The Australian Defence Force’s (ADF) feminist quotas and affirmative action policies are eroding its experience and flexibility.
Its own meticulous statistics show this in vivid detail and great clarity.
When it comes to experience, there are two ways this is being lost.
Firstly, women are being promoted faster than men according to the Women in the ADF Report 2017-18, as I detailed in an earlier article in this series.
This might make for good reading in glossy politically-correct publications trumpeting gender-equality but it does come with a very real side-effect. If an organisation promotes a group of people based on their gender rather than their experience, experience is always gonna lose out.
It is a statement of the bleeding obvious to point out that if you promote females faster than men, they will have less experience when they take up roles commanding others than the men who used to fill these appointments.
Compounding this problem, women tend to serve for less time in the ADF than men according to the Women in the ADF Report 2017-18.
Female officers in the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) serve for approximately 3.5 years less than men. In the Australian Army the gap is almost 2 years and it blows out to 7 years in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). There are also significant differences at the enlisted level, particularly in the Army where women serve for about half the time that men do.
This fact points to an increased lack of employment stability that can be expected when placing women into leadership positions. They are more likely than men to leave them.
As affirmative action plans increase the number of women in command and leadership positions, the ADF will also be increasingly forced to resort to temporary replacements to fill short-notice vacancies. These replacements invariably come from those holding junior positions and who are less experienced. Indeed, there will also be added pressure to reduce or waive time-in-rank requirements before promoting officers into gaps created by this growing instability.
It is a vicious cycle further reducing experience levels of commanders.
Ironically, men who remain in the ADF will become increasingly valuable for their experience, even though their careers will be marked down due to their gender.
Secondly, the fact that women tend to separate from the ADF earlier than men also has a more general implication for experience levels.
Across all three services and at both the officer and enlisted ranks, women only commit to the ADF for 75% of the time that men do.
This necessarily means a more feminised military of the future will be a force that retains less collective experience than was held in previous generations of the ADF.
The future feminised ADF will be an organisation that faces more churn within its workforce. It will need to recruit more women, more often to maintain the gender-diverse pipedream, even though it demonstrably results in a collective loss of experience.
In regards to flexibility, the focus on increasing female participation rates has required the ADF to introduce flexible work arrangements.
This is good for the individual. It is not so good for military units that may be required to deploy at short notice.
Women are far more likely to undertake flexible work arrangements.
Further, they also fall pregnant.
This, in itself, is not a problem. It is far more important for this nation that women have children than man fast jets. And, as a man, I readily acknowledge the enormous courage required of a woman to face childbirth.
If you want to see bravery, you do not need to travel to a distant battlefield. You just need to visit a maternity ward.
This courage is vastly underrated in our society. So much so that we are leaving it, as a nation, to expectant mothers to defend us. This says a lot more about Australian men than it does about Australian women.
On average, about 8% of women in the ADF take some form of maternity leave each year. Between mid-2013 and 17 June 2018 Defence granted more than 320,000 days of maternity leave according to answers provided by Defence to Senate Estimates.
And this number is going to rise. Since 2013, there has been a consistent increase in the number of maternity leave days granted each year, with the figures for the 2017/18 financial year at least 12% higher than those 2013/14 financial year.
By 2030, based on current trends it is likely that 120,000 to 150,000 maternity leave days will be taken by ADF members every year.
Women who are on maternity leave are not deployable, although this has not stopped US and British soldiers from giving birth in Afghanistan. It has also resulted in British, American and Australian militaries having to redeploy soldiers from operations. At least one Australian woman miscarried on her return home.
Sadly, these facts are not disclosed by Defence recruiting to young women.
But it’s not only pregnant women who cannot deploy. Neither can women who have recently given birth but returned to work. The ADF classifies pregnant women as Medical Employment Classification J33 – and this classification lasts up to 24 months.
So while around 8% of women take maternity leave each year, this is just part of the picture. The ADF also employs women who are pregnant and have yet to take maternity leave, as well as new mothers who have returned to work but have not been reclassified as fit to deploy.
So it is likely that the total number of women serving in the ADF at any one point in time who cannot deploy as a result of pregnancy or child birth is closer to 20%. This means that the 2030 ADF is unlikely to be able to deploy about 6% of its officers and soldiers due to pregnancy or childbirth at any given time. But this burden will not be evenly spread. Logistical and force support units will be hit especially hard.
Furthermore, this is on top of those who cannot deploy due to other medical issues, such as injury. As will be discussed tomorrow, this problem will also increase in a feminised ADF.
The result will be heavier workloads for those who can shoulder them. This burden will fall primarily onto a decreasing number of men. But this will not benefit their careers.
Defence policies are now also geared to ensure that women who have been unfit to work, train or deploy due to pregnancy are still competitive against men at promotion boards. They will be considered for promotion at exactly the same time as men. And, often enough, they will be promoted at the expense of men, as detailed by this recent answer from Defence to Senate Estimates:
In order to determine the relative merit of an individual against their peers, a PAC is required to review an individual’s values, performance, experience, qualifications and
potential. A Medical Employment Classification of J33 (Pregnant) is not considered during this process.
A medical classification that precludes a member from deploying on exercise or operations does not preclude them from being presented to a PAC for selection or promotion.
This does not just amaze men. It amazes women in the ADF too.
One female officer has contacted to me to express incredulity at the fact that throughout her entire career at a certain rank level she was either on sick leave, maternity leave or offering restricted service due to pregnancy and childbirth without any impact on her seniority and would be promoted alongside her male colleagues.
Further, even after women are medically classified as deployable following pregnancy they can still effectively provide restricted service. Defence has also told Senate Estimates that women who are breastfeeding do not need to deploy or go on exercise. Women who have continued breastfeeding toddlers have simply refused to leave their barracks environment. Indeed, the RAAF boasts that it is the first military force in the world to have achieved accreditation as a breastfeeding-friendly workplace.
The ADF can choose a flexible workplace for a feminised workforce. Or it can pursue a force that is flexible enough to deploy at short notice. It cannot choose both.
By 2030 it will be well and truly committed to the former to the detriment of our national security.
Tomorrow I will examine how the push for gender equality is eroding capability.
Stay tuned over coming days as the remainder of this series is published.
I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences about the feminisation of the ADF. Please comment below or email me at [email protected]