Women In Energy Forum To Be Held Oct. 10

After Maya Kanigan graduated with a bachelor of commerce degree from the University of Victoria in 2000 she learned soon afterwards about the shortage of women in leadership positions in Canada — and she has been trying ever since to help them overcome the obstacles in the way of them finding fulfilling careers and earning higher salaries.

After graduation, Kanigan was hired to organize an event focused on fostering leadership. It didn’t take her long to realize that what she had assumed in the academic world wasn’t true.

“In school you think everybody is equal and then you find out there’s a disparity,” she said. “When I was organizing the event I noticed that there were very few women speakers.”

That experience, plus her observation that there were few women in leadership positions in Canada overall led to her decision to establish an organization dedicated to fostering leadership among women in the working world.

Women in Leadership Foundation, a non-profit organization that she founded and is president of, is dedicated to the advancement and development of leadership skills among women, through coaching and leadership programs, through a job board on its site (www.womeninleadership.ca), through providing placement services for employers and job-seekers, as well as through organizing forums focused on opportunities for women in energy, tech and finance.

On Oct. 10 her organization will be organizing the fifth annual North American Women in Energy Forum, being held at Calgary’s Fairmont Palliser. The forum, sponsored by corporations and organizations such as Husky Energy Inc., Schlumberger Canada Ltd. and the Alberta Energy Regulator, with a history of promoting women to senior posts, will feature a number of speakers. They include Celine Gerson, president of Schlumberger Canada, Kristina Sammut, an executive coach who heads and founded Frontier Leadership & Executive Coaching for Women, Chris Bloomer, president and CEO of the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, and others.

Forum topics include an address by Bloomer and others who will deal with pipelines and LNG infrastructure, a discussion led by Gerson and others about successful partnerships between Indigenous nations and the energy sector, panel discussions about the importance of mentorship, a workshop dealing with innovation and other topics.

“The forum highlights women who have succeeded in the energy industry,” she said. “It’s a showcase for female role models.”

Although Kanigan has seen progress in the way women have achieved leadership positions since she founded her organization 17 years ago, there is still considerable room for progress.

“It hasn’t changed that much, but more companies have programs now to get more women into leadership roles,” she said.

And, she adds, the forum itself “wouldn’t be possible without our sponsors.”

Support in the corporate world and in government has allowed The Women in Leadership Foundation to grow steadily. It now has five chapters across Canada, including the one in Calgary and others in Vancouver, Ottawa, Toronto and Kelowna, where Kanigan lives.

While the Women in Energy forum is one of the organization’s most popular events, attracting 200 to 500 people each year, other events also have proved very popular. For instance, there are Women in Tech forums held in all of the cities where the organization has chapters, with the Calgary event held at the SAIT campus each May and the Vancouver one held at the BCIT campus.

It also offers other forums.

In addition to those events, her organization offers a mentorship program, which sees it matching younger women, usually aged 25 to the mid-30s, with successful career women.

“More than 1,400 women have participated in the mentoring program,” she said. “Mentoring is at the heart of what we do.”

The program, which is fee-based, is only offered now in Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto. However, it is being expanded to include an online version, which will be launched next year.

“That’s very exciting to us,” said Kanigan. “It means someone from a small town can be matched with a mentor in a city.”

It also means the program can be offered across Canada.

Statistics don’t lie and, according to Sammut, a certified executive coach and the President and founder of Calgary-based Frontier Leadership, who will head a workshop entitled “Women and the Leadership Imperative” at the Oct. 10 Calgary forum, women in Canada and worldwide lag men in terms of career advancement and compensation.

According to the World Economic Forum (WEF) the average pay for women globally in 2017 was US$12,000, almost half of the average $21,000 earned by men.

The WEF calculated that, at the rate of recent progress, it will take 217 years before that gender pay gap closes.

“In Canada, according to Statistics Canada, women earn 87 cents, on average, for every $1 earned by men,” she said.

It could be worse. In the U.S., women earn 78 cents for every $1 earned by men. And the gap widens in much of the developing world, according to Sammut, who founded her company in 2010, after a distinguished career in leadership development and executive coaching with the government of Ontario.

However, despite that disparity, Sammut, who offers executive coaching for individuals and in group settings and is a frequent speaker at forums and other events, is optimistic about the prospects for women who want to advance their careers.

“There is no better time to be a woman in a leadership position than now,” she said.

However, women who aspire to achieve leadership roles need to develop strategies for career advancement, something she is focused on and will speak about at the Oct. 10 forum.

The Daily Oil Bulletin is sponsoring one of the forum sessions. Click here for more info.