Military C&E Museum: Women’s History Month

Brigadier General (ret) Josée Robidoux is the new Colonel Commandant of the C&E Branch and the first woman to be Colonel Commandant of the C&E Branch. She is also currently working as the Chief of Staff and Director for Gender Equality and Intersectional Analysis at the Department of National Defence. Her goal is to let everyone know that a great career in the military is possible for anyone who wants to participate and serve their country.

As a woman with a distinguished career with the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) Brigadier General (ret) Robidoux had first-hand experience with working in a male dominated profession during a time when women were still not accepted into all of the trades in the CAF. When transitioning from the Air Cadets to the Primary Reserves in 1985 she actually hoped to join the infantry but was told that the infantry did not yet accept women. Instead they recommended she join the C&E Branch, a decision she has never regretted. She enrolled in April 1, 1985 and joined the Primary Reserve at 714 (Sherbrooke) Communication Squadron as an officer.

Brigadier General (ret) Robidoux ended up training with a group of French speaking officers from all branches of the CAF including combat arms in Gagetown where she was one of three women. The women were in separate quarters and had to drive over to class. She credits her eight years of Air Cadets experience with her ability to hold her own with officer cadets from Royal Military College (RMC). When undergoing her Signals Officer training in CFB Kingston, all of the lectures in the classroom were in English, and in the evening a bilingual trainer would come and explain everything that had been taught in French. This is how she learned English.

Brigadier General (ret) Robidoux continued to rise through the ranks, but was never deployed overseas because her gender was a barrier and senior leadership were reluctant to let her go due to her wide range of responsibilities. Finally, in 2010, the Chief of Reserve recommended that the then Colonel Robidoux deployed to Afghanistan for one year, recognizing that while she had the potential, she would never become a general without a deployment. Col Robidoux deployed to Afghanistan for one year in 2011-2012 and was slated to be the Senior Advisor to the second highest ranking Afghan general. Once again, gender became an issue. None of the senior Afghan generals wanted to be advised by a female soldier as it would be seen as a loss of status amongst their own people. Eventually, through negotiation, a more progressive Afghan general, Major General Moen, agreed to have Col Robidoux as a Senior Advisor. They developed a solid and respectful working relationship.

In 2015 Col Robidoux was identified as one of the Canada’s 100 Most Powerful Women by the Women’s Executive Network and took command of 35 Canadian Brigade Group. In 2017 she was promoted to Brigadier General. She has been awarded the Order of Military Merit at the grade of Officer.

Brigadier General (ret) Robidoux sees her keys to success in the military were her determination, self-reliance, independence, self-confidence and the ability to make her own decisions. Irritants were that regardless of rank, even as a general, she found that as a woman you have to prove yourself over and over again to everyone. Brigadier General (ret) Robidoux is well aware that the CAF is still a work in progress for the full

inclusion of women. She believes that women are coming into their own, that more will reach senior positions and that the leadership style women bring to the table will be valued as highly effective within the CAF and in all male dominated professions. She continues to work tirelessly to promote the CAF as an excellent career choice for women and to work on the seamless inclusion of all genders into the CAF.

Military C&E Museum: Women’s History Month   Military C&E Museum: Women’s History Month