Young women driving the future

diversity and inclusion oil sands

In recognition of International Women’s Day, March 8, 2021, COSIA profiles Samantha Heigl, a Program Coordinator on COSIA’s tailings team. International Women’s Day celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women and aims to forge a gender equal society. It has been observed worldwide since the early 1900’s.

It’s been over a year since Samantha Heigl, a University of Victoria grad, who identifies as she/her, joined the tailings team at COSIA and she notes the learning curve was steep. “I was born and raised in Alberta, but I came to this role with no knowledge of the technical aspects of oil and gas and I specifically didn’t know what tailings were,” she explains. “There were so many acronyms at the beginning I couldn’t keep track. The technical language was a huge surprise.”

What attracted Heigl to COSIA was the opportunity to expand her background in sustainability in the not-for-profit sector with more project management experience. “I provide coordination and support to the Tailings Environmental Priority Area so that our Members can effectively collaborate on environmental research and technology development related to tailings management,” she says. That work includes synthesizing technical information, supporting steering committee meetings, and working to prepare the annual tailings report.

“I had never envisioned myself working on the technical side of things, but it’s been really interesting,” Heigl notes. She says she’s always been passionate about energy and especially sustainable energy. “Energy is so critical to everything in our lives and what excites me is the possibility of reimagining or transforming how energy is generated and used,” she says. It’s a space where COSIA works to advance clean technologies to support a reduced emissions future.

Heigl was only months into her new job when a discussion on new human resources initiatives at a staff meeting inspired her to propose launching a diversity and inclusion committee. She had been involved with a similar initiative at a previous employer and won a company award for her efforts. Different perspectives, experience and expertise from a diverse workforce (in age, race, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, and gender) can bring positive benefits to an organization, such as increased creativity.

“The issue is important to me and I felt that COSIA could be a leader in this area,” Heigl explains. She says she wasn’t prepared for such a positive response. Within weeks she found herself leading an advisory committee charged with finding ways to raise awareness and identify ways to increase diversity and inclusion in the workplace. “Just bringing awareness to the topic is a huge step,” Heigl says.

Outside of her job, Heigl is active in Young Women in Energy, an organization that champions the interests of young women working in the energy sector. Member engagement is a big part of its mandate, and that’s where Heigl volunteers her time. “Empowering women is very important to me,” she says. “What I like about this group is we’re all about the same age, with similar experiences and shared ambitions. It’s not intimidating at all.” 

Heigl says International Women’s Day is a great time to recognize women who’ve paved the way for young women like herself to succeed. “It is also an opportunity to recognize the achievements women have made and highlight the huge path we have to go to realize equality for all women, including LGBTQ+ and women of colour in our industry.”

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