On the frontline of the push for gender equity in mining – by Kylie Williams (CIM Magazine – December 18, 2018)


As a young exploration geologist in 1970, Barbara Caelles walked out on her first job when her manager told her there were simply “no facilities” to send a woman out in the field, as she had been promised a year earlier.

“I stood up and said, ‘Well, thank you. I don’t want an office job,’ and walked out,” Caelles recalled. “It was a catch-22. We all felt that you couldn’t be a geologist unless you had field experience, but fieldwork for women was more difficult to find. [Men] had no problems finding it.”

She was able to find another job the same day with a company that sent her to California where she began to build her field experience. She returned to Vancouver and spent the next decade as one of only a handful of women field geologists. She worked on a number of large field programs, including Hackett River and the Back River area in Nunavut, and numerous projects throughout British Columbia and the Northwest Territories. She also wrote and co-authored several scientific papers.

With quiet determination, Caelles was able to overcome early experiences of sexism in the 1970s, when women geologists were considered a curiosity. Even returning to work part-time in the ‘80s and ‘90s after having her two children, she carved out a role in records management with her supervisors that allowed her great flexibility.

“It was when I came back full-time in 1999 that I realized…the more things change the more they stay the same,” said Caelles. The inflexible work schedules, blatant sexism and unconscious bias she witnessed across the industry spurred her on to become a strong advocate for gender equity in mining. Caelles spent most of the next two decades working behind the scenes to build strong networks for women from all areas of the mining industry and co-founded the first Women in Mining group in Vancouver.

For the rest of this article: http://magazine.cim.org/en/voices/we-are-mining-barbara-caelles/