Women of different backgrounds celebrated at 17 Wing

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News Article / March 12, 2021

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The paths of Major Geneviève Dussault and Captain Emily Rowlandson intersected by chance as both are posted at 17 Wing Winnipeg. Both women came to the Canadian Armed Forces by different paths, from different backgrounds and are at different places in their lives and careers. Yet, both are passionate about the roles of women in the Canadian Armed Forces and have stepped up to be active members of the Defence Women’s Advisory Organization.

Here are their stories as we celebrate International Women’s Week.


By Gloria Kelly

Captain Emily Rowlandson

The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) was not Captain Emily Rowlandson immediate choice when she graduated from university. Coming from a military family, she had a good idea of what military life was like and it was always in the back of her mind; it just took her a bit of time to decide this was the place where she could put her skills to good use and build an interesting career that had meaning.

Five years in, she is currently the Adjutant at 17 Wing Mission Support Squadron. “One thing about the military is that it provides so many opportunities to advance and learn new things,” she said.

She has just finished the Mobile Air Movements Section Officer course, which will allow her to expand her horizons into the air movements field.

An accomplished athlete, she sees the military community very much as a family and community that is supportive and welcoming, much like the competitive sports community.

Capt Rowlandson is also the military co-chair of the 17 Wing Defence Women’s Advisory Organization (DWAO), a role she took on in October 2020. It was through sports that she met Maj Geneviève Dussault, found out how heavily involved she has been in the program for many years and the she was always looking to build the team. A simple reach out with the question “how can I get involved” was all it took.

The DWAO has been around for some time and Capt Rowlandson believes it has an important role to play for women within both the CAF and the Deprtment of National Defence. “There are always going to be people who need a safe space to advocate for themselves and a system for us to advocate for others,” she said. “It’s important that we are there to educate people and to support the people on our Wing.”

The 17 Wing group does not work in isolation. It's part of a national network of co-chairs and champions from across the country. Some of the work and study underway right now are as diverse as uniforms to mentoring programs and a guide to combating gender discrimination.

Some of the more recent things that have come to the fore is the fact childcare and daycare are not strictly a women’s issue as well as local level engagement with chains of command so they are aware that the DWAO is available as a resource.

The work of the advisory group carries on year round and not just during one week in March.

For Capt Rowlandson, the issue of mentoring is incredibly important and she believes it can happen in a variety of formal and informal ways. “We look after each other and build each other up,” she said.

While the International Women's Day program is a means to increase awareness of the work of the advisory group, it is a time to celebrate the accomplishments of all women as well.

“There are great role models for women within the CAF,” she said. “We have to take advantage of their willingness to share, to mentor and to continue to build us up as a community.”

Major Geneviève Dussault

Major Geneviève Dussault came to the CAF by a much different route. She was a high school student looking for a summer job when she stopped in at a recruiting centre and learned about the possibility of achieving a university education at the Royal Military College of Canada.

“I didn’t know a thing about the military, but I knew that I wanted a good education and this was one way to achieve that,” said Maj Dussault, who turned that education and a degree as a civil engineer into a diverse career.

Now, with over 20 years of service, Maj Dussault is a well-recognized role model and mentor to a generation of young women entering the CAF.

“When I look back to the beginning of my career, there were very few women in uniform above the rank of captain. The role models for women were just not there,” she said. “It has taken time, but today there are more women in senior positions and the opportunities are there to succeed and advance. When a young officer comes into a unit today and sees women advancing and succeeding, its positive reinforcement.”

Early in her career, Maj Dussault flew as part of an Aurora crew specializing in surveillance. She was often the only woman on the crew. Then there were two stops on her career path that led her into a leadership role in the advancement of women within the CAF. One was connecting with a female pilot who would become a role model and mentor and the other was an opportunity that arose at an International Women’s Day event she attended in Greenwood with the Base Commander when she was his Executive Assistant.

“There are amazing women doing amazing work inside and outside the military and we need to connect and build upon those successes,” she said. “Share the wealth of knowledge and skills.”

Maj Dussault took her enthusiasm and belief in the advancement of women to the Defence Women’s Advisory Organization, where she has been a leader for many years. Most recently, she was the Champion for Women at 17 Wing Winnipeg.

“We need women to step forward and be leaders, mentors and advocates for each other,” said Maj Dussault. “This goes for our civilian counterparts as well as our military members.”

Maj Dussault is not only a busy military officer, she is also currently the Deputy Commandant at Barker College, as well as being the mother of three active boys who are all accomplished young athletes and competitive hockey players.

Married to a military officer, a big part of life is about balance. How to find the hours in the day to get everything accomplished is often a question.

“It takes a community to have a balanced life and, as a military family, you build that community around you wherever you go,” says Maj Dussault. “Depending on where you are in your career and what you do, achieving balance can be an interesting challenge.”

Looking back over her career, Maj Dussault says that there is little that she would change. She would do it all again.

Looking forward, she knows there will continue to be changes, opportunities and challenges – all things she thrives upon. However, one thing will remain unchanged: her determination to make sure women within the CAF are heard, seen and appreciated for the awesome work they do day in and day out serving Canada and Canadians.

Gloria Kelly is part of the 17 Wing Public Affairs team.

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