Women can achieve anything with the navy

Photo by MARPAC Imaging

Photo by MARPAC Imaging

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

The Canadian Armed Forces’ efforts to beef up the number of women in the military was greatly enhanced by the Achieve Anything Foundation last week.

Using HMCS Ottawa as an enticement platform, 120 women and girls of all ages crossed the ship’s brow Jan. 27 for a day sail around Vancouver’s harbour and the Strait of Georgia.

For most, this was a first encounter with a Canadian warship and its crew.

Sailors were prepared for their guests with special displays laid out in the hangar and in the ship, and an itinerary of tours and spectacles to keep everyone wide-eyed and asking questions.

The air force played a role by flying a Sea King helicopter overhead as part of a search and rescue demonstration.

“Promoting the navy to future generations is very important to everyone in the defence team,” said Commander Alex Barlow, Ottawa’s Commanding Officer. “Seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces brought great pride to all of the sailors who work aboard Ottawa, and we are hoping those who joined us will share their experiences with friends and family.”

The Achieve Anything Foundation was formed to create year-round projects and programs that inspire future female leaders in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and STEM-based fields such as aviation, aerospace, marine and defence. It was founded by Kirsten Brazier, an aviation professional with 25-years’ experience in the commercial aviation industry as a fixed wing aircraft and helicopter pilot. The 47-year-old founded the registered non-profit in 2016, but its roots go back to 2012 with its signature event The Sky’s The Limit – Girls Fly Too! The annual event, held in conjunction with various agency, industry and education partners, is expecting over 20,000 visitors in 2018.

Low numbers of women in senior management or command positions and highly skilled trades in organizations such as CAF is why she pushes for change through positive actions instead of rhetoric. She is a big believer in hands-on experience and concentrates her work on this aspect of promotion.

For the Ottawa day sail, she marketed it with the slogan: “Ladies come drive this ship.”

“Women are a tough demographic for defence, science and technology industries to crack,” she says. “If you want to get women fired up, you need to make them see there is a really awesome experience to be had on a warship.”

“I don’t want to hear women saying we need more women in the military or emergency services. I want to hear more men step up and, like [Chief of Defence Staff] General Jonathan Vance, say: ‘We want to build a diverse team that includes more women’.”

For more information about Achieve Anything Foundation, upcoming events, or ways to support go to: www.achieveanything.ca.

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