The last few years of my Regular Force were not my best ones. I had left my Regiment and was undertaking the Joint Command and Staff Programme, a professional masters essentially, via distributed learning. I was very much at a cross roads in my career, under-fulfilled. This happened to coincide with the time frame whereby the Canadian Armed Forces was coming under scrutiny for sexual misconduct and sexual harassment. That did not help my mental framework with regards to the military. I had always felt part of the military, accepted, integrated, and felt like I had been one of the women leading the way. When the Deschampes Report, the external review on sexual misconduct and harassment was released, the discussions throughout and after the investigation, had me feeling many conflicting feelings at a moment where I was very much at a turning point in my career. I felt like my voice wasn’t reflected. I wasn’t being heard, and that bothered me.
I eventually transitioned to the Reserve Force, and in the process of doing so had joined LinkedIn. I happened to stumble across an article by Mr Bernard Letendre, “Did you just say what I think you said???” and subsequently read several of his articles. Out of character for me, I decided to reach out. This is what I had to say:
We’ve never met, I only happened to stumble upon an article you wrote through a friend of mine. I appreciate you are a busy man, but I did want to take a moment to say thank you. Your articles spoke to me. There were several things that resonated. First, be true to yourself, yet embrace others’ individuality and cultures as we can grow from learning about others and opening up to differing perspectives. Second was that one can foster understanding and tolerance through measured, calm reactions to perceived or real slights; understanding that ignorance is often the underlying cause, and the greatest way to overcome ignorance is with communication. Your position would typically elevate you above the masses, but your articles were not about your position in your company, they were about people, and interacting with people. People skills – knowing people, learning from others, teaching others, and communicating with others – are perhaps the most critical traits for any great leader to have as it makes you relatable to the masses. The above may seem a little over the top from a random stranger, but it has inspired me to finally put some of my own thoughts on paper and share them publicly. It is perhaps more due to the timing of when your articles caught my eye in that I have been engaging in discussions as of late with members of the Defence Woman’s Advisory Group, within the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). I continue to serve part time, but had served for 22 years as a combat arms officer in the Regular Force. I believe in gender equality, and I know society has many ways that they can improve. I had a successful career, and I have encountered the odd problem here and there, but nothing I couldn’t address. But at the same time, the more I read about gender integration, systemic barriers, and the more I debate the topic, I cannot shake the sense that the manner in which we attempt to address the issues can also inadvertently perpetuate issues. Reading your articles reinforced many of the thoughts that I have, and they have made me want to explore this “sense” I mention above, and share my experiences and perspective. Just like you said, I want to use writing to clarify my own views, and if anybody happens to read what I write, then perhaps the added bonus will be that I have influenced their thinking.
This started me on the path of writing, and in fact several of Bernard’s articles provided jumping off points for me. I invite you to read some of my first articles from a couple of years ago. I’ve shared three of them in my articles section. As always, I welcome your feedback.