In 1987, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal forced the Canadian military to open up operational roles — meaning functions that can serve in conflict areas — to women. With a strong aptitude for math, science and technology — and a penchant for pushing boundaries and embracing the non-traditional path for women — Natalie Marchesan applied to the Royal Military College (RMC) that year. She later became one of the first female members of the Canadian Air Force. She spent eight years as a navigator of a C130 Hercules aircraft, flying search and rescue operations and supporting Canadians in combat zones.
In this episode of Chatter That Matters, Natalie recounts a childhood supported by parents who encouraged her to challenge convention and discusses what led her to apply to the RMC. She opens up about the emotional isolation of being the only woman in her squadron. She alludes to “stories that would make your toes curl” as minorities like her had to navigate an often-toxic environment.
She shares what led her to pursue her MBA and the unique perspective her time in the military has given her in the corporate world. An advocate for the advancement of women and underrepresented groups, she shares her thoughts on the vital importance of diversity at the leadership level and creating an environment in which people are willing to challenge one another.
In honour of Remembrance Day, she offers insight into what Canadians can do to recognize and care for those who served our country. She encourages others to challenge, question and push for equality. One who is committed to leaving the world a better place than how she found it — and an extraordinary woman who has found a way to shatter glass ceilings with grace — Natalie Marchesan is to be celebrated not just for her service to Canada but her commitment to lifting others around her.
Chatter That Matters is hosted by the Marketing Hall of Legends and the Canadian Marketing and PR Hall of Fame Inductee Tony Chapman. Tony wants to counter the storm of negativity and a growing sense of impossibility by sharing true stories of possibility and positivity. Stories of people who make things happen, despite today’s challenging circumstances. In doing so, he hopes their life lessons inspire others to do more and to be more. RBC is the presenting sponsor.
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