Head of Naval Reserves inspired by breakfast club

Cmdre Marta Mulkins

Cmdre Marta Mulkins

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

When the Commander of Canada’s Naval Reserves, Commodore Marta Mulkins and her colleagues gathered for an informal breakfast on Persons Day in Ottawa last month, they reflected on the accomplishments of women in the Canadian Armed Forces.

Joining her at the table were several high-ranking female military officers, including Lieutenant-General Christine Whitecross, Major General Tammy Harris, Brigadier General Lise Bourgon, as well as Commissioner Jody Thomas of the Canadian Coast Guard.

Patricia Hadju, Canada’s Federal Minster for the Status of Women, also dropped by to join them.

“We decided to have an informal gathering, so it was very inspiring that she dropped by to recognize the success of women in the military,” says Cmdre Mulkins. “We are constantly looking forward, but it is nice for a moment to recognize where we have been and our accomplishments.”

One such accomplishment is Persons Day – Oct. 18, 1929, the day when Lord Sankey, Lord Chancellor of Great Britain, announced the decision of the five lords that women were persons. The decision forced the Canadian federal government to allow women to be appointed to the Senate or to any public office in the land. This decision paved the way for women, including those at the breakfast table.

Thirty-one years ago Cmdre Mulkins joined the Naval Reserves; as the years passed by the thought of reaching one of the highest ranks was not in her sites. But like her male counterparts, good, hard work paid off with promotion after promotion.

“I would say the military and the Canadian government have been ahead of the curve in both pay equity and opening opportunities to women many years ago, and helped set the tone for advancement in the rest of society,” she says. “The entire process has taught us a valuable lesson, to never underestimate strength in diversity and that everyone in Canada brings something to the table and we are stronger for it.”

Although she brushes off the historic significance of her rise, she has, nonetheless, paved the way for women in the Royal Canadian Navy. She was the first woman to command a warship in the RCN, and later commanded Naval Reserve Division HMCS Carleton.

“I suppose because I was the first to command a ship that I am a trailblazer,” she says. “Sure it’s important to be the first, but also being the second, third, and fourth is important because it proves the first wasn’t an anomaly, and that that path will be well travelled by women in the future.”

Last year she assumed command of all 24 naval reserve units and its 3,200 personnel located across Canada.

As the Naval Reserves looks to expand their numbers over the next few years, Cmdre Mulkins hopes her perspective resonates with young female university students and other women currently contemplating their career path. The Reserves, she says, are “a great starting point to get a true sense of what the military is really like.”

Filed Under: Top Stories

About the Author:

RSSComments (0)

Trackback URL

Leave a Reply

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a Gravatar.