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Ken Witherly - WGC director

How did you decide on pursuing a degree(s) in geoscience?

Was in general science at UBC in first year but needed to specialize in 2nd year; looked at jobs in university career center and minerals exploration seemed to offer at least summer employment.

Did you know about geoscience before you entered university?


Describe your career progression since finishing undergrad.

Joined Utah International as summer employee in 1971 but then was offered attractive permanent position which lasted 27 years.

If you could go back to your first year in undergrad, would you pick the same degree and career trajectory? Why/why not?

The employer I had offered me a steady number of growth opportunities over the years which combined with a reasonable effort on my part, allowed me to enjoy an excellent career. I would do it again.

What are the three best things about your job/career? What are three things you would change?

Best things-The people; the travel and the projects.

Change-Treat my spouse’s efforts at developing meaningful employment more seriously.

Why did you become involved with WGC as a director?

Going into my involvement with organizing Exploration 17, I felt women were underrepresented and made efforts to bring more into the organizing of the events. As the conference itself came to close to being held, I helped create a program to support more students to attend the conference. This effort was successful and it turned out, a significant number of women from outside Canada would not have been able to attend Exploration 17 were able to. Following E17, several young women I knew expressed their frustration with what they saw as a serious gender imbalance at E17 and following several discussions, the organization of the WGC was put forward as a means to try and address this issue. When this group formed formally, I offered to stand as a director.

Why is gender balance in geoscience important to you?

At the core of this is my humanistic belief that women are just as entitled to having a rich and rewarding personal and professional existence as we assume men should have access to. A second more pragmatic reason is that I see our profession as exploration geoscientists needing an infusion of new energy, ideas and balance which I believe can only come when a significant number of women work along side men to achieve common goals.

Why should it be important for everyone?

In the commercial sense, the current performance of the exploration industry does not meet the minimum expectations of most investors and a step change in outcomes is required. The industry has been over reliant on ‘silver bullet’ solutions which are now recognized as unable to deliver the required outcomes. As the ‘game’ is not being ‘won’ by the current team, then the makeup of team has to be changed. The humanistic argument is simple; this is the right thing to do for everyone and we will all be the better for it.

What advice would you give to young women starting a career in geoscience?

Ask lots of questions. Optimists will open more doors than pessimists. Don’t get discouraged. Know you are not alone.

Geoscientists are humans first and foremost. What motivates you and keeps you busy outside of geoscience?

Helping others succeed.

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