leadership

In-line with a previous increase in women CEOs from 0% to 10% from 2015-2017, the industry average has increased again to 13.64%, moving even closer to the national industry average of 17.1%. All except one of the other levels of leadership have also increased since 2016-2017. This is a welcome change from previous periods, which saw many of these levels decrease into 2016-17.

Three of the ADMs Top Defence Contractors have female CEOs – BAE, L3 and Leidos.

Leadership Levels of Females in Australian Defence Sector 2019

Table 1: The proportion of female employees in each level of leadership in both the total National Industry and Defence Industry for both 2016-17 and 2017-18.

The 2017-2018 data also shows us where the representation of females in management positions in defence industry sits in relation to other Australian industries. Female representation in defence has increased since 2016-2017 from 17.4% to 19.4% after a previous decrease from 21% in 2015-2016. All other industries have also increased their proportions of females in leadership. Industries made up of less than 50% women have increased their female based proportion by an average of 5.3% since 2016-2017. In contrast, the increase in female leadership representation of defence industry since 2016-2017 was only 2%, much below the progress other industries are making.

Table 2: The proportion of female employees in each industry in both 2016-17 and 2017-18, with each, ranked from the highest proportion of women to the lowest.


Women in Defence Careers

The proportion of female graduates in defence has decreased slightly from 32.5% to 31.6% since 2016-17. However, the proportion of females in professional, management and CEO roles have all increased, which is a promising trend.

Career Proportions of Females in Australian Defence Sector 2019

Figure 1: The proportion of females in graduate, professional, management and CEO roles within Top 20 ADM contractor organisations.


Promotion and Appointment Rates

To help inform hiring trends in the industry, for this edition we explored the proportion of females appointed or promoted to managerial and non-managerial roles in the reporting period of 2017-2018 as reported by the Top 20 ADM Contractors. Only 22.1% of appointments and 24.7% of promotions to management roles were made to women. The proportion of appointments and promotions to non-managerial roles was slightly higher, at 31.8% and 38.1% respectively. These rates are still well below 50% despite all but one of the 20 organisations having current policies or strategies concerning gender equality in recruitment.

Promotion and Appointment Rates of Females in Australian Defence Sector 2019

Figure 2: The proportion of females appointed or promoted to managerial and non-managerial roles in the reporting period of 2017-18 as reported by the Top 20 ADM contractors.


Awareness of Gender Diversity

  • All but one company have formal strategies or policies to specifically support gender equality in relation to recruitment and all but two have formal strategies or policies in relation to succession planning.
  • Three of the 20 companies reported they have reached gender balance within their governing body.
  • Two of the 20 companies have gender-specific targets on their governing body, with 2 other organisations with targets under development.
  • All but three organisations have key performance indicators (KPIs) for managers relating to gender equality, which is a huge increase from the previous reporting period, where only 6 organisations had current policies or strategies.

Photo by CoWomen on Unsplash

Defence Sector Blog

Sign up to get your monthly dose of industry updates sent straight to your inbox.

From workforce strategy to sector overviews, we aim to advise and equip industry with the intel that helps individuals and business alike make better, more informed decisions. 


Defence Sector Blog Sign up