Women in Aviation: Brigadier-General Lise Bourgon

News Article / May 17, 2017

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

Hometown: Gatineau, Québec

Occupation: Pilot

Current Position: Director General Operation of Strategic Joint Staff (SJS)

What drew you to join the RCAF?

I joined the RCAF to get a free education! My goal was simply to get a degree from Le College Militaire Royal St-Jean, serve my obligatory service and re-join the civilian sector!

Luckily for me, I fell in love with flying and almost 30 years later I am still loving going to work every day. I have had the chance to have an extremely interesting career, from a maritime helicopter pilot landing on Her Majesty`s Canadian ship to commanding joint Task Force – Iraq, Operation Impact.  

Every new position brought new interesting challenges, always pushing me to learn and excel.

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

There have been many highlights in my career. I am extremely proud of my five deployments with the Royal Canadian Navy: I served with HMCS Preserver, Ville de Quebec, Toronto and Montreal.

I also deployed on numerous missions including Operation Sharp Guard in the Adriatic Sea, Op Active Endeavour in the Eastern Mediterranean, Op Sharp Guard in the former Yugoslavia, Op Determination in the Arabian Gulf and Op Impact in Iraq.

Additionally, I was appointed as the 12 Wing Commander, responsible for Canada`s naval helicopter capability, and it was a dream come true — especially after having spent the majority of my career in Shearwater. Leading the men and women of 12 Wing was an honour and I will always be grateful to the RCAF leadership for the opportunity.

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

The biggest challenge is reconciling an exciting career with being a wife and the mother of two children. It is difficult to juggle work and family responsibilities while maintaining some personal time.

Additionally, the demand of moving every two or three years are hard, especially on the children who have to adjust to a new environment and develop new network of friends. I am extremely grateful for the family support, I could not be where I am today without the support of my husband and my two kids. They are the best!

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

I would simply suggest that they give it a try. They have nothing to lose but so much to gain! I had no intention of staying for a career, but I quickly realized that the CAF was the best place for me. Offering me opportunities and challenges that I could have not found anywhere else.

If you could provide advice to senior leadership on recruitment, training and retention of women in the RCAF, what would it be?

I think that we need to do a better job at displaying the success of CAF women. Great leaders like Major-General Whitecross or General Carignan need to be recognized and displayed. They are role models who have succeeded while living a normal life.

We need to show Canadian society, but mostly women, that success means also having a family life.

We also need to develop human resource policies and initiatives that are more flexible and adaptable to work-life balance. With the new workforce, this will be paramount for the CAF to remain an employer of choice in the future.

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