Chief Petty Officer 1st Class Alena Mondelli

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Sailor Profile / March 18, 2020

“It was an incredible honour to show the progress of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) as the two most senior (Officer and Non-Commissioned Member) deployed women within the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) at the time. We were making change – globally – just by being who we are.”

Chief Petty Officer 1st Class (CPO1) Alena Mondelli completed the greatest experience of her career thus far in August 2019, when she concluded her rotation as a member of Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Toronto deployed on Operation REASSURANCE.

“I co-presented with Commodore Josée Kurtz at the Ukraine Naval Academy in Odesa, Ukraine, on diversity and gender integration within the RCN and CAF,” recalls CPO1 Mondelli.

“As a Senior Officer and Senior non-commissioned member, we spoke as a ‘leadership team’ about our experiences not only as RCN leaders, but how gender integration has assisted in transforming and leading the way to an inclusive and diverse CAF and RCN.”

The experience really drove the point home for CPO1 Mondelli that sailors, especially female sailors, need to see, talk with and learn from their female role models in the armed forces.

“It took a long time, and with some stern assertion from one of my mentors, for me to acknowledge that I needed to say I was a ‘female sailor’ and not just ‘a sailor’.”

For the majority of her 28 year career, especially in the early years, Mondelli made an effort to not associate her gender with what she did to avoid reminders from some of her fellow shipmates that she was female, and their assertions that she was using the “female” card to get what she wanted.

“I thought it would help decrease the misogyny, sexism and gender biases I had experienced,” said CPO1 Mondelli.

“For the most part, I have worked with professional and inclusive male co-workers and supervisors throughout my career. What I do know now, is that female sailors of every rank want female role models and seek us out.”

The RCN is an equal opportunity employer and one of the top employers in Canada. The organization has made the effort to ensure the equality of opportunity that female members have been asking for.

“There is nothing a woman can’t do if she wants to do it! There are many opportunities and options. The sky is the limit really,” said CPO1 Mondelli.

 “We’ve [the RCN] evolved to meet the needs of everyone, women have more control on what matters to them such as being in a safe environment, opportunities for motherhood when it suits them – and whatever motherhood/parenthood may look like.”

When asked if she had any advice for new female recruits or women considering a career in the RCN, she had the following to offer.

“Just be yourself – don’t change who you are – and do your best. Seek out a role model or mentor, even at such a new time in your career, because that person will have invaluable advice that will help you and treat people the way you want to be treated: with respect, dignity and equity. It shows people that they are valued.”