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Imola Götz’s choice to study mining engineering wasn’t an unusual one while growing up in Romania. “There were many mines around my home town and I knew the possibilities and thought this was a very interesting career,” said the chief engineer at Goldcorp’s Porcupine Gold Mines in Timmins.
It was not unusual to find women working in the industry, with many filling technical positions. However, when she immigrated to Canada more than two decades ago, she was surprised there were not as many women working in the industry or pursuing engineering.
“When I got to Canada I was an oddity and I often got asked why I chose mining,” said Götz. She has been with Goldcorp for nearly 10 years and previously spent about 15 years in Manitouwadge. Her husband, Laszlo Götz, also works for Porcupine Gold Mines as its environmental manager. The couple decided to leave Romania early in their careers since the communist regime was “getting more and more intolerable.”
“Our son was 14 months old at the time and we decided the first one to get a passport would leave with him. I got the passport and defected,” she said.
The family is Hungarian and the Romanian government would not issue passports to entire Hungarian families at the same time. After spending a year in Austria, she arrived in London, Ont.
“I went to English as a second language school for three weeks and realized I had to work, since I had a young child,” said Götz. “I found a job with a manufacturing company and worked as a machinist for a year. Then my husband joined us.”
Canada seemed like a good choice from a mining point of view and it also offered some recreational opportunities such as downhill skiing, which Götz loves to pursue.
“I arrived in London, where there was no skiing and no mines. There is no such thing as luck. You have to work for everything,” she laughed.
The couple heard that a Hungarian with a degree in teaching got a mining job in Manitouwadge so they thought they would be able to secure employment there, especially since they both had mining engineering degrees.
“We were offered jobs, but not mining engineering jobs. My husband was a mine trainee and I was offered a survey position. I stayed home since I found out I was expecting, but it took my husband less than a year to get into an engineering position,” she said.
While deciding to stay home to raise her children, Götz obtained a teaching degree and became a supply teacher. She taught math and science in senior high school grades and she said she found no difference in performance in those subjects between male and female students.
It puzzled her as to why female students were picking more traditional careers.
“Perhaps they weren’t being guided to consider careers such as engineering,” said Götz.
She too returned to engineering, but the mining company she and her husband worked for closed its Canadian operations.
While they were offered transfers to the United States, they felt Canada was their home. The family then relocated to Timmins.
At a Timmins Chamber of Commerce presentation in the spring, Götz told the audience some mining companies are adding more women to their senior management. Goldcorp is the leader at 26 per cent.
“It is important to start at the school level to let girls know there is an option,” she said. “I see more women in mining but there is still a discrepancy between males and females attending engineering schools.
“I am active in the PEO (Professional Engineers Ontario) and I go to the annual meetings where I see that only 10 per cent of those attending are women. It is still quite visible, despite much effort in guiding women towards engineering, but I think it is getting better.”