When Jody Kuzenko left a law firm in 2004 to become in-house lawyer for what was then Inco Ltd., her employer asked her why she was returning to Sudbury.
“Inco isn’t a woman’s company,” the male employer told her. She replied: “Not now it isn’t, but I’m on my way.”
Kozenko, who moved from serving as legal counsel to director of refining at Vale, was one of three women who spoke about their non-traditional career paths at a breakfast Tuesday sponsored by the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce. The event was held to mark International Women’s Day.
Gender has been a “differentiator” in her career, Kozenko told an audience of about 200 people, mostly women, at the breakfast. She is often the only woman in Vale boardrooms in Rio de Janeiro and Toronto, and certainly the only Sudbury woman under 5-foot-s who is a lawyer, said the diminutive speaker.
Kozenko worked her way through leadership roles in production services for the nickel giant, in jobs “that started to really feel like a man’s world.”
She now leads a workforce of 500 employees, most of them men, at Vale’s Sudbury operations.
In her company, as in other miners and other industry sectors, “there’s a glaring lack of gender diversity at all levels,” said Kozenko.
Of the 4,000 employees at Vale’s Sudbury operations, only 270 are women, making the workforce 93 per cent male and on target for the average 5-10 per cent of mining industry jobs held by women.
It’s important for women to get themselves appointed to directorships on mining companies to begin closing the gender gap, she said.
The 46-year-old had words of advice for young women entering male-dominated careers. Know yourself and be yourself, and be brave, speak up and be heard, she advised.
“As a gender, we seem to have trouble with confidence,” she said. Men often say of women in leadership roles, or those aspiring to them, “She’s so smart. She just lacks confidence.”
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