By Military Women
Welcome to a new guest column. With over 15% of the Canadian Armed Forces and 10% of all Veterans Affairs Canada clients now female, we approached Scott Taylor for space to add more of an active female voice to the magazine, and surprise! he said… “Yes”!
Having just celebrated its 30th year in print, Esprit de Corps started about the same time the Canadian Armed Forces started gender integration activities in earnest; moving from most occupations being closed to women in 1989, to having women in all occupations today. Throughout this interesting and challenging journey for both men and women, there wasn’t a regularly featured female military perspective. Who knew that all we had to do was ask!
So here are the rules of engagement. This is an opinion column. We will respond to questions as factually as possible but, in the end, all opinions expressed here are ours. You, dear readers, are free to agree or disagree with our opinions, although hopefully not with the facts. We look forward to hearing from you. In fact, we’re hoping this column will be a conversation starter – with us, with your family and friends, with colleagues – about questions on women in the military that come up even 30 years on.
Let’s talk about pregnancy, maternity leave (and parental/paternity leave) and the impact on operations. Let’s talk about female recruitment and retention specific issues. Let’s look at the buzzwords of the day, like diversity, intersectionality, gender equality and gender equity, and talk about their relevance (if any) to today’s military.
What are the gender-related questions you have, but are afraid to ask in public? Some we’ve heard range from “Why do we still need Employment Equity?” to “How will we know when Op Honour has been successful?” We’ll do our best to answer them. We’ve been hearing these types of questions and concerns for a while now, sometimes as hallway muttering, so let’s have these conversations, even if they may be somewhat sensitive.
Well, it’s March and there is a “women’s history month” theme to this edition of Esprit de Corps, so let’s start the first “Let’s Talk “with a question we got from a friend. We look forward to your questions.
March 8th is International Women’s Day. Seriously. Why do we celebrate it? Aren’t women already equal? And speaking about equality – when’s “International Men’s Day”?
International Men’s Day is a real thing! It started in 1992 and is celebrated on November 19th in over 80 countries, including Canada (you didn’t know that did you, admit it). The day focuses on men’s health, improving gender relations, gender equality and promoting male role models. The first Canadian celebrations were in Vancouver in 2009, but it has been spreading across Canada since then. International Men’s Day is part of “Movember” – a worldwide moustache growing charity event held every November to raise funds and awareness for men’s health. The Aussies have put together a great website of information at InternationalMensDay.com. Check it
International Women’s Day is on March 8th. We actually have Soviet Russia to thank for these celebrations. On March 8, 1917, women gained suffrage in Russia and celebrations were held annually thereafter. This Russian holiday was made an international holiday by the United Nations in 1975. The day is set aside not only to acknowledge women’s achievements but to focus on elimination of all discrimination against women including barriers to women’s full and equal participation in society. Some people encourage wearing of clothing in the colour purple for this day. See InternationalWomenDay.com as one source for more
The CAF has achieved so much in the last 30 years, with full integration and equal pay. Yet, there are still positions and ranks that women have not been appointed to. And there are still those who will greet the next breakthrough with the muttered comment, “Well, she only got that job/promotion because she is a woman.” That’s an example of why International Women’s Day is still important to the CAF. And did you know that it can still cost a woman more to be in the CAF than it does a man? We kid you not. It costs a woman more to dry clean a uniform, to get a haircut, and even to shower, shampoo and use antiperspirant, just to name a few items on the “pink tax slip” – but we can talk more about that in a future column.