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'Lots of room' for women in mining, says chair of new group

There's officially a Women in Mining group in the city with the heart of gold
Steve Bourgounhon, Gabriella Demarais, Hillary Laughren, George Pirie and Michelle Boileau attended the launch of Women in Mining Timmins.

Women in the mining industry are working to inspire a new generation.

The Women in Mining (WIM) group launched officially on June 14 with the help of the Timmins Chamber. The goal is to empower and advocate for women in the mining industry. 

“This is about coming together, and I think it’s about time,” said WIM chair Hillary Laughren.

The organization is tied to the Canadian Institute in Mining (CIM) Porcupine Branch, and the hope is that anyone interested will participate.

“We hope to support and get behind events and whatever you choose to do locally,” said Steve Bourgounhon CIM Porcupine chair. “We want to provide opportunities and develop a network where there’s more communication, more involvement, and collaboration.”

There is also hope that high school students will seriously consider the mining industry as a career.

“We hope to inspire young women and girls to envision themselves in various roles in the mining sector,” said Gabriella Desmarais, WIM co-chair. “By attracting and attaining more women in the industry we can address workforce shortages and make sure the industry benefits from diverse perspectives and skills.”

Laughren said that highlighting those skills and perspectives for young women is an essential step toward diversity in the industry.

“I think there’s lots of room for women in any position in mining, whether it’s administrative or underground or on the surface,” said Laughren. “We need to get into high schools and start pushing what mining can offer at that level because once you’re in college or university, you’ve already kind of decided on your path, and it doesn’t always lead to mining.”

Minister of Mines and Timmins MPP George Pirie attended the launch and said supporting women in the mining industry is a step to establishing equity.

“How do we increase the number of women employed in mining? It's a very exciting career,” said Pirie. “It’s a very exciting time, and we’re in the heart of it in Timmins. This is all about concrete suggestions and advice, and hopefully, it will be developed in policy.”

According to the Mining Industry Human Resources Council, 17 per cent of the mining industry is comprised of women. 

WIM is hoping to increase the visibility of those women in the industry.

“We can all find ourselves in a man’s world,” said Mayor Michelle Boileau. “Not only will all of you be better supported, you will learn from one another and mentor each other, but will also build a better experience for the next generation of women that are coming into the mining industry.”

The importance of First Nations partnerships is also being considered. 

Invitations have been sent to the Wabun Tribal Council, Mushkegowuk Council, and other First Nations to join the group.

“Everybody’s welcome and invited to join,” said Desmarais. “We’re all role models for each other, and we’re all trying to support each other in this.”

Laughren said the support from the chamber has been amazing, as they took care of the administrative side of putting the group together.

“They’d done a bulk of that work for us. They’ve been really hands-on,” she said. “Lots of people have reached out to get an idea of what’s to come, and we just keep pushing them to register so we can figure out what’s to come because if we don’t have the membership, it’ll be hard to keep this going.”

Those looking to join can do so on the group’s website.

— TimminsToday