My husband and I are trying to raise my young daughter to believe that she can do anything. To be fearless - to go after whatever she wants. This, of course, leads to much teasing from her older brother.
'Girls can't be cowboys, Rosey.'
Girls can't be policemen, Rosey.'
In 1989, the Canadian navy opened its doors to women on a 'trial basis' after a discrimination complaint led the Human Rights Commission to order the Forces to integrate females in all occupations. Josee Kurtz saw that landmark decision as a way to accomplish something she'd always dreamed about - a military career. Walking into the recruitment office in her hometown of Joliette, Que, took some soul-searching and a lot of courage, but the former sea cadet toughed it out and shut her mind to any and all nay-sayers.
"There were indeed some stereotypes. There was some reluctance when we first joined," she said.
She knew that she was entering a profession dominated by men: "Let’s face it . . . a very small group of women in a crew of 225 people? You are looked at and you are tested. You are scrutinized to a certain extent. Over the years, when they realized you could do the job just as well, that scrutiny went away. Now, the navy has evolved into an organization that accommodates anyone regardless of race or gender."
This Monday, twenty years later, Commander J. Kurtz became the first female commanding officer of a major Canadian warship.
"This is probably one of the best days of my life," she beamed. "I can’t wait to take this ship to sea today. I think I was very lucky.The Navy ended up being an environment that suited my need for adventure, my need for challenge and set the stage for what has been a very rewarding career and personal experience over the past 20 years."
Kurtz hopes her promotion to commander of the HMCS Halifax would pave the way for the twenty-four female crew members and women thinking about joining the forces. ``I see myself as no different,'' she said. ``I do realize, however, that because of who I am and because of my place in time, my position is significant to many women, and they look up to what I have done.''
Commander Kurtz married an officer in the navy. After he retired, she began lobbying to go to sea - while he stays at home with their seven year old daughter. Juggling a family and navy career is an issue not just for women but for men as well, she said. "One thing that definitely was not going to work for us was to have two naval officers going to sea at different intervals with a youngster at home."
"One of the messages I send to my sailors and my fellow officers is that perhaps they can make it work. That’s going to be their choice. It’s going to be for them to decide how they make that work."
So after the news tonight Rosey jumped up and smacked her brother on the shoulder.
'Girls CAN TOO be co-man-ders, see!!' And then she stuck her tongue out.
Bravo Zulu, Commander Kurtz. Well done.
This is an original Canada Moms Blog Post. Jessica can be found at daysgoby.
Photo by: MCpl Robert Bottrill, Canadian Forces Combat Camera