Women in the Forces
Women today are an invaluable part of the Canadian Armed Forces team. These 10,000 women are driven by excellence, community, and making a difference. Women in the Forces challenge their skills and knowledge through study, leadership, travel, and adventure opportunities.
Roles within the Navy, Army, and Air Force empower women to exceed their own limits and expectations while achieving their full potential as members of a dynamic and exciting team. From aerospace engineering to submarine maintenance to health care administration – all of the hundreds of Forces jobs are open to women.
The Forces value the contribution of women to improving the lives of others through its missions here in Canada and abroad. Increasingly at the forefront in ground-breaking roles within the Forces, women are seizing unmatched training and career opportunities that span the entire spectrum of responsibilities to achieve their personal and professional ambitions.
Dedicated women in the Forces share their experiences as military members. Learn more about them and their challenging and rewarding careers in the Forces.
Why Join the Forces
Major Claire Bramma joined the Forces after high school for the opportunity to try something different. “I wanted to serve my country and just see what the world was like outside of where I grew up,” she recalls. Through the Forces, she has had the opportunity to travel, meet new people and experience challenges that she would not have found outside of the military. “There is a job (in the Forces) for just about any woman out there,” says Claire. “There are many opportunities that women can have to exercise their talents and serve our country.”
Throughout their careers, members of the Forces are given the chance to take advantage of a variety of courses and training to further perfect their skills. After 28 years in the Forces, Chief Petty Officer 2nd class Cheryl Bush is working towards obtaining her Bachelor of Arts through the Royal Military College, and is one of many who have benefited from paid education. “They have actually been paying so far for all my tuition and books which has been great!” she enthuses.
Training and Fitness
Physical fitness is an important part of being in the military and the Forces make it easy to stay in shape. From the moment she started basic training, Lieutenant navy Michelle Baranowski learned that teamwork is one of the most important factors in achieving the level of fitness needed to pass: “As long as you work as a team, you can get through no problem, and it’s definitely one of the best memories of my life!” Now an avid soccer player and yoga enthusiast on her own time, she also benefits from an hour to work out every day – during her work hours!
Before joining the Forces, Captain Lynne Patterson spent ten years working long hours as a newspaper journalist. “I was worried about having a family,” she admits. “I wasn’t sure if I could keep working 60 hours a week for very little pay and very little vacation.” She was attracted to the benefits, salary and pension plan that comes with a career in the Forces. “Working for the military, the social benefits are amazing,” Lynne says enthusiastically. “My job security, salary and benefits have allowed me to concentrate on my family instead of worrying about my career.”
Sergeant Roseanna Mandy’s career with the Forces has allowed her to balance her work responsibilities with her active family life at home. “My lifestyle is very well balanced,” she says. “It’s quite busy but I like it that way!” As the mother of two young sons, Roseanna’s evenings and weekends are devoted to spending quality time with her children and her husband. “I have a great family life,” she enthuses. “I have time to do homework; I have time to shop for Bristol board for projects!”
As a member of the Naval Reserves, Master Seaman Emely Alcina works part-time for the Forces while maintaining her full-time civilian job as a mental health counsellor. Through her job in the Forces, Emely has had the opportunity to sail throughout North America and take on exciting new challenges. “The biggest advantage of being part of the Reserves has been the opportunity to have my two lives,” she says. “Having that Reserves’ life and the opportunity to go away and travel and learn and train on a completely different level than I do in my civilian side… It’s the dual life that I enjoy.”
The Forces are constantly working to help those in need, both here in Canada and abroad through their humanitarian missions. Individually, members of the Forces also give back to their own communities. Sergeant Avril Jean-Baptiste Jones volunteers actively in Toronto at the Commonwealth of Dominica Ontario Association: “I am very involved in my community,” she remarks with a proud smile.
After 19 years in the Forces, Major Karen Streek is still excited to go to work when she gets up in the morning. “I absolutely love my job,” she enthuses. “There are always new challenges, there’s always exciting things to look forward to.” Karen is proud of all the success she has achieved over the course of her career and continues to strive for new goals. “One of the things the military gives you is a chance to progress,” she says. “You know that if you do well, you’re going to be promoted and you’re going to move on to new challenges. The Forces is definitely somewhere to be if you’re looking for a challenge and you’re looking for a place where you’re going to enjoy working.”
Members of the Forces may be asked to move to cities where their unique talents are needed most, and the Forces do everything in their power to make it easy. Major Karen Streek finds starting a new life in a new city exciting: “Since I joined the Forces, I’ve moved three times. I’ve been in Gagetown, Petawawa, and now Ottawa.” She has developed a sense of adventure through the unmatched travel opportunities she’s had with the Forces: “I really enjoy traveling, it’s something that really fosters a lot of esprit de corps with the people you’re with. It really creates a good team environment!”
Chief Petty Officer 2nd class Cheryl Bush’s long and distinguished military career fills her with a great sense of pride. When she describes her work to those she meets, they never fail to be impressed by the incredible opportunities she has had. Trained as a Navy diver, she has sailed on a ship to Europe and even jumped out of helicopters! She smiles and says “It’s just part of my job!” Her most memorable moment however came in 2010 when she was awarded the Order of Military Merit. “That’s what made me the proudest – receiving the medal from the Governor General of Canada.”
Joining the Forces means becoming part of a large family and forming unique bonds unlike those made in the civilian world. “The friends that I’ve made in the Forces are different because you share experiences that you do not share with anybody else,” says Major Claire Bramma. “The friendships that you make also rely on trusting each other and trust is one of these important qualities in a friendship, so they are very strong.” From the first days of basic training to deployments throughout Canada and abroad, the Forces offer endless opportunities to build a network of life-long friends and acquaintances.
Women in the Forces have unlimited and unmatched career opportunities, while obtaining world-class training and developing leadership skills.
In fact, no other employer can match the benefits offered by the Forces with its more than 100 trades and professions. Our paid education programs give women a solid foundation, regardless of career path, and the promising career opportunities that allow them to achieve their goals and live the life they want.
Looking for a career in the Forces’ health care services? There’s an opportunity waiting for you in numerous fields from medicine to dentistry to social work to physiotherapy.
Do you thrive on problem-solving, designing equipment, or building structures? See how you can join highly specialized engineering teams in the Forces.
Do you possess a unique and specialized set of technical skills? The Forces offer unlimited hands-on opportunities to apply and improve your valuable knowledge.
Are you up for the challenge of monitoring and gathering information? Take part in exciting missions on behalf of the Forces here in Canada and overseas.
Do you enjoy working behind the scenes to help operations run smoothly? Numerous areas within the Forces need you and your skills.
Do you have team spirit, a love for your country, and a desire to defend and represent its interests throughout the world? Combat specialists are the cornerstone of Forces’ operations.
You have a natural drive to protect and serve others? Forces’ security experts need you and your expertise for emergency response missions here and abroad.
Keeping the lines of communication open are vital to all Forces’ activities. Help ensure, operate, and safeguard the Forces’ telecommunications and hose of its allies.
Does working on an aircraft or ship, at the heart of a team with a common mission inspire you? See where your technical expertise and skills can help serve the Forces in Canada and abroad!
The sky is the limit to what you can do, so why not take advantage of the endless opportunities offered by the Forces? Specialized positions and training await you.
Every day, the desire to do something different, to take on new challenges, and to change the world brings women of all backgrounds to a career in the Forces. And we can promise a life like no other: opportunities for training, travel and advancement; a network of support; and the satisfaction from making a difference.
The challenges and rewards of career, community, and family have led the Forces to create flexible work arrangements to help women maintain a healthy work/family life balance. Who says you can’t have it all? Women in the Forces define success as they progress on their own chosen career path.
Your knowledge, skills, and talent combined with our world-class paid education and training programs provide you with opportunities to advance your career and rise through the ranks. Add to that a competitive salary and benefits, travel, and advancement and you will soon realize that your future is here.
Being part of the Forces means being a strong member of your community. Whether it is the Forces, Canada, and the world, your role as part of a greater team as a Forces’ member helps improve the lives of others, whether at home or abroad.
Learn about the history of women in the Forces.
What jobs are open to women?
The Forces has taken great strides since the 1970s to remove barriers for women to serve in the military. Every occupation in the Forces is open to women.
What opportunities for promotion and leadership are open to women?
Opportunities for promotion are available to any Forces member who demonstrates the required ability and determination in their field. All ranks are open to women members.
How many women serve in the Forces?
There are approximately 10,000 women serving in both the Regular and Reserve Forces. This total represents approximately 12% of the Forces.
Can we work part time in the Forces?
Members of the Reserve Force can serve part time in the Forces. They may serve a few evenings a week or on weekends at locations close to home. However, in the event of a threat or crisis, reservists may be asked to serve full time as part of a mission in Canada or overseas. As a reservist, the choice to go is always voluntary.
Each Reserve unit offers a variety of interesting and challenging jobs so explore what each unit in your area has to offer before making a choice.
If I join the Forces, do I have to move?
Reserve Force members usually serve in their home community. They are not posted or required to do a military move. However, they can volunteer to move to another base. They may also volunteer for deployment on a military mission within or outside Canada.
Most Regular Force members will have to move at some point during their career, depending on when and where their skills are needed most. Moving provides new opportunities for training and furthering your skills, which leads to career advancement and promotions.
Does the Forces have a harassment policy?
The Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces are committed to providing a harassment-free workplace, one that promotes teamwork, mutual respect and fairness for all. Every member has the right to work in a healthy and safe environment, as well as the responsibility to shape that environment. Forces members are held accountable for any failure to meet established standards of conduct and performance. Depending on the circumstances, the appropriate action may involve disciplinary or administrative action, or both.
Are the fitness standards and tests the same for women and men?
There used to be different standards and tests for women and men, however the introduction of the FORCE evaluation has set a new minimum standard that all Forces members are expected to meet, regardless of age or sex.
What accommodation/housing is available?
There are no restrictions on your choice of home. Forces members can choose to live in military housing, on the base, or to rent or buy a home in their local community. Just like any other job, you are able to choose a home that suits your family’s needs and budget.
Where would my family live?
Your family lives with you, either in military housing or off the base, during your regular work routine. However, while on training you will likely have to move to barracks during certain required training periods. Your family will also stay behind when you are on deployment.
Does the Forces provide childcare?
How do you stay in touch with family during deployments?
The Forces recognizes that being away from your family while on deployment can be difficult. So, we have ensured that there are ways to keep in touch with them while you’re away: email, video conferencing, phone calls.
How often are you posted/how often do you have to move?
Whether or not you are required to move is based on a number of factors: current operations, need for your skills, and military priorities. To help ease the relocation process, all necessary moving expenses will be paid for by the Forces.
What are the maternity benefits?
Forces members, like all working Canadians, are entitled to 17 weeks of maternity leave and 35 weeks of parental leave. They receive their benefits through the Government of Canada’s Employment Insurance program. The Government of Canada tops-up your Employment Insurance benefits to 93% of your salary for the full time you are on maternity and parental leave.
What family support is available?
Our members and their families are the Forces’ most important asset.. We have developed a number of programs and services to help with moving, with child care and deployments, among other things. For more information, click here: CF Family Resources.
Are there rules regarding hair, jewelry/earrings, makeup, tattoos?
At the beginning of basic training, all new recruits are provided with the official dress-standards for military members. Here is an overview:
- Women members are required to keep their hair short or long enough to keep tied back and not obstruct their vision while on duty.
- Women are allowed to wear earrings while on duty, but they must be small stud-style earrings. However, other visible body piercings are not allowed to be worn while in uniform.
- Wearing make-up while in uniform is allowed, but it is also expected to be applied conservatively.
- Non-offensive visible tattoos, with the exception of tattoos on the face, are allowed.