International Women’s Day: Mentorship is key for CPO1 Nancy Lachance

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Navy News / March 7, 2022

For Chief Petty Officer 1st Class (CPO1) Nancy Lachance, this year’s theme for International Women’s Day – Women Inspiring Women – is a motto she lives by.

“I really think it is important to show young women that career progression within the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) is possible to the highest level,” says the Naval Reserve Central Region Chief Petty Officer. “As women, we often do not see our own ability. That’s why it is so important for other women to say ‘I see you. You have potential’.”

Ensuring that all young members feel empowered to make positive contributions to the organization is a duty that she takes seriously. In her role, she represents non-commissioned members while providing advice to senior leadership and collaborating with her peers in mentoring and leading the succession of the future.

She notes that after having 31 years in uniform and attaining the highest rank possible for a non-commissioned officer, she also has a duty to ensure that leadership sees diverse perspectives. Adding a different perspective positively impacts all kinds of decisions on everything from uniform fit to policy changes that effect careers.

“When the table is only filled with one gender, the perspective can’t help but be skewed. Having various perspectives always makes leadership decisions better,” she says.

However, there is a nuance to this statement that she feels every young sailor needs to hear, as it directly relates to equality and the culture shift that is occurring across the RCN and the Canadian Armed Forces as a whole.

“I made it to where I am now not because I am a woman, but because of what I bring to the table as an individual.”

For CPO1 Lachance, this speaks to equality and the ability for all members to succeed in today’s RCN, irrelevant of gender or background.

“The message is clear to all of our young sailors – if you want it, let your chain of command know. There’s a path for you, and we can help make progression happen.”

Another indicator that change is happening across the RCN is the fact that celebrating first accomplishments for women in uniform is becoming less important.

“Celebrating trailblazers is always important, but we are also at a point where we should be normalizing these actions. We should celebrate when there’s a 30th woman being posted into a ‘ground-breaking’ job, because that will mean we are making real progress,” CPO1 Lachance says.

When CPO1 Lachance, who plans on retiring in May 2022, joined the Naval Reserve in 1990, she had no idea about life in the military. Enrolling at Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Montcalm, the Naval Reserve Division in in Québec City, the marine technician went on to serve in a variety of full-time positions, including several ships stationed mostly on the East Coast. This included a deployment on board HMCS Goose Bay on Operation Persistence, the Canadian Armed Forces’ response to the crash of Swissair flight 111 off the coast of Nova Scotia in 1998. Other deployments have taken her across the Atlantic and into the Pacific and Arctic oceans. During her career, she spent a year on board the submarine training platform Olympus as a diesel maintainer, was a shipboard firefighting instructor and a marine engineer systems operator instructor, and coxswain of HMCS Carleton, the Reserve Division in Ottawa.

In 2015, CPO1 Lachance transferred from full-time Reserve service to the Public Service. Today, she is the manager of Professional Development and Training for Seagoing Personnel at the Canadian Coast Guard.

Now that CPO1 Lachance is in the final few months of her naval career, she is hopeful for the next generation of women in uniform.

“I hope that young women see the path is cleared for them, that they will join,” she says. “They have every right to be here. Everything they bring to the table has value.”