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Summary of EGBC’s Women in Engineering and Geoscience Panel Discussion, 22 Oct 2018

By Kylie Williams

Engineers and Geoscientists British Columbia (EGBC, formerly APEGBC) assembled four incredible women for their annual Women in Engineering and Geoscience panel, held at the Vancouver Public Library downtown branch on Monday 22 October 2018.

The topic for the evening was: Why do women contemplate leaving engineering and geoscience more than men? How to empower women and promote advancement of women professionals in their careers?

Although the reasons and conditions that lead to women leaving the industry wasn’t explored as deeply as I expected, each panelist shared numerous inspiring stories about how to persist and succeed in male-dominated industries.

Dr. Catherine Hickson, President, Tuya Terra Geo Corp., was the straight-shooter at the table. Her key messages were “network, network, network”, go with your gut, and make the best of every situation and opportunity. In response to a question from the moderator, Christina Noel, about being called “bossy”, her answer was “Yes.” She said that when she is the boss, and the team need to be led in a certain direction to achieve an outcome, she will be bossy to keep everyone on track.

Dr. Maria E. Holuszko, Assistant Professor in Engineering at UBC, advised us “not to try to be superwoman” and to build a support system, particularly when young children are involved. Accepting help is not a sign of weakness and is good for our mental health, she said. I particularly liked her response to the question about confidence. She said, “So what if you say something wrong [in a meeting]? What is the worst thing that will happen? You have nothing to lose.”

Lindsay Steele, Associate Director, EGBC, reminded us that leaders don’t have to be cold and unemotional and that empathy is a trait that is increasingly valued in good managers. The entire panel shared comments along these lines, saying that building business and social connections within your team and workplace is not a weakness, but a strength. Lindsay also commented on the importance of communicating with your partner when you are both professionals (dual-career) and raising a young family.

Michelle Revesz, Senior Engineer at City of Vancouver, said that work-life balance is an unobtainable goal, and reminded us that men also leave the industry when field work and travel take their toll. Rather than striving for perfect balance, take the time to be present at work and present at home, rather than letting your mind and attention wander. In response to a question about sexism, she commented that overt sexism, such as a joke or comment, can often be easier to deal with than the subtle sexism we face through unconscious bias.

Selina Tribe, Chair of the EGBC Women in Engineering and Geoscience Division, commented during the introduction that membership will be free for those who join the Women-in-Engineering-and-Geoscience-Division in 2019. Check the website for details.

The event was sponsored by Canada’s Energy Citizens

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