International Women’s Day – Front row seat to career mastery

This year’s theme is ‘Cracking the Code: Innovation for a gender equal future’. A Navy captain has helped design a workforce system that enables women to map out their careers in STEM.

CAPTION: Prominent female reservist, Captain Virginia Hayward, Royal Australian Navy, at the Defence Remarkable Women panel discussion. Story by Corporal Michael Rogers. Photo by Kym Smith.

A rower and the president of Australian Defence Force Rowing, Captain Virginia Hayward knows a thing or two about competition.

As the Director of Navy Workforce Strategy and Futures, she helped design a system to give sailors a competitive edge when it comes to their careers.

Navy Mastery is a new approach that focuses on developing the person and their skills across maritime (operating environment), technical (professions) and social (working as a team) mastery.

The system is designed to manage a sailor’s career from recruitment to retirement, and is flexible enough to accommodate career goals and include not just formal learning, but second-hand learning and learning by doing.

“Careers are not linear pathways anymore. Mastery allows people to set goals and plan for life,” Captain Hayward said.

“People may get out, have a family, work in academia or whole of government, and it enables you to better plan when and where you can come back in.”

It’s something Captain Hayward has first-hand experience with, having left the Navy to pursue work in other government agencies, before returning in 2019 as a maritime human resource officer.

A love of the ocean, grown from a sea-side childhood in Gladstone, led her to join the Navy as a midshipman.

She graduated from the Royal Australian Naval College in 1989 and went on to serve as a maritime warfare officer on board a number of ships.

Her staff appointments included staff officer to the Director General Naval Manpower and the Head of Defence Personnel, and Executive Officer Change Management.

In 2004, she transferred to reserves and worked in emergency management, counter-terrorism and strategic human resources.

The theme of International Women’s Day 2023 is ‘Cracking the Code: Innovation for a gender equal future.’ It aims to champion the unique place that women hold in STEM fields.

Captain Hayward said Navy Mastery can help people plan their careers in STEM by giving clarity on expectations, learning opportunities and enriching roles.

“Defence is relying heavily on a constant supply of STEM graduates. But how do we up skill people in our current system who have the aptitude for STEM, but may not have current qualifications?” she said.

“Mastery career pathways are a way to balance the service requirements and develop deep specialists and give career flexibility for people who may want to do other things within, join mid-career or step out.

“They can come back in and understand the standards and skills required to progress their mastery.”


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