The majority of the workforce is able to easily maintain regular networking and mentoring opportunities through everyday workplace interactions such as the crew room, brew room or office fireside chats with others in similar situations. However, members in underrepresented groups find it hard to build these support networks in the workplace, as they are normally the only, or one of very few in a similar situation. One example is women in non-traditional employment groups. Women in feminised employment groups already have strong networks with like-minded women, but our women techos, engineers and aircrew may not have those everyday opportunities in training and the workplace to meet other women and share their experiences.
The Women’s Integrated Networking Group (WINGs) program brings women of all employment groups and ranks together to provide mutual support and advice for having a lasting career in Air Force, while also offering the chance to hear from invited guest speakers from within Defence and external organisations about issues affecting women and their careers. The program also provides the opportunity to discuss issues affecting women in the workplace, whilst also creating networks (and hopefully friendships) with Air Force women from each geographical location.
WINGs is a 10-month, locally delivered program for Air Force women, involving a 2-hour facilitated session once per month (running Feb-Nov). The sessions are generally held from 1100-1300, over the lunch period, to minimise impact on units and workloads. Following the success of the program trial at RAAF Williamtown in 2011, WINGs rolled out across all Air Force bases in 2012.
“The WINGS program forms an important step towards empowering women within Air Force and enabling them to build the support and mentoring networks required to sustain a long term career with Air Force. It also provides us with a direct feed into the workforce to test and evaluate initiatives and workforce issues, with a direct flow to senior Air Force leadership”
DGPERS-AF and WINGs program sponsor, AIRCDRE Bob Rodgers, CSM.
TECHNET is a mentoring and networking group for airwomen in non-traditional roles. It offers an open environment for technical women to seek guidance, support and mentoring on a variety of topics for personal and professional development. TECHNET provides access to other technical and like minded women with a range of experience through rank, differing FEG’s and life experiences.
TECHNET was formed in August 2012 due to the growing need for female technicians to stand together and break the glass ceiling instead of going it alone. The group gets together approximately every 6-8 weeks (base tempo dependant) for an hour. The members attending vary from session to session with numbers consistent (7). The success of TECHNET has been measured by the members feeling more empowered and included within their workplaces with knowledge of support by numbers behind them.
To provide feedback to Units and greater Defence TECHNET produces a newsletter with the latest topics on the floor, personal and professional development thinking points and contacts. Positive feedback has been received from far and wide with constant requests for distribution. The newsletter to sent to over 200 individuals and then on forwarded to many more.
First held in 2012, The 'Flying Females' breakfast is held annually at ADFA to support the ADFA cadets who will going into a flying role post completion of ADFA. It allows female Air Force cadets (as well as other Services) the opportunity to meet and speak with senior Air Force leaders as well as women employed in aviation roles.
Capability through Inclusion Forum (the 'forum') was held from 17-18 Sep 14 in Canberra. The forum was representative of the Air Force workforce, with 165 participants from all ranks and most employment groups. The participants included 145 women, 20 men from the Air Force (PAF and Reserve), Navy, Army, Australian Public Service, the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF), the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the United States Air Force (USAF).
Key note addresses were delivered from Virginia Haussegger (ABC Journalist), Catherine Fox (Australian Financial Review) and Jane Caro (Editor of ‘Destroying the Joint – Why women need to change the world’) who exposed participants to diverse views on the progress of women in organisations and society.
The theme of the forum was ‘Capability Through Inclusion’. Key objectives of the forum were to:
The forum was important in highlighting how Capability through Inclusion will play an integral part in the future sustainment of the Air Force. The Forum focused on providing practical skills to both females and males on how they can influence change within the organisation.
In June 2012, Air Force held the inaugural Air Force Women's Development Forum with the theme being 'Surviving and Thriving in Non-Traditional Employment'. The forum, attended by Air Force women and men as well as the Air Force senior leadership, was an important step towards helping Air Force to better understand the unique challenges and opportunities experienced by women working in non-traditional employment fields. Topics covered included how Air Force is examining a range of strategies to attract more women into non-traditional roles; with a focus on aircrew, technical trade roles and engineering, and removing combat restrictions from airfield defence guard and ground defence officer roles. The forum included a senior leadership panel, with CAF, DCAF, ACAUST, DGPERS-AF and WOFF-AF who addressed the concerns and questions of attendees.
The event provided a platform for women to meet, build networks, discuss their careers, hear from subject matter experts and contribute to the direction of future gender initiatives for Air Force. Over the two days, the attendees heard presentations from 12 leading men and women in the service and broader community, covering a range of subjects from recruiting and retention through individual women's experiences to addressing the way ahead. The attendees also broke into working groups to examine the question of breaking recruiting and retention barriers, while a facilitated question and answer with an Air Force senior leadership panel provided valuable insights.
"The inaugural Women's Development Forum was an important step towards helping us to understand some of the unique challenges and opportunities experienced by women working in non-traditional fields within our organisation. Once we understand those challenges and opportunities, we can work towards building strategies that will encourage higher numbers of women to enter and remain in these important operational roles - because our future success will depend on it". Chief of Air Force, Jun 12
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