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Elisabeth Ronacher, PhD, P.Geo.

How did you decide on pursuing degree in geoscience? Did you know about geoscience before you entered university? I decided to study geology quite late – just before I finished high school. I was not sure what I wanted to do so I thought about all the things that I wanted my job to be (and those that I did not want it to be). I have always enjoyed the outdoors, I wanted to travel and I loved the sciences in general and chemistry in particular. After considering these parameters, I concluded that geochemistry what I really wanted to do. I started studying geology and never regretted it.

How did you land your first position? (Through networking, applying to an ad, etc.) I worked on a gold prospect for my master’s; the company that held the claims ran a drilling program just after I finished and they hired me.

Can you briefly describe your career progression? I did my undergraduate education and master’s degree at the University of Vienna, Austria. After my master’s I still felt I did not know enough so I decided to pursue a PhD at the University of Alberta. My researched focused on the Porgera gold deposit in Papua New Guinea. I then did a Post-Doc at the Colorado School of Mines working at Oyu Tolgoi, Mongolia. At that point, I finally felt that it was time to leave academia and I started working for Ivanhoe Mines at Oyu Tolgoi for 2 years. I then moved to Sudbury, Ontario, where I joined a consulting company. In 2014, I co-founded Ronacher McKenzie Geoscience together with my geophysicist colleague and friend Jenna McKenzie. Running our company has been a rewarding (and at times challenging) experience.

How has career progression been handled in your company/ies? For example, is it outlined or have you specifically applied for positions? I have never worked for companies that made it easy to move up the ladder. It was up to me to find opportunities and go for them.

If you had to do it again, would you? Absolutely! I have so far had a great career; I have had many fantastic opportunities and I have met so many wonderful and inspiring people.

If you could change anything in your career, what would it be? I would have liked to spend more time in the field when it was still possible to be away for long periods of time.

What are the three best things about your job/career? What are the three worst things? I would say the three best things are: (1) the forensic work that is required to find targets, considering all evidence, putting everything together and making sense of it; (2) travelling to remote places; (3) interesting people that one meets The one thing that I dislike most is the pressure that the stock market puts on junior companies to constantly generate good news.

Do you see, in either your work space or the industry in general, the place of women becoming more main stream, about the same as when you started, or worse?

I think there is a lot more emphasis on diversity and inclusivity now than when I started out. Although some companies still do not see the value that gender balance brings to them, the general trend in our industry seems to go in the right direction. I would like to accelerate the progress and I think WGC makes a contribution towards this goal.

What advice would you give young women starting a career in geoscience? I find it hard to give young people advice because the approaches and strategies that worked for me may not work for others. Perhaps the best approach is to be authentic and true to ones goals. I would try to get as many different experiences as possible, work on a variety of projects but long enough so one can sink one’s teeth in them.

Why/How is diversity important to you? Thoughts on what should be focussed on or how to improve diversity within geoscience? Diverse teams can make a bigger impact on our industry than teams that only consist of one gender, race, age group, etc. Diverse approaches will lead to more efficient problem solving and ultimately produce better results. As a consultant, I want to add value for my clients – I think I can achieve this goal better if I work in a diverse team.

Why should others be talking about diversity and trying to improve things? If we want our industry to be become more diverse we need to talk about diversity and inclusivity. Many people are not aware of their biases and an open discussion is one way of creating awareness. We should improve the current situation so that anybody who wants to be a geoscientist can be one, have the same opportunities and receive the same compensation.

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