There's been a lot of discussion in the Canadian media this past week about sexual misconduct in the military environment. Our Chief of Defence Staff, Gen Tom Lawson commissioned a review of our armed forces in 2014, and the findings were reported in a document released this week here.
It's a pretty harsh report, denoting the military environment as 'hostile' and 'sexualized'.
Funny, I never felt that way in my years of uniformed service. The possibility existed, yes, and there were moments where I felt uncomfortable. But never hostile, and no more so than I'd feel in many other male-dominated environments. Or that I'd felt working at my previous job at Tim Horton's Coffee Shop. Let's just say I had my butt pinched more than once as a waitress. And NEVER as a uniform wearing military woman.
Ask any woman who's walked into a previously men-only board room, or a football pitch, and they'd likely say they felt the same way. And as women continue to work their way up into a 'mans world' this will continue to happen.
Society needs to change, and the military is just one aspect of it.
In spite of all of the issues, the armed forces are a GREAT place for women to work. Especially now. Why?
1. Equal pay for equal rank. Nowhere else are you so clearly eligible for the exact same pay for the same work, no matter what gender. If you are a three year corporal or a two year captain, you make the same pay for the same job. Pay is tightly controlled by a series of rules.
2. You get paid to keep fit. That's right. It's expected that you will exercise. It's part of your job. What other careers allow you time off of work to go to that kettle-bell class?
3. Maternity benefits. In Canada our military women get paid time off of up to a year for maternity benefits. Bonding time with baby is so important. And our armed forces allow women that time.
4. You get to learn to shoot. Or fix trucks. Or drive big machines. Or fly fast airplanes, or run hospitals or save lives. There are so many options. And you can finish your university education with no debt, a job waiting and a decent starting salary. One of my favourite things about completing my degree with the ROTP program was the fact that my books and equipment were also covered. No huge textbook bills to worry about. And I still use my degree that the military paid for. Win-win.
5. Opportunities for advancement. Yes, there are women generals, and colonels, and warrant officers. These opportunities are improving (especially now) and career progression is more and more regulated.
And the best part? This new report will only make things even better, as leadership continues to push for gender equality. For no-tolerance on sexual harassment in the workplace, and for safe, victim-centred reporting processes. Where else in the workforce can you find that?
Not at the coffee shop.