Sharing stories and breaking stereotypes

Photos by Rodney Venis, BPA Office

Photo by Rodney Venis, BPA Office

Capt Jenn Jackson, BPAO ~

International Women’s Day turned into an eye-opening experience for 17 local businesswomen and community leaders when they embarked in HMCS Nanaimo last Thursday for a day sailing and interacting with female Canadian Armed Forces members.

The event was championed by Mandy Farmer, CEO Accent Inns and CFB Esquimalt’s Honorary Navy Captain, and coordinated through Maritime Forces Pacific headquarters and the Defence Women’s Advisory Organization.

For most guests, this was the first time stepping on to a Royal Canadian Navy warship, and interacting with male and female sailors.

As this was a women-centric sail, the focus was on female sailors and their stories.

“I thought I knew about the Forces before I came today, but it turns out I didn’t,” said Sherri Bell, President, Camosun College. “I had no idea of the full diversity of employment opportunities available within one career in the military. My vision and understanding of the Forces has been expanded monumentally. It is a huge opportunity for education and experience in so many ways.”

Uniting female business leaders and influencers with the navy, with an eye on increasing awareness of the base that is hidden out of sight in Esquimalt, was HCapt(N) Farmer’s goal.

“I was amazed by the conversations we had today with women who serve. All of them were open and honest and had so many unique experiences. I saw a lot of stereotypes break today, and everyone was positively surprised by what they learned,” she said.

Dispelling myths about military service was revealed through frank conversations.

“I was surprised by how down-to-earth everyone is and how normal their lives are,” said Suzanne Bradbury, owner of Fort Properties and President of the Downtown Victoria Business Association. “They do everyday stuff; their lives include more than just the military. They have spouses, families, and hobbies, just like civilians do.”

As part of the Canadian Defence Policy Strong, Secure, Engaged, the military’s goal is to increase the number of female personnel by one per cent annually, so that by 2026 one in four members will be women.

Through activities such as the sail in HMCS Nanaimo, the Canadian Armed Forces proactively engages key civilian leaders, professional female associations, educators, and other influencers to showcase to them the diversity of employment opportunities.

Engagements where military members can share their experiences is instrumental in showing Canadian women what life in the CAF is like, in hopes they might consider a military career.

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