January 16, 2023

011: Creating Change to Elevate Women with Jen Wittwer

Jen Wittwer shares her journey in empowering women in male-dominated industries, emphasizing the importance of raising their voices.

Creating change to Elevate Women

Do what you can with what you have from where you are.  Three elements that have the power to create the strongest waves of change – especially for women working in male dominated industries who have a higher risk of experiencing bullying, discrimination, and harassment, and often fewer opportunities.  

In this episode of Raise 1000 Voices, we discover just how “do what you can with what you have from where you are” has created powerful change to elevate women – and claim their rightful place – in one of the most male dominated arenas in Australia, with Jen Wittwer CSM.

With more than forty years military experience Jen has led people through significant organisational change, culture, and workplace reform, with a laser focus on steering women into more powerful positions. 

Despite landing in an environment that was not conducive to achieving her full potential, and a pivotal experience at just 19, Jen never lost her core belief she was capable of instilling change and adding value. She understood the importance of standing up and being heard to ensure other women have the space and place to realise their worth and gather the respect they deserve.

The changes Jen ignited demanded going up against an institution with deep-rooted cultural pillars that prevented women from stepping up. Working first within the Royal Australian Navy, then as the NATO Gender Advisor in Afghanistan, and broad ranging roles since including working with the UN in New York to create Gender Mainstreaming Policy, Jen’s commitment to elevating women shows grit, tenacity, and incredible grace. 

Through her experiences in the Royal Australian Navy and her work in some of the most confrontational places in the world, Jen recognises the importance of women raising their voices, authentically, regardless of the environment they’re in. And in this episode she gives a very human, heart-led insight into just how much this really matters.


  • Contemplating about contributions in this changing world (01:45)
  • Who is Jen now and the circumstances that shaped her (04:42)
  • Crucial factors that influence changes in women’s roles (14:08)
  • The impact of working with the new generation navy (17:05)
  • Understanding arduous situations of women in conflict zones (25:50)
  • What demonstrates a real activist heart? (28:22)
  • What’s heartbreaking about women not raising their voices? (31:29)
  • How does Jen support women to be themselves (34:33)
  • Female leaders who inspire her (37:40)
  • What are Jen’s superpower and kryptonite? (40:33)
  • Rapid fire questions (48:08)
  • The worst and best piece of advice she was given (53:01)


“If you don’t have the courage to keep moving forward, you will fall.” -Jen Wittwer

“If we didn’t have women AND men activists working for women’s equality and empowerment, women wouldn’t be where they are today, which is not where we need to be but still better than where it was.” -Jen Wittwer

“Once you gift someone the power of their voice, how to express and how to write, the world changes.” -Jacqueline Nagle

“If we can borrow courage and belief when we need it, we’re more likely to stand up and raise our voice.” -Jacqueline Nagle

“I raise up my voice — not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard.” -Malala Yousafzai

“There is a greater promise to our daughters when we find, open up and share our voice and that voice is being heard. Just like our mothers did before us, we pay it forward.” -Dr. Karen Keller


Against the Wind: How women can be their authentic selves in male-dominated professions
Not Now, Not Ever: Ten years on from the misogyny speech
What She Did Next




Jen Wittwer is an international consultant, author and speaker on gender equality, gender mainstreaming and the United Nations (UN) Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda.

In April 2018 Jen transferred from full-time service in the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to the Reserves as a maritime logistics officer and strategic human resource specialist. She has forty years’ military experience in leading people through organisational change, large-scale cultural and workplace reform, and implementing contemporary and niched people-oriented policy strategies and policy solutions. Over the past fifteen years Jen has developed and implemented workplace behaviour education programs, women’s leadership, mentoring and network programs and strategies, and advised senior ADF leadership on women’s representation and participation, and gender equality and diversity policies and initiatives.

From 2012, Jen led the implementation of the UN WPS agenda within the ADF and the broader defence and security sector. She has participated in various North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and UN forums and projects relating to WPS and women’s representation in armed forces, and she deployed as the first ADF Gender Adviser to NATO operations in Afghanistan in 2013. On her return, Jen was appointed to coordinate the implementation of the Australian Government National Action Plan on WPS. In her last ADF role from 2016, Jen was seconded to UN Women in New York as a policy specialist on peacekeeping and sexual exploitation and abuse. Since 2018, Jen has consulted to UN Women Ukraine to develop a training framework on gender and WPS, and from 2019-2022, with UN Women Jordan to build capacity for gender mainstreaming in the security sector. Jen has authored courses on gender equality in peacekeeping and WPS for the Peace Operations Training Institute in the United States and is a Lead Associate with Gender Associations International Consulting GmbH, recently conducting a review of the UN Women Female Military Officers Course. Jen continues to work in a reserve capacity for the ADF; from 2019-2021, she authored the annual Women in the ADF Report, and in 2022, is attached to the Australian Defence College as a gender expert.

Jen has been recognised with a number of national awards; the 2010 Australian Centre for Leadership for Women Advancement of Women in the Workplace Award (Bronze), a finalist in the 2011 Telstra Business Women’s Awards, a Conspicuous Service Medal in the 2013 Queen’s Birthday Honours List, a finalist in the 2014 and 2018 AFR 100 Women of Influence, and acknowledged in the 2016, 2017 and 2018 editions of Who’s Who of Australian Women. In 2018, Jen was named the Canberra Women in Business Mentor of the Year and in 2019, she was a finalist in the Australian Defence Magazine Women in Defence Awards, and silver award for YFactor Most Inspirational Y. She has also been awarded the NATO Afghanistan Medal, Australian Active Service Medal with Clasp ICAT, Afghanistan Medal, Defence Long Service Medal with Fourth Clasp, Australian Defence Medal, UN Medal with Numeral 2, and Returned from Active Service badge.

Jen is a keynote speaker and has written extensively on gender equality, women’s participation in the security sector, and women’s roles in peace and security efforts. Her work has been featured in the Australian Strategic Policy Institute ‘The Strategist’, the US-based ‘The Strategy Bridge’, US Naval War College ‘Proceedings’, the Australian Defence Force Journal, the on-line ANZ Women Thought Leaders Series, Women’s Agenda, the Australian Army’s ‘The Cove’, and ‘PropelHer’, and various professional journals and blogs. In 2018, Jen was published in the inaugural international Oxford Handbook on WPS. In 2020, her first book, Against the Wind: How women can be their authentic selves in male-dominated professions, was published. In 2022, Jen co-authored Monash University’s ‘Global Review on the Development of Military Gender Adviser Capabilities.’

Jen has a Master of International Development from Canberra University, for which she received the Dean’s Excellence Award in 2021. She also has Graduate Diplomas in Strategic Leadership and Resource Management, and Graduate Certificates in Management Studies, Administration, and Gender, Peace, and Security. From 2019-2022, Jen was a Non-Executive Director on the board of the International Women’s Development Agency. She is also an Advisory Board Member for Women in International Security Australia, Chair of Women Veterans Australia, and a Credentialed Practitioner of Coaching.


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