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  • Barinder Rasode

SheTalks Resources a storied success

You never know what someone's story is.

You might know where they work, or what their family looks like. And you may assume – from their clothing, their social circles, even their homes – what their background is or how they landed in the spot they are today.

But often there's much more than meets the eye.

Take Jennie Christensen, for example. Her business card says she's the principal for environmental services at Stantec, an engineering and design company. Her story, however, is rooted in hair. A hair-pulling condition when she was younger translated into studying her own obsessive compulsive disorder, which eventually led her down her current career path, where among other things, she developed a method of analyzing animal hair to determine environmental contaminants.

Or how about Katie Baker? Though she spent most of her younger years playing field hockey and is the retired captain of Canada's National Field Hockey Team, she took a shot at a major life change in her 30s and is now a communications and engagement specialist with environmental consultant group Hemmera. The transition from being a sports leader at the top of her game to a rookie on a new field with an unfamiliar team was a challenge she faced head on.

Christensen and Baker were among 15 women who took to the mic at last month's SheTalks Resources event in Vancouver.

Held May 13 at the Vancouver Convention Centre, the event drew about 100 attendees to hear the diverse experiences and perspectives of women with connections to various natural resource sectors in B.C.

The event – one of an ongoing series presented by SheTalks – was co-organized by Resource Works, a non-profit society that promotes B.C’s natural resource sector.

Mona Forster, an advisory council member with Resource Works who has three decades of experience working in the mining industry, chaired the SheTalks event. Part of the day's goal was to not only spotlight women, but highlight opportunities within the natural resource sector in B.C., where females are sorely underrepresented.

"I've been working in the industry for a long time and working with issues about women in leadership," Forster says, noting just two per cent of electricians and 16 per cent of mining employees are female. "It's important for women to see role models, for women to see women in non-traditional industries.

"Part of it, like anything, is showing women there is an opportunity for them."

Like Baker and Christensen's talks, many of the speakers' stories were personal, referring to their resource work indirectly. But it's those intimate tales that often prove the most inspirational, says Forster.

"When people really make themselves vulnerable, it has great impact."

Other speakers at the SheTalks event included Jacqui Beban, vice-president of Nootka Sound Timber; Vancouver Sun columnist and author Daphne Bramham; Sandra Brynjolfson, forensic electrician with Western Pacific Enterprises; Port Metro Vancouver's vice-president of human resources Sandra Case; Deanna Cottrell, soil, groundwater and water subject matter expert with Shell Oil; Lana Eagle, interim executive director with Industry Council for Aboriginal Business (ICAB); Bridge principal Siri Genik; Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition executive director Shannon McPhail; Chief Karen Ogen of Wet'suwet'en First Nation; Samantha Singbeil, aboriginal relations manager, external relations, for FortisBC; Taseko Mines director Linda Thorstad; Anna Tudela, vice-president, diversity, regulatory affairs and corporate secretary for Goldcorp; Philippa Wilshaw, partner, mining industry leader, GVA with KPMG; and Clear Seas political analyst Jody Wright.

Though they each shared their stories in short, eight-minute segments, the women demonstrated their varied experiences with resource development, the impact they are making and what strides they hope to take in the future.

The natural resource-themed SheTalks event follows a similar one last year and it's hoped a third with the same focus will come together for next year.

SheTalks hosts four multi-speaker events annually, offering women in various fields a platform to share their passion, and attendees an opportunity to be inspired and make connections.

The next event, SheTalks Tech, is scheduled for November. Stay tuned to for more details.

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