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Defence & Security

How defence contractor Lockheed Martin Australia is boosting numbers of women in its workforce

4 Aug 2022, by Amy Sarcevic

Rates of women’s participation in STEM professions have only seen modest improvements in recent years. Despite representing 50 percent of Australia’s overall workforce, just 28 percent of current STEM-skilled workers are women – up from 24 percent in 2016.

Within the Defence industry, the representation of women is smaller, at 19.2 percent – and a long way from where it needs to be. As Australia gears up its sovereign capability in response to various geopolitical threats, boosting numbers of women in the sector will be an ongoing priority.

Defence contractor Lockheed Martin Australia is helping to change this with a series of initiatives targeting existing and prospective women employees.

Through initiatives such as the NSW Government’s STEMStart Program and its Altitude Accord with University of Newcastle, Lockheed Martin Australia has been providing curriculum support, career-counselling, and networking opportunities for students.

The company also continues to partner with the National Youth Science Forum to showcase available careers and study paths; and is partnering with STEMPunks to build and deliver a space-focused curriculum.

Through these initiatives it hopes to reach and engage more young women with an aptitude for STEM and meet its future workforce needs.

Julia Dickinson, Lockheed Martin Australia’s Chief Engineer for Military Satellite Communications (MILSATCOM) and JP9102 Bid Team Engineering Lead, believes having these conversations early is the missing piece of the puzzle for many aspiring STEM professionals.

“It may sound clichéd, but ‘you cannot be what you cannot see’,” said Julia ahead of the Australian Defence Magazine STEM in Defence Summit, hosted by Informa Connect.

“The one thing many of the graduate engineering women I have worked with have in common is a close relative or family friend that works in the field; or a teacher who has advocated for engineering as an option. A respected adult that gives insight into the profession speaks volumes. Sometimes this is all the encouragement an aspiring STEM professional needs to pursue an industry or role.”

The data seems to agree, with parents of boys more likely (47 percent) to have weekly conversations about STEM at home than parents of girls (42 percent); and fathers much more likely (51 percent) to be holding these conversations than mothers (38 percent).

This could partly explain why 90 percent of girls in year nine at school do not know what an engineer does; and why women accounted for less than a quarter of university enrolments in STEM subjects in 2019.

However, it does not explain the gender pay, hiring, or promotion gap within STEM industries. At present, STEM-qualified men are 1.8 times more likely to be working in a STEM profession than women; and are out-earning women by $28,994 per annum. This gap is more pronounced in STEM than other industries combined, where the average pay difference between men and women is $25,534 per annum.

To help further boost the number of women pursuing STEM careers with Lockheed Martin Australia, the company has established an Early Careers Council (ECC) which looks into careers for interns, apprenticeships and graduates. One of its core focus areas is to hire and retain more diverse candidates and improve their experiences once on board, to aid retention and promotion.

For Julia, the strong representation of women in senior leadership roles was an important part of her decision to join Lockheed Martin Australia in 2021.
“Currently four out of the five business pillars in the Space Division is headed by a woman, as is our JP9102 sovereign MILSATCOM bid team. So it is clear the company has the right mindset when it comes to gender diversity,” she said.

In 2021, a woman was the inaugural recipient of Lockheed Martin Australia’s space internship. This program provides engineering students with practical workplace experience that will position them to support Australia’s MILSATCOM system in coming years.

Despite the company’s strong track record of hiring and promoting women at all levels, including senior leadership roles, Julia says measures that reinforce diversity within the workplace are important to ensure no woman misses out on an opportunity for career development. Unconscious bias training is one such measure.

“Unconscious bias can affect all of us, so it’s important managers are adequately trained on how to recognise it within themselves – especially when conducting interviews or earmarking workers for promotion,” said Julia, who recently participated in the training herself.

While not a mandate, Julia also seeks gender-diverse panels in hiring interviews. She believes panels with diverse views can ensure talented women are not overlooked in the selection process – and that a woman subsequently offered a job will be more likely to accept it if the panel demonstrates diversity.

“It sends out the right message to the candidate from the beginning – that there is a place for women in the organisation and that she will thrive there.”

Hear more about the work Lockheed Martin Australia is doing to boost numbers of women in its own workforce at the ADM STEM in Defence Conference, hosted by Informa Connect.

This year’s event will be held August 15 at the Emporium Hotel Brisbane.
Learn more and register.


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