Organizers of a new group designed to attract Northwest Territories women into mining say the sector is now a good place to be.
National group Women in Mining has been around since 2009 but has not, until now, had an NWT chapter. De Beers Canada's Kelly Brenton said opening up in the territory will help create programs that bring more women into the industry.
The chapter will try to increase female representation by promoting scholarships and employment initiatives.
Winter Bailey, communications and communities manager for Diavik Diamond Mine, said the industry currently has around 12 to 19 percent female employment in the NWT.
"We all have a goal to at some point reach gender balance," said Bailey, "or at least increase our numbers substantially.
"We know there are a lot of women taking on roles, whether it's engineers or other professional roles."
Objectives of the chapter include supporting mentorship and coaching programs, while creating a "safe and comfortable environment" for women in mining to feel supported and able to contribute.
Katrina Nokleby, the NWT's minister of industry, tourism, and investment, has a background in engineering. Nokleby said role models for young women are crucial to increasing their involvement in traditionally male-dominated fields.
Stating "you can't be what you can't see," Nokleby said the territory could not expect young girls to see themselves in mining "if they don't have the examples and mentors to look up to, to emulate, and to follow."
April Hayward, who came to mining from academia, echoed Nokleby's emphasis on mentors. "The connections you make with different people can have a profound effect on your career trajectory," Hayward said. "Something like this is potentially very important to people at all stages in their career."
Hayward started as a consultant and later worked at the Ekati diamond mine. "I couldn't have imagined, when I was in academia, that my skill set would be needed here and valued the way it is, and that my voice would matter," she said.
Women in the industry celebrated the launch of the NWT chapter. Emelie Peacock/Cabin Radio
Though the NWT's mining industry faces challenges ranging from looming mine closures to a lack of exploration, Bailey said this is a good time for Women in Mining to launch here. Her own involvement in mining started in security 12 years ago – since then, in a range of roles, her work has included five and a half years on-site at Diavik.
"Being one of the few females in the room wasn't first or foremost any sort of concern for me, but it has been a good journey," she said.
Bailey said the chapter is looking for more support from women and men in the industry. Those who can contribute sponsorships, attend meetings, or simply provide support for women at their own workplace are welcome.
Hayward added: "There are so many opportunities provided by mining – I'm in sustainability and environment. There are opportunities to do real good in the world by stepping forward and coming into industry."