Lieutenant General David Morrison, AO was appointed Chief of the Australian Army in 2011 amidst a furore of yet another public scandal and yet another nationwide review – the 13th in 15 years – of ingrained misogynistic behaviour in Australia’s military culture.
The Army had a serious systemic cultural problem that restricted the full participation of women within its ranks. Since then, the Chief of Army has spearheaded significant cultural reform in the workplace to eradicate discrimination from the highest to the lowest echelons in the Army.
Today the Chief of Army believes there are still significant challenges ahead. However he is confident that the Army is making great strides in building a more inclusive workplace where a person’s gender, race, colour, religion or sexual persuasion is valued as a positive contributor to capability.
Revolutionising Army workplace culture
- Slowly I came to realise that our Army culture’s greatest weakness was that we were excluding women, people from ethnic backgrounds, and those with an alternative sexual orientation.
- I came to understand that we were not only demeaning and distorting the culture that we wanted in our Army; we were also lowering our overall capability.
- We have subsequently identified and introduced four core values for the men and women in our ranks: Courage, Initiative, Respect and Teamwork.
Women bring to the battlefield different qualities
- The idea that soldiers must be male Anglo-Saxons to get the best out of your military is gone forever. And I’m very pleased about that.
- The real value of gender diversity comes when women bring to the boardroom or battlefield the characteristics that define them as female.
- I have also seen it in military boardrooms where women articulate concerns that men either do not think about because of their conditioning, or are loathe to articulate for fear of ‘being less of a man’.
Convincing the blokes of the need for change
- The Army has a contract with the nation; when we reflect the diversity of the nation we are able to provide better support and engage more fully with the Australian community.
- Do I sense any resistance in senior ranks of the Army? None! In middle management, however, it’s different. Not everyone is 100 per cent aligned – yet!
- I will feel successful when race, gender, religion and sexual identity are completely irrelevant among my troops. I will feel successful when race, gender, religion and sexual identity are no longer used by my troops as negative discrimination but valued as potentially offering different perspectives to question the status quo and enhance capability.
Admitting we had a problem
- Our hierarchy has learned the hard way the importance of being proactive when responding to issues; if you hesitate or delay, it is perceived, fairly or unfairly, as prevarication and reluctance to change.
- My message was that if people are not prepared to ‘stand up and be counted on gender equality and unacceptable behaviour’ they won’t be part of the Army.
- I have set tangible public targets for the number of women and Indigenous numbers in the workforce by 2014/2015, and set internal targets for the number of women in senior leadership to be achieved by the end of my tenure as Chief and we are on track to achieve this increased gender balance.
Ensuring recruitment drives attract the full pool of talent
- Increase the number of women in the Army workforce, as a culture and capability enhancement.
- Place women in positions of greater responsibility and accountability during my time as Chief.
- Inclusive policies that support women as well as men provide the means by which you can affect change in the areas of, for example, recruitment and retention.
- To make all this happen, I established a Diversity Council of senior women who meet regularly to set policy initiatives in place that are relevant for women and other traditionally disadvantaged groups with regard to recruitment, retention, training, parental leave and flexible work practices.
‘Unconscious bias’ training for the leadership team
- Both uniformed and non-uniformed women now sit on all of our promotion committees and they have identified a number of traditionally male issues for process improvement that include the way we recruit, develop talent and appoint talent, and the way we work.
- We are also breaking down career progression stereotypes by providing external development for our talented mid-level performers in lieu of taking a traditional course inside the Army.
After everything the Army has gone through in the last two and a half years, I’m absolutely certain with every fibre of my being that the most capable military force is one that embraces diversity and our four core values.