08 March 2019 ‘Balance for Better’

International Women’s Day is recognised and celebrated around the globe on March 8 annually to commemorate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women—throughout history and across borders.

The theme for 2019 is ‘Balance for Better’.

This recognises that gender equality isn’t a women’s issue—it’s a business issue—and everyone has a part to play to build a gender-balanced world.

DHA launched a gender equality strategy in 2016 and has taken active steps in recent years to address gender balance within our organisation. In celebrations across the nation, DHA staff voiced their commitment to gender parity, supported by the Senior Executive Group who made the commitment to work to accelerate progress towards pay equity at DHA.

This International Women’s Day, we’d like to share a story from Natalie Peck—a Defence spouse, DHA investor and mother of four forging a career in media and communications.

When I married my husband 17 years ago I really had no idea of what I was getting into as a ‘Defence wife’. The days, hours and months alone, solo parenting, constant relocations, isolation from my family, the worries about the work he was doing and having my life (and subsequently our  four children’s) lives upturned and changed at a moment’s notice. We often feel like we are ALL in the Navy—but without the medals or parades!

It’s been harder than I could ever have imagined, but it also helped me grow stronger, more resilient and truly appreciate the times when we are all together.

I also came to recognise the value of establishing a strong support network of women in each posting location—“my village” of neighbours, mums, co-workers and family whom I love and appreciate so much. People who tell me I’m enough and that I can do it—even when the voice inside says I can’t.

The impact on the career of a Defence spouse is something not often talked about.

My career choices have been dramatically impacted by my husband’s Navy career—which has frustrated me at times. But it has also pushed me into new areas and directions I probably would never have contemplated.

On International Women’s Day 2019 I find myself reflecting on the theme of gender equality—‘Balance for Better’ and feeling optimistic about the future for working women.

I’m heartened by the changes I’ve seen firsthand in regards to flexible work arrangements, leave entitlements and an overall acknowledgement by employers that people who can’t fit into the 9 to 5 box still have something valuable to offer. Working remotely from home in posting locations across the country is becoming more feasible for some Defence spouses too. But there’s still a long way to go.

As my children grow, and my husband’s military career of 25 years starts to slow down a little, I feel excited and grateful that it’s now “my time”. Time to try and adjust our family’s balance a bit and follow my dreams.

In 2019 I think Australia still has a long way to go to achieve gender equity and balance in the workplace—but I think the tide is changing.

I’m very proud of my husband and his service to the Australian Defence Force. But I also know he is proud of me and appreciates the sacrifices I’ve made too. Maybe that’s what they mean by balance?

Happy International Women’s Day everyone!