Women make up about ten percent of British Army personnel and can be found working shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts; engineers, mechanics and chefs through to lawyers and educators.
One of those women is the Commanding Officer of 167 Catering Support Regiment, Royal Logistic Corps, Lieutenant Colonel Victoria Reid.
Based at Prince William of Gloucester Barracks, Grantham, where the Regiment is based, Victoria started her Army career in 1994 when she joined the University of Wales Officer Training Corps.
Subsequently gaining her Territorial Army commission, she then joined as a Regular in 1997.
Victoria took up command of 167 Catering Support Regiment in 2014. It is unique in its make up in that it made up entirely of Army Chefs and provides the catering support to the British Army anywhere in the world.
Married to Simon with two children under five, Victoria admits juggling a family and a career is challenging but worth it.
“You have to be organised,” she said. “And everything has to be thought through from packing a school bag to sending soldiers overseas. It’s all about planning your work life balance.”
In her military role Victoria commands over 300 soldiers. “Sometimes I think command is easier than being a mum at times,” she says with a smile.
Victoria’s day can start as early as 5am. Her husband Simon commutes to London from Grantham
where he works as a civil servant. “Once Simon has left for work I start getting the children ready for nursery and school. I also make sure that I am there to meet them at the end of the day whenever possible. It’s all about fitting work around your family life and vice versa.
“It can be really hard and sometimes I don’t get the balance right, but that’s life. I’m real and not Miss Perfect, but I try my best.
“My kids are too young to understand why mummy hasn’t always got time to play, or needs to leave home at a particular time to attend a parade, even though they want to play dollies.”
“My four-year old, for example, thinks its great fun to stamp on mummy’s shiny shoes, just as I’m heading out, or run her mucky biscuit hands all over my uniform, but that’s kids for you.”
She continued: “I missed my daughter’s first day at school and my youngest’s second birthday. So it can be heart-breaking when you miss important events. But I chose to join the Army and chose to remain when I had my children. It was what I wanted to do and the vast majority of the time it works really well. I don’t think any mum gets its right a hundred per cent of the time and I have learnt you can’t have everything but you can get pretty close.”
Victoria added: “I hope my officers and soldiers under my command see me as a good example; that you can have a family and also have success in your career.
She continued: “I can certainly understand the competing priorities between family and work, so I can easily empathize with those under my command.
“I believe being a mum and an officer in the Army has made me a better person. It’s made me emotionally stronger because I have had to work hard to get the balance right and meet the needs of both my family and the Regiment.
Victoria concluded: “I would advise any young women thinking about making the Army their career to do it. Today’s Army seeks to promote equality throughout all its ranks. It is a great career and like any job you have to be prepared to work hard. Women can do just as good a job as men and it makes no difference in the Army whether you are a man or a woman as long as you can do your job, and you care about doing your job well.”