On the eve of International Women’s Day 2023, the Director of the Defence and Security Institute at The University of Western Australia is encouraging more women to enter the sector to bring the “balance, connectivity and agility” it needs in the face of global uncertainty.
"It calls for those things that both women and men can bring to the table together: balance, connectivity and agility."Professor Gia Parish
Professor Gia Parish, recently appointed leader of the Institute, has long been among the female minority in male-dominated fields, having spent most of her research career in electronic engineering.
She said much like engineering, the defence sector carried the legacy of traditional masculine ideas about career paths – a barrier to women entering the field.
“Things are slowly changing, but there are still many people who hear ‘defence’ and think of, for example, warmongering and men carrying guns, when there is so much more to the important work carried out in the sector,” Professor Parish said.
Image: Professor Gia Parish.
“In today’s international climate, defence is really about protection; it’s about continuous vigilance in the face of not just traditional war scenarios but also a range of grey-zone activity like cyber espionage and the work of malicious actors.
“It calls for those things that both women and men can bring to the table together: balance, connectivity and agility.
“Defence is also a much more flexible work sector these days – one that, like many sectors, needs more women and therefore is taking steps to make it easier for them to pursue really satisfying work while also meeting the demands and commitments of life.”
Professor Parish said having more women working in the defence sector could help mitigate the siloing of activity and research.
“That’s something I’m very passionate about – connecting all the right people and projects in the defence ecosystem, which includes academia, industry, government and the defence force itself,” she said.
“You need everyone at the table, and WA in particular – given its geopolitical position and the wealth of dual-use technology and knowledge within the vast resources sector – really needs to be at that table.”