Jennifer Wittwer is a Commander in the Royal Australian Navy who designed the Navy Women’s Leadership Program to provide Navy female leaders with the opportunity to attend, and participate in various external leadership development events in support of the Navy’s Leadership and Values Cultural Reform Strategy now named, New Generation Navy.
The Navy Women’s Leadership Program commenced in February 2009 and completed on 23 November 2009. . The program incorporated events by the Australian Women and Leadership Forum (AWLF), as well as a two hour workshop on negotiation, mentoring or coaching techniques. Overall, the Navy Women’s Leadership Program is designed to meet the leadership development needs of Navy women, in conjunction with the Navy leadership development continuum, in various ranks across commissioned and non-commissioned officers in locations around Australia.
The Program was created and co-ordinated, from initial consultation and negotiation with WTAA through to successful completion of the leadership events by the selected participants, by CMDR Jennifer Wittwer, previously in 2008 the Director of Navy Organisational Culture, and now the New Generation Navy Futures Manager. CMDR Wittwer instigated the program as a result of the need to provide female Navy leaders with the opportunity to attend leadership events external to Navy, thus broadening their knowledge, experience and skills in leadership and strategic oversight of the issues facing female leaders in the workplace today, and develop their own personal self-awareness. It was CMDR Wittwer’s view that current Navy leadership training did not achieve this, rather it was focussed on military command and control and operational and situational leadership. CMDR Wittwer's initiative was based on her previous experience around the recruitment and retention of Australian Defence Force (ADF) women, her passion for equity and diversity in the Navy and successful management of complaints of unacceptable behaviour, and her desire to support the development and advancement of Navy female leaders.
The 2009 Program was fully supported and funded by the Deputy Chief of Navy, RADM David Thomas, in October 2008, as a retention opportunity, the promotion of Navy in the wider community as an Employer of Choice, and to demonstrate that Navy is actively committed to, and assisting, the development of female Navy leadership. An unexpected outcome of the Program in 2009 was the opportunity for CMDR Wittwer and other Navy women to present at various WTAA events and share their leadership journeys, highlight cultural reform in Navy through proposed New Generation Navy initiatives, and identify opportunities for learning, change and growth for the organisation.
The 2009 Program completed on 23 November 2009 and feedback from the participants across all events has been provided to MINDPMS at that time. The participants provided glowing tributes of the content of the events, and of the impact on the development of their own leadership skills.
The principles of the 2009 Navy Women’s Leadership Program are key tenets of the New Generation Navy cultural reform strategy. The Program has subsequently been built into the new NGN leadership training continuum for all Navy people. The new NGN leadership framework will be implemented through collective and individual leadership development, and this includes utilising other external (to Defence) course and leadership development opportunities, of which the Navy Women’s Leadership Program is one. The Navy Women’s Leadership Program has been noted as a specific additional leadership development opportunity in the NGN Strategy 2009 document approved by Chief of Navy in April 2009. The 2010 Program has been developed and will commence in February 2010. This program will include an additional component for a further fifty women; the pilot of a self-paced DVD/CD/workbook based leadership development and mentoring program over a twelve week period.