When Infrastructure minister and environmental engineer Katrina Nokleby entered the legislature, she was no longer “out-numbered on the job site.”

One of a historic number of women elected to the 19th Legislative Assembly, she told the audience of a “women in mining” event Wednesday afternoon at the Multiplex that she ran for office to address the deficit of women in territorial politics.

Her work now includes collaborating with the NWT chapter of Women in Mining.

Infrastructure Minister Katrina Nokleby says part of the change has to be men standing up to inappropriate conduct.
Nick Pearce / NNSL Photo

For her, it’s a positive change and part of the excitement she saw when door-knocking and young girls recognized her from campaign materials. 

“I’ve given up hope sometimes, in a way of (thinking), my life’s always going to be this way, or my career always going to feel like I’m fighting this battle for gender,” she said. “And I’m seeing results and changes in that field. It’s very encouraging.”

In particular, Nokleby notes men play an important role securing equal treatment for women in the workplace.

“Even if you’re not the person perpetuating it, you actually do have a responsibility to stand up when you see it happening,” she said. 

Mining has, meanwhile, faced other gendered criticism this year.

Resource extraction recently came under fire in the National Inquiry of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, which linked the industry with violence against Indigenous women, girls and two-spirited people. It also reported that women on industry sites face exposure to sexual harassment and assault. It added Indigenous women face large barriers to entering the industry. 

‘Nipping it in the bud’

Kelly Brenton of De Beers Canada said role models represent opportunities to mentor young women, sharing career paths and how to navigate the various obstacles and barriers that can appear. 

She said the industry still carried opportunities for women. “You have to fight through those barriers sometimes,” she said.

For example, when Crystal Mann, a geologist with De Beers, was in university, she had some key role models in strong female professors and their male counterparts encouraging her to pursue work in the industry. Her father also was supportive.

“I never really felt that stereotype. I never felt like I couldn’t do anything,” she said. 

She’s been with De Beers since graduation. Mann advised women entering the field to not let the male-dominated industry intimidate them. As a volcanologist, she recalls an interview prior to De Beers, when a male interviewer asked, “volcanoes are like women … how might you tell where a volcano is more fertile, because we’re looking for rare earth elements?

Crystal Mann, a geologist, rose through the ranks at De Beers.
Nick Pearce / NNSL Photo

“I just let it roll off my back. And I answered his question and that moment, I (thought) I could never work for this man. I have never met anybody in my life like that,” she said. “To me that was a blatant statement.”

She her other experiences have more positive, and she had earned respect for her work. And in some cases, like working in a high-pressure mining projects,  Mann added that she believes women may have an edge. 

In her experience, Nokleby said she wanted to avoid making waves early in her career.

“I would just kind of take it, and I would take it, and I would take it, and I would take it. Then eventually one more thing would happen and I would kind of lose it. It would be the final straw,” she said. Someone would claim she was overacting, without realizing there was a cumulative effect.

Her advice would be address these issues as soon as they begin. This gives the opportunity for a course correction, she explained — “Nipping it in the bud.”



Nick Pearce

Nick Pearce is a writer and reporter in Yellowknife, looking for unique stories on the environment and people that make up the North. He's a graduate of Queen's University, where he studied Global Development...

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