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Article / October 31, 2014 / Project number: 14-0223

Moncton, New Brunswick – Descended from a long line of “strong independent and entrepreneurial women,” Elisabeth Rybak launched her first business at the tender age of 22 years and has never looked back. “When I was growing up, I was never taught that being female would create limits to my plans and ambitions, so it never occurred to me when I did establish my business that there would be limits just because I was a woman,” she says.

An entrepreneur, a specialist in information technology and software application, and former Provincial Chair of the Canadian Forces Liaison Council (CFLC), she is also the Honorary Colonel of the 8th Canadian Hussars (Princess Louise’s), an armoured reconnaissance regiment in Moncton, New Brunswick.

We need to be more active in recognizing the economic value of women entrepreneurs and businesswomen in Canada,” HCol Rybak says, noting that Women's History Month provides just such an opportunity.  Celebrated during the month of October in Canada, it is an annual declared month that highlights the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society.

The theme for this year’s celebration includes Canadian business women and the contribution they have made to the nation and its economy. From entrepreneurs to corporate leaders, women have played – and continue to play – a pivotal role in building the Canada that we know today.

Going back more than a century, women have made significant contributions to Canada’s rich military history and heritage through service to the Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Army, and the Royal Canadian Air Force.   Initially, women were restricted to support fields like administration, communication, and nursing until 1971 when the Department of National Defence (DND) encouraged women to pursue non-traditional employment opportunities, such as infantry and combat. With the enactment of Canada’s Charter of Rights in 1982 the Canadian Armed Forces opened all military occupations to women, including combat-related employment by 1989.

Since then, women entering the Canadian Army have the same options as their male colleagues: they can serve full-time or part-time in any trade they select.  As with most reservists, women who decide to serve part-time in the Reserve Force often have a second occupation and are contributing to the economy of the community and province in which they live. 

While there were challenges in her career, as in any, being a woman in the information technology and software application business did not restrain HCol Rybak. “I wanted to be equal in a male-dominated field where the mannerisms, language, and position were so vastly different. I learnt techniques in communications that positioned me to be in a better place of strength. I approached my business like there were no limits and when I did come across an obstacle, I navigated my way around it,” she explains.

HCol Rybak brings her accumulated business acumen and networking skills to support her various roles with the Canadian Army.  As Honorary Colonel to the 8th Canadian Hussars (Princess Louise’s) since 2012, she has been active in raising awareness of the important contribution her regiment and reservists have made to the local community.

Networking has been a big part of my career and those are the skills I bring to the table when I work on behalf of the Canadian Army,” she explains. In her role as coach and advisor and through the many initiatives with which she has been involved, she has created hundreds of jobs, most of them highly skilled, well-paying positions.

In her previous role as Provincial Chair of the CFLC, HCol Rybak created linkages between local and government business and the reserve units in New Brunswick.  From 2009-2011, she worked closely with the Government of New Brunswick to revamp and rewrite job protection legislation for reservists. “I believe it is important to add value to my province and the region of Atlantic Canada. Giving back to my community is important,” she says.

Honorary Colonel Elisabeth Rybak is the founder of Atlantic Maple Leaf, an organization that has served as a catalyst to mobilize communities in holding events that raise awareness and show appreciation for the service of our men and women in uniform.  In the three Atlantic Maple Leaf Tribute Dinners held thus far, almost $2M has been raised in support of military families from generous community supporters.  The next Atlantic Maple Leaf event will take place in Moncton, New Brunswick in November 2015 where up to 5,000 people are expected to participate in celebrating New Brunswick’s military history.

As Women’s History Month in Canada draws to an end, let us not only remember to celebrate the achievements of women and girls in Canadian history, but also those who are making history.  The rich culture of all Canadians has inspired, and continues to inspire, talented, innovative women and girls who pursue opportunities that directly contribute to Canada’s growing economic force and the business world in general.


Written by Helen Bobat, Army Public Affairs

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