More women needed in mining sector: Dunderdale

James McLeod
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Premier Kathy Dunderdale said she didn’t really know what a feminist was back in the 1970s, but she was one back then and she’s a feminist today.

Premier Kathy Dunderdale speaks at the Women in Mining Forum Wednesday at the St. John’s Convention Centre. — Photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram

Speaking to young people at Wednesday’s Women in Mining forum in St. John’s, Dunderdale talked about her history in social justice work, and why she’s convinced the natural resources sector needs more women.

“I was a young feminist,” Dunderdale said. “I was always looking for balance and access, and I remember people saying to me, ‘You know, there are just some things that women can’t do.’”

When the Provincial Advisory Council on the Status of Women looked at employment for Hibernia construction, the results were disconcerting.

“It was the economic driver for the province — brought billions of dollars into the province — and it was one of the great job generators,” Dunderdale said.

“And we looked at it after the fact, and only four per cent of that labour force was comprised of women; in the high-paying jobs of trades and technology, we couldn’t measure. The numbers were so low, all we could tell you was (it was) less than one per cent.”

Later, when Dunderdale was natural resources minister and involved in negotiating the Hebron offshore development, she made sure there were stipulations about gender balance in the workforce, she says.

“All of that experience comes with you wherever you go, so when you get that social justice lens on you, you look at things in a very particular way,” she said.

“I never thought that I would ever be minister of natural resources, and certainly not part of the negotiating team for the fourth big project in our province.”

Dunderdale told reporters the province needs young people — both men and women — in the natural resources sector, because upcoming developments need all the workers they can get.

But especially for women, she said, high-paying jobs can be a means to independence and safety.

“Last week in this province there was a lot of talk about domestic violence, and that’s a good thing for all of us to be talking about,” Dunderdale said.

“This is something that I have worked at my whole life, and we all need to be engaged in that discussion. But one of the pivotal pieces of escaping a life of violence is having economic independence — being able to stand on your own two feet, (and) support yourself.”

Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: Provincial Advisory Council on the Status of Women

Geographic location: Hebron

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Recent comments

  • david
    November 04, 2013 - 11:53

    Kathy: You're SO right! But you don't go far enough...why don't we establish several government-sponsored companies that are solely comprised of women ,largely aboriginal, hopefully most with physical handicaps and perhaps learning disorders?! And once that insightful bit of progressive economic thinking kick-starts the establishment of the commensurate robust private sector economy (we currently lack any semblance of that here now), maybe THEN we can look into what it might take for all those qualified, skillful,. educated types to find some work here. Yay Kathy!

  • DTB
    November 01, 2013 - 15:52

    Well Blunderdale, as a young male in the mining industry with nearly ten years experience as a geologist- Let me tell you that it's going to take a lot more than calling for more women to enter the business. There hasn't been a job for me in Newfoundland since I graduated, so I've done what every other Newfoundlander does- They leave. Good luck getting more women, because there aren't any jobs to put them into, either. Those of us already with the qualifications can't find work to start with, so we all just up and go where the work is. Sadly, it's not here.

  • John Brown
    November 01, 2013 - 15:41

    Should she say "the industry needs more qualified people" and leave it at that. Or is she suggesting quota hiring to ensure gender equality? Does she prefer unqualified women get jobs to ensure gender balance?

  • Red
    November 01, 2013 - 10:19

    If men were doing this sort of thing it would be considered sexism. The training is in place for anyone regardless of sex, if women wanted such careers they would be doing the schooling. If women want to be treated more equally they need to stop acting like they are inferior. This is old school thinking and unnecessary this day and age. Hey Kathy I think you have bigger fish to fry than this.

  • david
    October 31, 2013 - 10:55

    In a place without enough private sector jobs for a small fraction of the workforce, does no one see the complete foolishness of getting distracted and twisted off on such a PC, BS issue as employment equity? Are we really this clueless?

    • Lloyd
      November 01, 2013 - 04:46

      David, The old adage still rings true... BS baffles brains. So, we must be this clueless!