Pit Stop No13: Q&A with Betty Ann Heggie

Betty Ann Heggie has spent twenty-six years at the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan Inc where she climbed the corporate ladder to become Senior Vice President and an officer in the company. She was named Canada’s Top Investor Relations Officer by both her clients and her peers.

Betty Ann is now using her retirement years to promote Women’s mentorship, answering the call to share her lessons learned with other women. She has spearheaded The Betty Ann Heggie Womentorship Foundation, which supports organizations and individuals that reflect and promote her teachings about the importance of Gender Physics and the necessity of women supporting women.

Betty Ann was nominated as the 2015 Women in Mining (WIM) Canada Trailblazer award winner. This award, established by WIM Canada in 2013 recognizes women who are risk taker and have helped other woman advance in their careers.

Betty Ann Heggie

Betty Ann Heggie

1. What originally appealed to you about working in mining?

I am from Saskatchewan and I was looking for work around the province. I knew I wanted to have a family and at the time my prospective husband had a small business in the area. Most of the jobs started at an office in the province and when you got promoted, you were transferred to another city. Thus, I looked for employment at a head office in Sask, where I wouldn’t have to move. Since mining is a big part of our economy, Potash was at the top of the list; it presented great opportunities in Saskatchewan. I worked for Potash for 26 years from 1981 to 2007.

2. You are a woman in mining; what has the experience been like for you?

Back in 1993 we tried to buy the German potash company K+S. Our CEO and myself both went to Germany to meet with the company. We had a nice dinner and the following day they had planned a tour of the underground mine for the CEO, and a city tour for myself. The reason behind this is that was believed it to be bad luck for a woman to go underground. It was an old superstition and the company didn’t want to frighten the miners. So there I was, an officer of PotashCorp, and they wanted to take me on a city tour. Our open-minded CEO refused to go underground without me. In the end, neither of us went underground. The industry has changed since then; a lot of women are now working underground and much progress has been made.

I have always been impressed with the mining industry’s emphasis on safety and continue to be impressed with their contentiousness. This safety culture goes beyond the mine site; even it the office, things like standing up on a chair or laying a pair of scissors on the floor aren’t allowed because they are things you would not do onsite. So many great safety practices started at the mine and are now practiced at the head office. These good practices flow over into my every day home life.

3. How did you advance your career to a senior position?

Hard work is a given, but you have to be lucky and have a vision. In my case, I focused on ways to improve the company. That meant that I was continually pushing news ideas forward. Early during my career I had to be persuasive because I had no status and couldn’t dictate. I did a lot of networking and made connections within the company. That is how I influenced change.

You should make sure to be strong enough to present yours ideas convincingly, build a good network of people and most importantly be resilient; when things don’t work out, you can’t crawl up at home, you need to keep going.

4. Were your challenges different than the challenges that men face?

Yes, just this morning I was talking to a woman I mentor and she was explaining that very often her interests and those of the men she works with don’t line up, which makes it difficult to create relationships through socializing. At her workplace, the men all like snowboarding, ice fishing. Because her interests are different it doesn’t give much opportunity to bond.

In my case, I tried to make friends with the wives of the other executives; it gave me an opportunity to socialize with them as couples. But I did specifically take up golf to play in company tournaments!

5. When did you join Women In Mining (WIM)? Why did you feel compelled?

WIM is a relatively new organization that took off after I retired so my involvement has been mentoring some of the women in the organization and speaking at their events. I think it’s fantastic organization; at one of the events where I spoke I was impressed to see an entire ballroom filled with woman who share common interests. It definitely empowers women by bringing them together as they strive to be leaders.

6. Why is it important to have more women in the industry?

From my experience, women deal with risk very differently than men. Men will take the financial bet while woman are more considerate of the stakeholders and the people involved. Women will make sure to not deviate from the ethical path and are committed to respect the commitments made to the employees and the environment. Women provide balance to prevent having success at any cost. They make sure that all the ‘I’s’ get dotted and ‘T’s’ get crossed. They are likely to force more internal discussion before going external, which gives any project a greater chance for success.

7. The issue of including women in mining companies has been discussed for more than a decade. Why has it been such a challenge?

For one thing women haven’t traditionally chosen engineering for a career. Also, whenever you bring in diversity, you have to make allowances and initially the mining industry wasn’t good at making those changes. It has gotten better however! For example, we now have coveralls and toilets specifically designed for women. We can’t expect them to come in and be just like men. They are different and therein lies their value.

There is also a psychological reasoning behind this: people are more likely to hire those that are like them to fill the position that they had. In mining, men were more comfortable giving jobs to other men. Once you break the glass ceiling and create a context for women to fill those positions everything changes. When people haven’t seen a woman working in a mine, they don’t know what to expect and that unknown makes them uncomfortable. Most of our decisions are made from the 85% of our brain that operates beneath the surface in the subconscious. Going back to my experience in Germany, it was an unconscious bias; people didn’t know what to expect but now that women have gone and worked underground, mentalities have changed.

8. Have you had mentors that have helped you? And how important are they?

Yes and I was very lucky. There were no women higher than me at PotashCorp so I turned to men that had a wives or daughters trying to make it in business. I knew they would be sensitized to my situation and empathize. Mentors were very important to me; my decision-making and success was a result of very good advice from my mentors.

9. What are some of the lessons you got out of your career path?

I would say that it is really important to switch between one’s feminine energy and masculine energy. It’s important to maintain one’s natural compassionate feminine energy, which readily builds relationships but also use masculine energy, which is not afraid to take a risk. You can’t just be a leader and get your ideas across without also forming relationships and helping others. You need the attributes of both and I use both these energies with my work relationships as well as my personal relationships.

10. Any advice you would give a young female student considering a career in mining?

I would say to develop and maintain your sense of humour. It is important to have fun at work, to laugh at yourself. Through humour you can find common grounds with people, or break the ice with colleagues. Like the famous saying goes, time spent laughing is time spent with the Gods. It really increases your positive vibes!

Pit Stop No12: The PDAC

If you are in mining, you must have crossed the PDAC at some point. The PDAC stands for Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada; it is the most famous mineral industry convention. It occurs annually at the Metro Toronto Convention centre around the month of March. This four-day congress has an international reputation attracting over 1,000 exhibitors and 20,000 attendees from around the world for networking, deal-making and scientific exchange. It consists of a trade show and a series of technical sessions, short courses as well as social and networking events. The trade-show is the most overwhelming and spectacular part of the PDAC, I think! It is a hub for all junior mining and exploration companies and the world’s biggest investors. Worth mentioning the notorious mining companies’ parties at the Fairmont Royal York hotel every night.

Part of the Trade Show at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre

Part of the Trade Show at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre

Aisle of the PDAC with exhibitors from different country like China

Aisle of the PDAC with exhibitors from different countries like China

As a student, the PDAC can seem overwhelming at first but the organization has planned some events exclusively for students. These include guided tours of the trade show, a PDAC survival skills workshop, and a student-industry networking luncheon. It’s important to understand that the PDAC is not a place to search for jobs or coops; it’s a place to learn about the challenges the industry is facing and, more importantly to connect with industry professionals and leaders. Connecting means approaching other people, interacting with them to learn about their work and experience and develop contacts. You can never have too much of those!

Student booth at the PDAC

Student booth at the PDAC

This year was my second time attending the convention and my first time volunteering for the PDAC. Volunteering is an amazing opportunity to meet professionals while learning more on what the PDAC does as an organization (not to mention that volunteers also attend the convention for free!) My role was to attend to the E3 Plus booth. The E3 Plus is a PDAC initiative to provide a framework for responsible exploration. Its purpose is to encourage the exploration companies to improve on their social, environmental and health and safety performance by providing them with online toolkits and guidelines to do so.

Me and another Volunteer at the E3 Plus Booth

Me and another Volunteer at the E3 Plus Booth

For me, attending the PDAC has been a great experience these past two years! I have had the opportunity to attend a technical session on commodities and market outlook where mining mogul Robert Friedland gave his insight on the minerals of the future. One of my favourite moments of the PDAC occurred at the WIM networking reception. During that event the 2015 WIM trailblazer winner was announced and I had the opportunity to meet winner Betty-Ann Heggie.

Robert Friedland giving his Presentation on the Minerals Outlook

Robert Friedland giving his Presentation on Minerals Outlook

2015 Trailblazer award winner Betty-Ann Heggie accompanied by the WIM Canada Board of Directors

2015 Trailblazer Award Winner Betty-Ann Heggie accompanied by the WIM Canada Board of Directors

Pit Stop No11: The Sustainability Report Competition

Last semester, I was given the opportunity to build and coach a team to take part in the Sustainability Report Competition. This competition is not only constructive but also very exciting! In fact, for the first time it is university students who are the jury and are judging which Canadian company has the best #Sustainability report.

For each specific industry sector (Energy, Finance, Materials, Consumer Products, etc.), a jury is composed of students from different universities. In this year’s edition, there was a team from Concordia, HEC Montreal, UQAM, McGill and Sherbrook. Each group of students was given a set of Canadian companies belonging to a specific sector. The students should then conduct an assessment of the most recently published sustainable development reports of all the companies in the sector. Each jury is free to determine its own selection criteria.

I was able to gather 5 members on my team form the McGill mining engineering program. We were responsible of choosing the best sustainability report among 12 reports belonging to Canadian mining companies.

After brainstorming, we ended up with a list of criteria that we thought are essential to make a great report. The first part of the criteria was focused on the report format, how easily the report transmits the information. Some categories included accessibility, the use of GRI index and the visual. The second part of the criteria was focused on the corporate sustainability strategy.

Some of the criteria related to the stakeholder included evidences of positive impacts on the community, local contractors, the company’s efforts to be socially involved with the communities where it operates as well as the handling of complaints. Another important criteria regarded human rights. We were looking for programs or examples of efforts in human rights especially for mining companies operating in sensitive countries. Some of the criteria specific to mining also included safety in the workplace, safety trainings, safety awards programs and handling of employee complaints or work refusal. Last but not least, the environment is an issue particularly important for mining companies. We gave emphasis to information relative to waste management, water issues, and consumption of natural resources. We also gave some importance to details on the reclamation plan and the number of inspections, if there were any.

Once we determined the criteria we could proceed into reading the reports. Before doing so we established a methodology. Since we were five working on the Canadian mining companies, as our first step we divided the 12 reports between each other and each one of us ended up reading 2 to 3 reports and choosing the best one among them. At that point we were left with 5 reports. The second round consisted in reading another 2 reports.

One of my team members decided to focus on three international mining companies’ reports although it wasn’t part of our job! Nevertheless it was interesting to see the difference in reporting!

We were impressed by three reports that in our opinion stood out. Our three finalists were Goldcorp, Kinross and Teck Resources. The competition ended with a luncheon where each group of students gave a quick presentation of their work and presented a trophy to the winner. We decided to give the trophy for best mining sustainability to Goldcorp and presented a trophy to Goldcorp VP of Corporate Affairs and Sustainability, Brent Bergeron.

Goldcorp VP Brent Bergeron holding the trophy with the McGill mining team!

Goldcorp VP Brent Bergeron holding the trophy accompanied by lawyer Jean M. Gagné and part of the McGill mining team

It was a great experience from all the McGill mining team! I hope this competition will encourage the mining companies to increase the extent and detail of the reporting they provide. Because in mining like in other industries you can’t manage what you don’t measure!

Pit Stop No10: The Engineers Without Borders Canada Annual Conference/Mining stream

Every year EWB Canada holds its annual conference; for the first time this year, the conference had a special focus on the mining industry and tackled some of its challenges through a series of workshops and sessions.

The mining stream revolved around the question of how mining could “work” for development; what conditions need to be in place for mining to advance development outcomes? What opportunities exist for private companies to do more for development? How can communities and companies work in local partnerships?

One of my favourite session was the “Making Mining Work for Development: An Interactive Role-Play”. This session, organized by consulting company Hatch was both fun and constructive. We were divided into five groups representing exactly the client, the local businesses, the international businesses and NGOs. The projected consisted in the construction of a nickel mine in a remote location in Africa. Each one of the groups was given a set of contracts that needed to be signed between the groups prior to the construction of the mine. It was really challenging to satisfy the project constraints as well as the expectations of each group. This session gave us a good sense of the complexity of mining projects. It was a privilege to have Kinross Vice President of Corporate Responsibility, Ed Opitz as one of the members of my group. His input was really valuable and he explained to us how in real life those kinds of projects were handled.

Mining is a big player in development. In Africa for example, a mine will hire the local workforce, provide training, education and local procurement. Although the mining industry is far from perfect, there is a progress in corporate social responsibility (CSR). Mining companies are becoming more aware of the importance of CSR and its positive impacts.

Overall, the conference was a real blast! I met with many EWB delegates form all over Canada; I felt inspired by the story of the women and men from the Kumvana delegation who fought for their education, who still fight to better the future of their communities. I was particularly touched by Nafisa Adams’ courage and strong will. After fighting her way to school, Nafisa decided to go back to her community village in Ghana and give hope to the women there. She founded the Beads of Hope Ghana. This business provides the opportunity to the women to bead simple jewelry while becoming more economically independent.

Nafisa Adams and I selling some Bead for Hope at the EWB 2015 conference

Nafisa Adams and I selling some Beads for Hope at the EWB 2015 conference

The conference showed me that there is potential in each one of us to make a positive #change. I am ready to put that positive attitude in action and continue working hard to promote sustainability in mining!

The EWB conference ended with music and a dance floor!

The EWB conference ended with music and a dance floor!

PS: Did you know that EWB Canada has a Mining Shared Value venture! Not sure what it means? Mining shared Value is about helping Canadian mining companies maximize local procurement of goods and services so that the host countries gain economical and social benefits from the mining activities.

PPS: You can follow the Mining shared Value on twitter @ewb_msv

Pit Stop No9: The Intercollegiate Business Convention (IBC)

Not everything about mining has to be technical, does it? Well no! A lot of mining revolves around investing, evaluating a mining company’s worth and consulting for the mining industry.

In this post I have decided to talk business. I have recently attended the Intercollegiate Business Convention (IBC) in Boston and want to share my experience with you!

Organized by the Harvard Undergraduate Women in Business, the IBC brings together over a thousand female delegates from universities around the globe with a common interest in business and leadership. This weekend-long event is composed of social events, learning opportunities, innovation workshops and networking dinners. Its objective changes from year to year; this year’s objective is to build a global support network and community of empowerment for collegiate women interested in business.

This year’s IBC featured some inspiring speakers: Maureen Chiquet, Global CEO of Chanel and one Forbes’ “100 Most Powerful Women” as well as journalist Jill Abramson, who spent the last 17 years in the most senior editorial positions at the New York Times.

This event was not only fun to attend as I met so many people from diverse backgrounds but also very inspiring as I heard many successful female professionals talk about their career path and what got them where they are.  What I have learnt in a nutshell: know and pursue what you love to do and work hard; there will be challenges along the way but be ready to fight back and fight hard. I have also learnt that it is extremely useful to have a mentor to guide you. The most successful people have mentors! It is important to ask for and receive advice from people who have more experience and have already tackled some of the challenges that we haven’t.

Part of the McGill Delegation at IBC 2014

Part of the McGill Delegation at IBC 2014

Pit Stop No8: Meet Delphine!

Delphine Quach is a fourth-year mining engineering co-op student at McGill University. She has agreed to share with us her first co-op experience within the mining industry. Hear what she has to say!

1. Why mining as a career option?

I always had an interest in geology and I knew that a career in mining would allow to me travel a lot and be part of a global industry. Also, mining offers a combination of both field and office work which appealed to me. After having my first internship my interest grew and I knew I was on the right track.

2. Where have you had your first experience and what were your main duties?

My first experience was an eight-month co-op position at the consulting firm Groupe Alphard. I took part in two different projects. The first one was commissioning; I had to make sure along with the team I was working with, that everything was good prior to the commencement of operation at the Bloom Lake mine in Fermont, Quebec. We were testing equipment and machinery. It was a FIFO job (Fly-in-fly-out) so I was spending two weeks on site in Fermont, one week in the Montreal office and then one week off. My second project was more geotechnical: I did some vacuum and ultrasound testing to check that there was no leakage in and out of the tailings pond.

3. Describe a typical day at your job.

I would wake up at around 4:30 am get a ready and ride to the mine to be on site at 6 am. The day would always start with several meetings; an internal one where the team and I would discuss the tasks to be done that day and an outer one where we would meet with the client, the construction company and other. My day would then consist in 6 to 7 hours of fieldwork with a lunch break of course.

Delphine working onsite in Fermont!

Delphine working onsite in Fermont!

4. What was your favorite part of the job?

The combination of field and office work was amazing. The fact that I had the opportunity to interact with a lot of people from different background (construction firm, consulting firm, client, financial people, engineers, technicians) was a great part of my job.

5. What was the most challenging part of your job?

The cold! There were days where the temperature would drop as low as -60 degrees and I had to work outside.

6. Have you ever had a bad experience?

Not really! The traveling was a bit tiring but you get use to it.

7. What do you think is one of the biggest misconceptions about working in mining?

There are more women working in mining than you think! I met a few female technicians driving heavy machinery. At work, there is absolutely no difference between a man and a woman; if you show you have the capacity and ability to do the job then you are fine!

It’s safe! In my opinion it is safer to work at a mine than to cross the street.

8. What skills did you most used at the work? Academic knowledge? Teamwork? Time management?

It was most importantly communication skills, as I had to talk with so many different people. Also team work and time management are essential. For any employer, time is money so I had to make sure to respect the deadlines.

9. Where do you see yourself in 5 years from now?

Done with my EIT (Engineer-In-Training) program and perhaps working in project management somewhere in Russia or Australia. Who knows?

Pit Stop No7: Women In Mining

Women In Mining or WIM is an international community composed of men and women working in the mineral and mining industry. The mining sector faces many challenges including a shortage of skilled labor. Attracting and retaining women within the mining workforce may be the best solution to this crisis. It is WIM’s role to encourage young women to join the mining industry and help established professionals connect and navigate their way through a successful career in the mineral sector.

WIM Canada strives to ensure a movement of professionals committed to bringing about a sustainable minerals industry in Canada. WIM Canada engages its members through mentorship, networking, educational forums, advocacy, debates and industry speaking opportunities. The mineral and mining sector is one of the most important sectors to the Canadian economy; it is one of WIM’s roles to improve the general public’s perception of this needed economy.

Women In Mining Canada hosted an industry speaking panel at the 23rd World Mining Congress.

Women In Mining Canada hosted an industry speaking panel at the 23rd World Mining Congress.

As an active member of this community, I try to take part to as many WIM events as I can; it is a great occasion to meet new industry professionals. The Montreal branch of WIM Canada regularly organizes luncheons that gather about forty members in Down Town Montreal (men are welcome too!) Each lunch is then followed by a presentation from one or two female professionals on their career path. These women are leaders in the industry and are willing to share their experiences with us. These meetings are also a fantastic opportunity to network and make some industry contacts.

If you are a student in mining or a professional working in the industry, I strongly encourage you to join this vibrant community and learn how you can contribute to better the perception of women working in the mining industry and what this community can do to improve you career path.

N.B: To receive updates, news and inspiring stories of women in mining follow the international Women In Mining community’s blog here.

Pit Stop No6: The fascinating MIM

A fascinating set of jewels, a pool of wonders, a burst of colors; that is what we find at the MIM, Museum of Minerals.

The MIM exhibits more than 1500 minerals, gathered from around the world and brought to Beirut by Salim Eddé. Eddé has been collecting fabulous specimens since 1997. His collection is considered as one of the most important private collections due to its minerals’ wide variety, unique features and high quality. The museum is located in the campus of Saint Joseph University in Beirut, Lebanon.

The first room encountered when visiting the museum assembles 9 minerals appertaining to the traditional Berzelius chemical classification.

Mineral of the MIM

Mineral of the MIM

Mineral Vanadinite from the Phosphates, Vanadates & Arsenates class. The mineral originates from Morocco.

Mineral Vanadinite from the Phosphates, Vanadates & Arsenates class. The mineral originates from Morocco.

 

Silicate Mineral from India.

Silicate Mineral from India.

The museum also displays some radioactive minerals. These specimens are presented in a secured space and the gas generated by radioactivity, the radon, is safely removed. The museum is well designed: specific lighting is used to highlight the color variations in species such as tanzanite, the transparency of gemstones like peridot and tourmaline.

Gold AU from the USA.

Gold AU from the USA.

Fluorite mineral CaF2, from China.

Fluorite mineral CaF2, from China.

Rhodochrosite mineral.

Rhodochrosite mineral.

The Treasure assembles 21 precious metals in safe-like room. Several specimens of topaz, rubies, emeralds and sapphires were specifically selected for their visible geometric form. A 328 carats diamond from South Africa is also guarded in the Treasure.

The Treasure room displaying 21 precious metals.

The Treasure room displaying 21 precious metals.

Cerussite PbCO3, from Australia. Some green malachite spots can be seen. The patterns formed are perfect equilateral triangles.

Cerussite PbCO3, from Australia. Some green malachite spots can be seen. The patterns formed are perfect equilateral triangles.

Mesolite mineral from India.

Mesolite mineral from India.

Specimen of Spessartine and Quartz, from China.

Specimen of Spessartine and Quartz, from China.

N.B: The MIM gets its name from the 24th letter of the Arabic alphabet, which corresponds to the M in Latin alphabet. It is also the first letter of the words Museum, Minerals and Mines in Arabic, English and French. More info available at www.mim.museum

Pit Stop No5: The Walrus Talks Energy with Suncor

Part of its educational mandate, The Walrus Foundation has organized a national speaker series The Walrus Talks. Each talk brings together eight speakers for a seven minutes presentation each on various subjects relating to a single theme. The Walrus Talks deliver lively, inspiring and riveting new ideas and challenges the way we look at big issues. Each talk is then followed by a reception with both attendees and participants.

Suncor Energy, a Canadian integrated energy company has hosted with The Walrus Foundation a four-part, cross-country speaker series about Canada’s energy future. The Walrus Talks Energy broadens its public understanding on sustainable energy future, collective environmental impact, the challenges of energy production and what lies ahead in terms of energy demand and consumption.

One of The Walrus Talks Energy was held in Montreal at McGill University, on October 1st 2013. The speakers included Vicky Sharpe, the CEO of Sustainable Development Technology Canada; Andrew Heintzman, the president of Investeco Capital, the first Canadian investment company to be exclusively focused on environmental sectors; and Kali Taylor, the founder of Student Energy, an organization that strives to create a movement of students committed to bringing about a sustainable energy future.

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Suncor Presents The Walrus Talks Energy at McGill University

The 2014 Walrus Talks will address numerous themes and feature more than a 100 speakers across Canada. Information on future Talks available at thewalrus.ca/events.

N.B: The walrus Foundation is a non-profitable organization whose mandate is to create dynamic forums to engage Canadians on diverse themes such as water, energy, philanthropy, literature, urban spaces, human rights, climate change etc. The foundation supports writers, artists and provoking ideas by publishing The Walrus magazine, organizing speakers’ event, debates and leadership dinners as well as other events across Canada. To know more about The Walrus, visit www.thewalrus.ca

Pit Stop No4: The World Mining Congress

Mining is not only about mines and digging deeper; it is an exciting world that joins the exploration activities, the environmental services, the mining suppliers and the investment departments. In order for the mining industry to remain global and up to date on the leading edge technologies, an international committee is responsible of organizing the World Mining Congress (WMC).

This international congress brings together thousands of delegates from around the globe. It is a high-level knowledge sharing and networking event that gathers exhibitors in mining as well as in automation, robotics and construction. Each congress has a motto from which revolves its technical program of peer-reviewed papers.

The 23rd WMC was hosted in Montreal by the Canadian Institute of Mining (CIM) in collaboration with five professors from major Canadian universities. This WMC was held in conjunction with the ISARC 2013, the International Symposium on Automation and Robotics in the Construction and Mining Industries. The exhibition hall presented more than 250 mining industry related manufacturers and service providers.

Autochthones  were invited to perform at the 23rd WMC in Montreal

First Nations were invited to perform at the 23rd WMC in Montreal

Prof. Ferri Hassani is one of the five professors to help in organizing the 23rd WMC

Prof. Ferri Hassani is one of the five professors to help in organizing the 23rd WMC

The next WMC will be held in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 and will be organized by the IBRAM, the Brazilian Mining Association. It will be located at the prestigious Sul América Convention Center.

N.B: Polish mining engineer Prof. Boleslaw Krupiński initiated The World Mining Congress when he organized the first congress in 1958 in Warsaw. He remained chairman until 1972. Today, the WMC is a UN-affiliated organization and is run by the permanent secretariat seated in Poland.