Women in aviation: Brigadier-General Frances Allen

News Article / March 15, 2017

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In the weeks from International Women’s Day on March 8 until the Canadian Women in Aviation Conference in June, we will feature weekly interviews with female leaders in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Royal Canadian Air Force

Hometown: Born in Barrie, Ontario

Occupation:  Communications and Electronics Engineering (Air) Officer (CELE)

Current position: Director General Cyberspace

What drew you to join the Royal Canadian Air Force?

I joined the military to pursue an education. My mother and father were in the Air Force so I was familiar with the military. My father was a tactical helicopter pilot and we spent most of our lives on Army bases.

What have been some of the highlights of your career with the RCAF?

Being part of the command team is a highlight. I have been fortunate to be the commanding officer for the Canadian Forces Network Operations Centre at Canadian Forces Station Leitrim [near Ottawa] (2002-2005), Aerospace and Telecommunications Engineering Support Squadron at 8 Wing Trenton, Ontario, (2005-2008) and the Canadian Forces Information Operations Group in Ottawa (2012-2014).

I represented the Canadian Armed Forces’ women’s volleyball team as an athlete (1989-2004) and team manager (2004-2008) at the Conseil international du sport militaire (CISM) [International Military Sports Council]. I am currently a board member for the CISM. The opportunities to travel and play around the globe has been a wonderful experience throughout my career.

If you could provide advice to young women who are thinking about joining the RCAF, what would it be?

Don’t think you have to know exactly what you want to be. What will ultimately interest you in life comes from experiencing things you didn’t expect to be involved in.

Even if you do know exactly what you want to do, don’t make major decisions too early because you don’t want to shut down avenues of opportunity before you need to.

What have been some of the challenges of your career with the RCAF?

Balancing professional requirements with personal and family obligations is challenging. Luckily I have a wonderfully supportive family who have continuously helped me. My husband, also a service member, was killed in a flying training accident. It was initially unclear to me how I would be able to continue to pursue my career as a single parent but with some flexibility in our system, I was able to sort it all out. It ultimately resulted in my being able to make a career in the RCAF.

What are your thoughts on recruiting, training and retaining women in the RCAF?

We have to recognize and address head-on the societal choices that women predominantly face and provide options that give women choices about balancing their professional and personal lives.

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