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Women’s Executive Network honours women in defence on their Most Powerful Women list

Major-General Frances Allen and Deputy Minister Jody Thomas were recently honoured by the Women’s Executive Network (WXN) as part of their Top 100 Awards for Canada’s Most Powerful Women.

Currently, the Deputy Vice Chief of the Defence Staff Major-General Frances Allen noted on being nominated, “It’s an honour for me to be recognized in the context of what is achievable for women in the CAF – that is, everything. It’s particularly gratifying as someone working in an emerging career field.” 

Major-General Allen’s 35-year career has focused on communications, network and cyber operations, commanding and leading the development of CAF cyber capabilities at all levels. 

She has been the first woman more than once in several key leadership positions, including director general defence security, director general cyberspace, director general of information management operations, and in her current role as deputy vice chief of the defence staff. 

A true believer that participation in sport contributes to both military leadership and esprit de corps, she is also a member of the Board of Directors for the Conseil International du Sport Militaire (CISM), an international military sport organization. 

The mother of one son, Major-General Allen shares regarding being a woman in the CAF, “Whether you know exactly what you want to do, or whether you are still discovering what that might be, while you are on that journey, you will find that incredibly rewarding and challenging opportunities will present themselves. You need to trust yourself and jump in.” 

Regarding her nomination, Deputy Minister of National Defence Thomas says, “I feel honoured to have been included among so many strong leaders, including our deeply impressive Deputy Vice Chief of the Defence Staff Major General Frances Allen.” 

Born into a naval family, Deputy Minister Thomas joined the naval reserves at age 17 and was among the first women to serve in a ship in the Royal Canadian Navy. 

She began her federal public service career in 1988. Following a series of increasingly demanding security and operational roles, Thomas became the first female commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard in 2015. 

In 2017, she moved to the department of national Defence as senior associate deputy minister and was subsequently appointed deputy minister.

She started her career as an accountant and has been a public servant for more than 30 years in security and defence portfolios of increasing complexity, including as the first woman to serve as Commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard. 

In addition to an impressive career, Thomas is also a military spouse. Her husband is a medically released commander. The couple has two adult children. 

Thomas is also a passionate advocate for mental health and is very active in her role as the Defence Team Mental Health Co-Champion. 

Thomas adds, “Any woman either currently in, or looking to join, the Defence and Security should know that they belong here, and there are seats for them at the highest boardroom tables.” 

Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100™ was created to recognize the incredible accomplishments of women, develop a community of support, and increase the visibility of strong leaders in order to inspire future generations. 

WXN’s website notes, “Their personal power isn’t about title, it’s that they are resilient and strong. They inspire, learn, and grow. They have faced professional and personal challenges and come out stronger.”

Visit the WXN website to nominate someone.

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Tonya De Agostinis

From Montreal, Tonya joined the military community late in life when her husband joined the forces after a public service career. Now in Kingston, she is navigating the trials and blessings that come from having her own career, raising children, and being the partner of someone on a high readiness unit and the DART.

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