HISTORY OF WOMEN IN MINING – BC AND BEYOND
The question is often asked: “Why did you start Women in Mining?” or “There are plenty of other women’s groups, so what makes this one different?”
The goal was to form a networking group for women who work in mining in Vancouver. WIM BC is different because it includes ALL women associated with mining, not just geoscience professionals. WIM BC’s membership includes lawyers, accountants, support staff, community relations coordinators, analysts, stockbrokers, and of course geoscientists, from across the spectrum of the sector. All who share a common interest in mining are welcome to join. We benefit from creating relationships with like-minded people, and what better way than to gather together.
Our members find comfort in discussing daily events with others – from gneisses to nannies, rock stress to mental stress. Many attend our meetings to find solutions for personal and professional problems. And those that volunteer in the organization find that it is a great way to develop new skills, learn more about career options in mining while making friends in the industry and of course, building their network of professional contacts.
While networking is still a prominent goal for WIM BC, many members also feel a profound sense of wanting to give back to the community, to educate others about their work, and to help out in some tangible way. This is expressed by providing a platform for charitable organizations, donating to the BC Children’s Hospital through Mining for Miracles, and through our monthly Lunch and Learn meetings.
Although historically mining has been an industry dominated by men, written and photographic records dating back to the early 1800s exist indicating that women worked in the coal industry in England and Wales; took part in the California, Alaska, Yukon and BC gold rushes; and have prospected throughout North America since the mid-1800s. In fact, one of Canada’s most successful prospectors, the legendary Viola MacMillan, even became the first female president of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada in 1944 — a position she held for two decades.
Despite this background, women entering mining-related careers in the 1960s and early 1970s found themselves the objects of some curiosity, as demonstrated by letters sent into advice column gurus Ann Landers (Vancouver Sun, circa 1974-75) and Dear Abby (Toronto Sun, December 1975).
1921 Women’s Association of the Mining Industry in Canada – Toronto (WAMIC) formed by Edith Tyrrell. Mrs. Tyrrell was married to famed Geologist Joseph B. Tyrrell, who discovered Canada’s first meat-eating dinosaur near what is now the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta.
1969 The Northern Miner found women in the mining industry rare enough to be newsworthy and thus began assigning stories to Nean Allman, the newspaper’s first female reporter and first geologist on staff. Note: Nean Allman went on to become the first female President of the Geological Association of Canada (GAC)
1973 Ward Neale, then President of the Geological Association of Canada, noted that “out of a GAC membership of 2000, there were only three dozen female members.” The GAC subsequently formed the GAC Status of Women Geoscientists Committee, with Norah (Nean) Allman, who was based in Toronto, as the first chair.
1976 WIM BC’s very own Barbara Caelles assumed the role of chair of the GAC SWG in 1976. Later that year, the GAC SWG published their findings in a GAC information circular bringing about an awareness of women working in the geoscience profession.
1991 Anne Thompson started a chapter of the Association of Women in Geosciences (AWG) in Vancouver
1993 AWG incorporated as Canadian Association for Women Geoscientists (CAWG)
2002 CAWG became dormant
2002 Women in Mining Network (WIMN) formed. Barbara Caelles and Diane Gregory brought together a group of women for informal coffee meetings including ‘Lyn Anglin, Anne Thompson, Toni Wallis, Carol Ellis and Leilah Tate. Twenty people attended their first meeting.
2003 WIMN membership swelled to 100
2008 WIMN becomes Women in Mining Vancouver (WIMV) – Barbara Caelles, Yvonne deBoer, Claire Thomson, Sahar Pakzad and Sefika Lesnikov formed the core group
2008 First WIMV cocktail reception during Mining Week – an annual event
2009 WIMV begins participation at AME Roundup Conference
2009 WIM Canada formed
2009 WIMV launches Lunch & Learn program
2010 WIMV website is launched
2010 WIM Northern BC established
2012 Elk Valley WIM established
2013 WIM South Central established
2014 WIM Vancouver becomes WIM British Columbia (WIM BC)
2014 WIM BC Hosted Women in STEM Summer Social with BC Women in Energy Network (BCWEN)
2014 WIM BC membership exceeded 1,000 members
2015 WIM BC transitioned to a non-profit organization and appointed a board of directors
2016 WIM BC Introduced evening networking events, charity initiatives and branching out to partner with other mining affiliated organisations.