The Defence Champion for Women video message for International Women's Day

Video / March 8, 2021


Happy International Women’s Day to all members of the Canadian Armed Forces and employees of the Department of National Defence.

I am RAdm Rebecca Patterson and I am honoured to serve as the Defence Champion for Women.

Every year on the 8th of March, we celebrate the contributions and achievements of women around the world.

Within the Defence Team, it’s a time for us to celebrate and recognize the contributions that women make in service of Canada each and every day. The leadership and different perspectives women bring to the table make us stronger as an organization and more effective as a team.

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world”.

This is so appropriate because we know women have been disproportionately affected by this pandemic.

Despite progress on women’s equality around the world, women are far more likely to have to rebalance their paid work obligations while taking on the lion’s share of responsibility at home, such as homeschooling and caregiving.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also amplified the economic disparity that many women around the world experience. Globally, and yes, here in Canada, women are more likely to be in lower wage earning jobs in the service sector. They are more likely to experience unemployment due to COVID-19. And they make up the majority of single-parent households. The pandemic has forced many women to either lose their jobs or choose between paid employment and meeting the support requirements of their families during the crisis.

We in the CAF and DND are supporting this reality with initiatives like the business resumption plan that allow supervisors to take into consideration the unique demands the pandemic has placed on families and individuals. This will help to ensure that once this pandemic is over, everyone will be ready to engage in a post pandemic road to recovery.

Achieving an equal future is also a timely message because it offers Women as members of the Defence Team a focus that can help guide us through the challenges we face every day at home and at work. It inspires us to actively seek out and address visible and invisible barriers to success.

And while we know there is still work to do within our organization, let this not diminish the celebration of the positive and crucial impact women have had on the success of Defence.

This day is about the contributions women have made in Defence. It is about recognizing the women of the Defence Team for our important contributions to operational readiness in support of Canadians at home and Canadian interests elsewhere in the world.

CAF and DND women are leading deployments around the world. We are leading efforts to minimize the effects of COVID-19 on Canadians through vaccine distribution planning and logistical support or direct patient care. We are managing teams and working to create change in a system that wasn't originally designed for us. And we are making a difference so that all women and men will not face barriers to achieving their full potential.

Women in Defence have played important roles in establishing our reputation as a strong, respected force for good around the world.

We show this through Canadian-led initiatives like the Elsie Initiative for Women in Peace Operations which is working to help deploy more women into peace operations globally in meaningful ways.

We show this by working to promote qualified women into the most senior levels of the Department and ensure that equal access is provided to developmental programs and experiences required. And women are succeeding.

Of course our work does not stop here and to truly achieve an equal future in a post COVID-19 world, we still have much work to do.

As your Defence Champion for Women, my message to you is this:

Achieving an equal future is possible. Now more than ever, women’s voices and perspectives must be engaged if we are to move forward in achieving an environment where everyone can achieve their full potential.

And it starts with us, as a team and as leaders, promoting an inclusive climate where women feel like they belong while maintaining an environment that is inclusive, supportive, professional and, above all, respectful.

Thank you.

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