Defence boosting women's participation in key STEM programs

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The Hon Matt Thistlethwaite MP

Assistant Minister for Defence

Assistant Minister for Veterans’ Affairs

Assistant Minister for the Republic

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Ben Leeson on 0404 648 275

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8 June 2023

To help secure a workforce that better represents the diverse talent of our nation, Defence will work towards implementing a fifty per cent target for women’s participation across key research and innovation career pathways.

This change will apply to Defence’s Australian Public Service (APS) science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) entry level programs, including the STEM Cadetship Program and the Research and Innovation Pathway of the Defence Graduate Program.

These entry level programs currently have a women’s participation rate of twenty five per cent – the target would double the participation rate, and demonstrates a serious commitment to increasing the number of women working in STEM.

Increasing diversity and representation in these key fields ensures that more people can benefit from skills and employment opportunities, and helps strengthen Defence’s capability.

In addition to boosting women’s participation in entry level programs, Defence will also set a fifty per cent target for women’s participation for the successful pilot, the NAVIGATE program. Based on the success of the pilot in 2022, NAVIGATE will now be an ongoing program in the Department of Defence.    

The NAVIGATE program brings experienced STEM professionals into Defence from industry and academia. This broadens the diversity of Defence’s APS workforce and while also providing participants with a unique experience and supporting them to thrive as STEM leaders.

Participants typically complete two 6-month rotations in different areas of Defence before securing their ongoing placement within Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG). This builds Defence-specific skills and supports individuals in discovering how they can contribute within the Defence context.

The NAVIGATE program received over 800 applications from the public and private sector STEM community in 2022. Defence set a target of forty per cent women’s participation rate and achieved a rate of forty three percent. Defence will work toward a fifty per cent women’s participation rate.

NAVIGATE applications close 25 June 2023.

Quotes attributable to the Hon Matt Thistlethwaite MP, Assistant Minister for Defence:

“Increased STEM targets at Defence open significant opportunities for women to amplify our Force's capabilities.”

"We're backing efforts to attract STEM talent to Defence's challenging, yet rewarding, field of innovation and technology. NAVIGATE is our mechanism to build a team of top-notch specialists.”

"NAVIGATE, launched with explicit gender goals, underscores that determined participation targets bring tangible results."

Quotes attributable to the Chief Defence Scientist, Professor Tanya Monro:

“By setting targets for women’s participation in our STEM entry programs we draw more fully on our nation’s talent pool, allowing Defence science to deliver greater impact to the ADF.”

“Continuing to ensure the success of women requires strong leadership and a commitment to change, so I'm incredibly proud of these bold targets.”

“Defence’s transformation agenda includes becoming an exemplar in attracting, training, retaining and providing career opportunities for women. These measures demonstrate in practical terms how we are taking steps to achieve this.”


More information about NAVIGATE can be found here: NAVIGATE | DST (

More information about the Defence Graduate Program can be found here: Defence Graduate Program: Research and Innovation Stream | DST

More information about the STEM Cadetship can be found here: STEM Cadetship | APS Jobs & Careers | Defence

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