How did you decide on pursuing degree in geoscience? Did you know about geoscience before you entered university?
Had certainly no idea about geoscience before university. I started in mathematics and then switched to chemistry. But it seemed very esoteric and in third year would have to take quantum mechanics which sounded too hard. I had never taken biology in high school (couldn’t cut up the frog). But Carleton U had a combined geology and chemistry program and I was able to still finish that in 4 years.
How did you land your first position? (Through networking, applying to an ad, etc.)
I had a summer job with a geochemistry lab in Ottawa during the summer. And after Carleton was able to get a job with a lab called Barringer in Toronto. They sent me to northern Manitoba to run a lab in a tent for the summer with the promise of work at the Toronto lab at the end of the field season. I moved to Toronto and they laid me off a couple of months later. Just the first time of many that I was laid off.
To see how my career started after getting a MSc from Queens, watch the video produced by the PDAC for the Distinguished Service award presentation .
Can you briefly describe your career progression?
Had the good luck to get a job with Getty in Saskatoon. I was hired to organize the library but the office manager was good at redeploying staff according to their strengths. I ended up doing exploration geochem surveys across Canada for Getty for about 4 years. And then got laid off. See a theme developing?
How has career progression been handled in your company/ies? For example, is it outlined or have you specifically applied for positions?
There were no opportunities for advancement for women when I was looking. In the early 90s, there were no women in senior management roles or even as project managers for junior mining companies. And I also worked for SGS and couldn’t see any female role models in management. So by 1985 I had incorporated my company Analytical Solutions and have mostly prospered by consulting.
If you had to do it again, would you?
Mining and exploration is a tough business for anyone, male or female. I have been lucky enough to have interesting work and a variety of opportunities. I took some risks like running junior mining companies; this wasn’t financially rewarding but it opened my eyes to many facets of the industry that others are not exposed to. I started distribution of Australian certified reference materials 25 years ago and that has proven to be a financial success. But it was being entrepreneurial that made me successful but it wasn’t following a traditional career path that worked for me.
If you could change anything in your career, what would it be?
Probably should have been a chemical engineer.
What are the three best things about your job/career? What are the three worst things?
The best things are travelling worldwide to places that I would never have had the opportunity to see. And interacting with so many people from so many different cultures. At this point I also enjoy the teaching/training aspect of passing on what I have learnt.
Some of the places that I travel to are challenging and rarely downright scary.
Running a small business can mean being available 24/7.
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 noticed about 5 years ago that I had only interacted (on the phone or by email) for an entire week with women. Most of the women had database jobs or were junior project geologists. But still, it felt like a huge shift.
In the late 70s, I was on a field trip with our Carleton U class and visiting a small mine in Ontario. We were told that women were not allowed underground; the usual excuse of no bathrooms. So there’s been a huge change since I started. But I certainly think that the proportion of women has to ramp up more quickly.
What advice would you give young women starting a career in geoscience?
Make sure you understand the risks and rewards. And have a sense of humour when dealing with men in the workplace so you don’t scare them.
Why/How is diversity important to you? Thoughts on what should be focussed on or how to improve diversity within geoscience?
There are some practical considerations like the provincial professional associations helping new immigrants to attain accreditation.
My current concern is about freedom from sexual harassment and violence in the workplace. I have personally not had an issue but I am collecting anecdotes from other women. This is an issue that needs to have more light shone on it.
Why should others be talking about diversity and trying to improve things?
It’s the right thing to do.