The number of women in the Canadian Armed Forces has been slowly increasing over the years, but there’s a continued push for more representation.
Currently, 15 per cent of members are women. The goal is 25 per cent by 2025.
“We’re putting money where our mouth is, saying we want women because we know women bring a certain strength, a certain talent pool,” Capt. Leona Ahn, with the Canadian Forces Recruiting Centre, said.
“I think there’s a lot of stereotypes or assumptions made about the military and what it has to offer women or the fact that it might have nothing to offer women. But that’s just frankly not true,” she said.
In early December, a group of about a dozen women from Edmonton, Calgary, Regina and Winnipeg spent two days at the Edmonton Garrison learning about what it would be like to join the military. They rode in an armoured vehicle, experienced the simulated gun range and toured the medical and dental facilities.
The invitees were “influencers” in their own careers, such as teachers, guidance counsellors or bloggers. The goal was meant for the women to learn to speak confidently about what the force has to offer.
“When it comes to the armed forces, it’s not something that we have experience with,” Susanne Suffield, a Winnipeg guidance counsellor, said. “Yes, they come to our schools and talk to kids but us being here, meeting these amazing women and seeing the different jobs they do makes us comfortable talking about it.”
To prove it’s doable, the women were put through the FORCE program, which is the actual fitness test for armed forces members.
“Look at the women that you guys filmed today, they’re (from) all walks of life, all different age groups, all different fitness level and they all passed,” Ahn said.
Ahn said the culture shift within the Canadian Armed Forces has been in the works for about 20 years, but it’s been more recently that members have felt a change.
“I’m a woman in the military, I’m a visible minority and I love it. I’ve never had a problem.”
“From top of the chain of command to all of us at the tactical level, the culture has shifted significantly from a male-dominated culture to being inclusive of women and really creating a culture where we embrace the diversity,” Ahn said.