New group seeks more women in mining
Christina Ouellette, Vice President of Human Resources for Lake Shore Gold was the keynote speaker in Timmins this week at the launch of the Women In Mining event. Timmins Times LOCAL NEWS photo by Len Gillis.
The group, Women in Mining Northern Ontario, which has been active in Sudbury for the past five years, is now expanding to include other mining communities such as Timmins.
This is no feminist thing. This is hard cold economics. Canada’s mining industry is facing a growing shortage of skilled young workers and the experts say more people are needed sooner rather than later.
The organization held a social event at Cedar Meadows Resort last Thursday to announce the opening a Timmins chapter, to encourage networking and mentoring as a way to attract more women to mining, mining exploration and the mining supply and service companies.
The Sudbury group, Women in Mining Northern Ontario, is headed up by Charmaine Gazdic, who quoted a national report indicating that no matter what happens to the economy, “skilled labour shortages will remain a significant challenge for the Canadian mining industry over the next decade.”
“Women are broadly under-represented in Canadian mining, making up just 16 per cent of the workforce,” Gazdic told the audience, as she quoted a 2013 labour market forecast.
Gazdic said mining needs to remove any barriers and do more to encourage women to seek careers in mining.
This doesn’t necessarily mean they’re pushing all women to slap on a hardhat, coveralls and a cap lamp, she said. The mining industry needs skilled workers in information technology, accounting, and any number of other occupations.
Timmins city councillor Steve Black brought greetings on behalf of the City and Timmins Mayor Tom Laughren, who was out-of-town. In a written statement, Laughren congratulated the WIM for their efforts in coming to Timmins.
Speaking for himself, Black said he has indeed seen changes in the mining industry as he has spent the last 13 years in mining engineering. He mentioned that the percentage of women in mining engineering from his own university days, ties in with the national statistics as there were only three women out of a class of twenty students.
“I think we all have a role to play in improving this,” said Black adding that in recent years, the industry has seen many outstanding women coming forward into the upper corporate levels of Canadian mining companies.
EDUCATION PLAYS A GREATER ROLE
Also speaking at the event was Daniel Giroux, Vice President Academic of Collège Boréal. He said he was surprised to see the statistics indicating only 14 per cent of women are represented in the mining and mineral industries. He said it prompted him to do check the stats with the Collège Boréal registrar’s office and sure enough, only 14 per cent of women had enrolled in mining related programs in the past ten years.
“I think looking at Collège Boréal, and Northern, I think we have a job to do as post secondary institutions, that is to encourage more women to take some of our post secondary programs,” he said.
Giroux said it is important for educators to know that in order to make mining attractive, it means that young women have to be approached at an earlier level in their education, as early as Grade 9, to encourage them to step up.
“The biggest challenge is not just the women. It’s the men. And most importantly, the parents. It’s okay for women to work in the mining industry. And we’ve got to get that word across to moms and dads, across this province,” said Giroux.
The keynote speaker of the evening was Christina Ouellette, Vice President of Human Resources for Lake Shore Gold Corporation. She said more mining companies need to have policies of workplace diversity and inclusion in order to get more women involved in mining.
Ouellette said this means a fundamental change in some old mindsets in the recruitment and promotion process.
“Managers must be trained to become aware of, and to overcome, subconscious attitudes that discourage women from joining their teams, and from progressing in those teams,” said Ouellette.
“So just because they (women) can drive a truck really well does not mean that’s where we keep them. We have to continue to make those people, the women in our workforce, succeed, and help them progress their careers up to mine managers,” she continued.
Change is also needed among the women themselves, said Ouellette, who added many women have so much more to offer their companies, but for some reason they do not always step forward.
“Women are often reluctant or hesitant to put themselves forward. This is changing as the generations change,” she said.
Ouellette also told the women that corporate knowledge is changing and it is recognized that self-awareness and self-knowledge is a good trait to have.
“This has been proven time and time again in many studies,” she revealed.
“And women are very, very good at this. It’s inherent to us and what we do. And it is a trait that is deemed that very successful people have,” she said.
One of the organizers of the Timmins launch event was WIM Northern Ontario director Stella Holloway. She said the success of the Sudbury WIM chapter made it obvious to expand to Timmins.
“We are trying to let the City of Timmins and the surrounding areas know that our presence is going to exist here in Timmins, just as it has in Sudbury,” said Holloway.
“Considering what Timmins has to offer with mines and the whole industry, this is an absolute amazing venue, so we are taking up being here full time. We are looking to partner locally, to create awareness, to create mentorship programs and networking,” she added.
Holloway has lived in Timmins on two previous occasions in mining jobs and said she was determined to return.
“It was very important to me that if I want to be part of this organization that Timmins would be a part of it,” she said.