Defence hosted a unique International Women's Day panel discussion this week, bringing together accomplished women, ADF reserve members and their employers, and Defence personnel to talk about what this year's theme means to them.

Panel members included Army Reserve member and the first female Commissioner of the ACT Emergency Services Agency, Georgeina Whelan; Canberra's Indigenous Business Woman of the Year and Director of Point River Networks, Melissa Lacey; and Army reservist and group leader of Defence Technology and Science Group, Colonel Renee Kidson.

This years' International Women's Day theme was Changing Climates: Equality today for a sustainable tomorrow. This recognises and celebrates the contribution of women and girls around the world, who are working to change the climate of gender equality and build a sustainable future.

Each of the women shared their experiences, their challenges over the years as well as their successes and talked about the people who supported them along the way.

Ms Whelan shared her early experience in the Defence Force, which she said was a challenging environment for women at that time and opportunities were limited.

"I joined the Medical Corp because it was one of the few areas of employment in the '80s where there was an opportunity for women to truly deploy on operations in a combat service support role," she said.

"I've had a rewarding career given great opportunities to work alongside fabulous clinicians and leaders which created not just opportunities but what I call my own personal learning journey."

"I think that both as a serving officer and now an active reservist in my new career, that I can bring with me some of those learnings and that journey, and 'pay it forward' in the environment I currently operate in."

"I can remember being the lone female Lieutenant Colonel, lone Colonel, lone Brigadier and it's so nice to be part of an organisation that provides opportunities across the board."

The audience, which included a large number of men and Defence leaders such as Deputy Chief of Joint Capabilities Air Vice-Marshal Ken Robinson, valued the opportunity to ask questions and to hear from the panel, each of whom had achieved remarkable changes in their respective fields.

Read more about this year's theme for International Women's Day and how you can 'pay it forward':

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