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Mine the gap: two young women at the start of their engineering careers

November 9, 2016
Samantha Espley stands to the right of Vale Undergraduate Engineering Ambassador award winners (on far left) Stephanie Saliba, an engineering student from McGill University who produces the blog, Mining Diaries: The Journey of a Female Miner and Sabrina Hiefer, a Dalhousie University engineering student who established a Day of Mourning on her campus to honour the female engineering students who were killed in the December 6 massacre at École Polytechnique in Montreal. Photo: Vale Archive

Samantha Espley stands to the right of Vale Undergraduate Engineering Ambassador award winners (on far left) Stephanie Saliba, an engineering student from McGill University who produces the blog, Mining Diaries: The Journey of a Female Miner and Sabrina Hiefer, a Dalhousie University engineering student who established a Day of Mourning on her campus to honour the female engineering students who were killed in the December 6 massacre at École Polytechnique in Montreal. Photo: Vale Archive

Meet Stephanie Saliba and Sabrina Hiefer. They’re young, they’re driven, and they’re both at the threshold of their mining careers. In addition, both share a passion for supporting women in the engineering profession.

Saliba, an engineering student at McGill University, produces a blog called Mining Diaries: The Journey of a Female Miner. Saliba has struck a chord with her audience as she uses her blog “to break some of the misconceptions that exist around women working in the mining industry.” Her online tips are sometimes pithy and to the point (“You are no different from a man so don’t expect to be treated differently”) and often pointedly encouraging (“Try to ask yourself this question every day: how am I creating value today?”).

Hiefer is an environmental engineering student at Dalhousie University, where she also fulfills the role of energy officer in the Office of Sustainability. Her passion extends to diversity issues and the role of women in the engineering profession. In fact, Hiefer took it upon herself to establish a Day of Mourning in remembrance of the December 6, 1989 massacre at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique in which14 female engineering students were murdered.

Our two winners reflect diversity in more than just gender.

Vale, in conjunction with the Canadian Engineering Memorial Foundation, honoured both of these young women in October with $10,000 Vale Undergraduate Engineering Ambassador Awards. Samantha Espley, GM, Mining and Mineral Processing Technical Excellence Centre, was honoured to present the scholarships to the two students whom she deemed “young ambassadors of the mining industry and of the engineering profession.” Espley, a highly respected advocate of women in engineering herself, praised both winners. “Sabrina is very energetic, positive and supportive and has all the qualities of an inspirational leader as she seeks a career in providing long-term environmental remediation for mining operations.”

Espley had similar praise for Saliba, whom she described as “captivating in her passion for the industry and in her adventurist spirit as she embraces the opportunity to travel to mine sites across the world.  She demonstrates remarkable maturity with her attitude and focus in her pursuit of technical excellence and in finding solutions for the sustainability of the industry.”

The Ambassador award reflects the value that Vale places on diversity, said Espley. “Our two winners reflect diversity in more than just gender. Sabrina and Stephanie are first-generation Canadians with roots in Germany and Lebanon, respectively.  They represent different cultures, different religions, and different ethnicity. Each shared her personal journey with me, in terms of immigrating to Canada and chasing an academic dream and a career in mining.” With up-and-comers like Stephanie Saliba and Sabrina Hiefer, our industry’s future looks brighter… and more balanced.

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