Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick said on Wednesday that the present atmosphere in Defence would not allow women to flourish within the organisation. To change this, she made 21 recommendations when she submitted her final report to the federal government.
The report was in response to ADFA Skype sex scandal in 2011. Defence Chief David Hurley accepted all 21 recommendations but said the changes could take years to implement.
Among the recommendations are the setting of recruitment targets, increasing the number of women in high-level positions and frontline roles. There is currently only one woman out of 50 star-ranked navy officers, four out of 70 in the army and one in 50 in the RAAF.
The report was the result of interviews by the Australian Human Rights Commission with over 2,000 current and former Defence personnel spread in 36 military bases across Australia and offshore in East Timor and Afghanistan.
Ms Broderick disclosed that many women in Defence are limited to two choices of serving the ADF or their families. This is reflected in just over 20 per cent of women with star ranks having children compared with almost 90 per cent for men.
Due to the lack of diversity in leadership ranks, she said the Defence's talent pool is shrinking, compounded by the force's ability to attract more women based on the 1 per cent growth in females who joined the ADF in the past 10 years. Ms Broderick disagreed that identical treatment would solve the gender equality issue.
"Obviously identical treatment works if there is a level playing field but identical treatment can leader to greater inequality where there is not, especially when existing policies and practices are assumed to be neutral but in fact are ingrounded, grounded in a male norm. It is in this area that we have made recommendations including the use of targets to level the playing field," Ms Broderick was quoted by ABC.
The commission also recommended the establishment of a dedicated unit to handle sexual misconduct complaints after the review found one in four Defence women experience sexual harassment the past five years. Another report in 2011 found that 75 per cent of women studying at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra experienced sexual harassment.
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