Spotlight shines on RCN in women who lead documentary

Commander Amber Comisso

Commander Amber Comisso

Peter Mallett
Staff writer
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Vancouver-based filmmaker Adrian Juric has included a Royal Canadian Navy officer in his upcoming documentary Our Time Has Come: Women Who Lead.

Commander (Cdr) Amber Comisso, 42, joins a half dozen other successful working women in the film that focusses on gender equality and the unique ways women lead at the highest levels of the organizational world.

“I was truly honoured and excited that he chose me to tell part of a larger story of the struggle of gender equity to Canadians,” said Cdr Comisso. “I really do think it’s important for young women to see someone successful in the navy, and research shows for so many women, seeing is believing.”

She currently works as F3, Canadian Fleet Pacific, and is preparing for the upcoming Task Group Exercise involving HMC Ships Winnipeg and Regina running May 28 to June 11. Her clip was filmed at the Wardroom, with a sneak peak recently released on LinkedIn.

“Young women, especially those in their teens, need to see women who have done big things in the world in order to go after success themselves,” says Juric. “My goal with this film is to introduce them to female leaders who fit this description, women who might inspire them enough to pursue leadership roles of their own one day.”

His cousin, Kara Osborne, a retired army intelligence officer, recommended Cdr Comisso. It was her impressive accomplishments over 23 years in the navy, and her roles as mother of two and service spouse, that prompted him to reach out to her.

She recently completed a posting as HMCS Winnipeg’s Executive Officer, part of which was a five-month deployment to the Asia-Pacific region on Operations Projection and Neon. She previously held the title of National Military Co-Chair of the Defence Women’s Advisory Organization, which advises Canada’s military on systemic barriers concerning women and gender equity.

Commander Amber Comisso

Commander Amber Comisso

During the filming, Juric asked her several provocative questions on gender: What are the distinctive qualities and characteristics that make women effective leaders? Who embodied those qualities for you when you were young? When did you first become aware of yourself as a leader and what unique qualities do female leaders bring to organizations in which they serve?

In her response, she made reference to the Winnipeg’s command team as they managed the tragic loss of crewmember MS Duane Earle, who accidentally went overboard as the ship was returning home last December. Having three different leadership styles on the ship – herself, the Commanding Officer and Coxswain – helped the ship’s company get through the crisis, she says. She didn’t hold back on showing her emotions.

“For those people who wanted to cry, they saw the XO crying and they knew it was okay. I wish at the beginning of my career someone had said to me ‘be true to yourself’ and lead authentically and break the mould. It’s powerful to send out these messages to young women, very powerful.”

When completed, Juric hopes his documentary will spread widely to inspire the next generation of young women to step forward onto the leadership path. He believes women are still underrepresented at the senior levels of most organizations, and feels strongly that positive role models are essential to the advancement of women and to society as a whole.

Cdr Comisso echoes this, saying there is a huge appetite for celebrating women’s achievement in the Canadian Armed Forces as it tries to realign military culture for future generations. 

“I truly believe a diverse military that reflects Canadian society is an incredibly valuable tool and that diversity and inclusion is our best asset,” she says. “It promotes better decision making, innovation, recruiting, and employee satisfaction. All of these things benefit the military as an organization and get us to a point where we truly understand why diversity will make us better.”

The fully edited version of the film is expected to be released later this year. The sneak preview of Cdr Comisso’s interview is currently available at: https://vimeo.com/541045971

Sample clips from other interviewees can be viewed: www.adrianjuric.com.

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Filed Under: Top Stories

About the Author: The Lookout Newspaper can trace its history back to April 1943 when CFB Esquimalt’s first newspaper was published. Since then, Lookout has grown into the award winning source for Pacific Navy News. Leading the way towards interactive social media reach, we are a community resource newspaper growing a world wide audience.

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