While women in STEM fields are still greatly underrepresented, those who are choosing to challenge are making unprecedented impacts. The passionate women breaking the barriers are making transformational and critical progression to the industry through their unique perspective in creating innovative solutions. With a plethora of local, provincial and international initiatives supporting the advancement of women in STEM careers, we are beginning to bridge the gender equality gap.
Higher Ground Consulting’s (HGC) is committed to continuing to build an inclusive culture. We believe in nurturing a supportive and encouraging environment that empowers the women of our organization and all women in STEM professions. We believe that inclusion translates into innovation, and by supporting each other we can create a better tomorrow. This year, to honour International Women’s Day we are featuring a handful of the women at HGC and highlighting their insights for other females looking to enter the industry.
Karin Van Vliet – Senior Project Manager, M.Eng., P.Eng
- Karin joined HGC in 2018, bringing 10 years of environmental engineering and project management experience to our team. Focusing primarily on environmental consulting throughout a broad range of environmental and civil engineering projects, she brings together people with varied technical and personal skills to successfully balance schedules and budgets. The diversity of Karin’s technical experience combined with her love for people and planning, enable her to excel as a project manager and connect people across all sides of a project.
- Growing up, Karin had a love for math and everything science, chemistry and biology in particular. In high school, her interest in environmental concepts peaked, leading her to pursue an undergraduate degree in Environmental Engineering from the University of Alberta. Looking to further her education and expand her specialization, Karin obtained her master’s in Environmental Engineering with a personal focus on Project Management from the University of Calgary. Early on in her career, she was connected with some great mentors and teachers who helped guide her growth and provided challenging opportunities that stretched her comfort zone and helped shape the professional she is today.
- Karin’s two favourite things about HGC are the people and the flexible work environment. As a woman choosing to pursue both her professional aspirations and her role as a mother, she appreciates being able to work on interesting and fulfilling projects while also being present for her family. In her spare time, you can find Karin enjoying outdoor activities such as canoeing or volunteering with schools, sporting teams and community organizations.
- As an advocate for all women joining the industry, Karin’s advice to young women starting out is to say yes to as many opportunities as you can, even if they appear daunting. She believes that by stepping outside of your comfort zones, getting out into the field as much as possible and continuously working to make strong connections with the people around you, you can reach any level in your career.
Melanie Myden – Senior Hydrogeologist, M.Sc., P.Geol.
- Joining HGC in 2016, Melanie has 15+ years of environmental consulting experience. She has been hooked on geology since taking her first course during her undergrad degree at the University of Calgary. With her diverse career, Melanie has worked on projects in over 25 countries with a primary focus on managing water resources. Her knack for developing cutting-edge solutions has ensured sustainable access to groundwater, designed water supply wells and water management plans, and mitigated groundwater issues.
- Outside of work, Melanie enjoys riding and racing her mountain bike or volunteering on projects vital to the sustainability of our most important resources. Volunteering as a technical expert with a number of NGO’s globally, she had built water infrastructure and promoted access to clean drinking water in developing countries. Melanie finds herself fortunate to be able to work and volunteer in a field that can be very challenging but also very rewarding. She dedicated to continuing the development of sustainable water management solutions.
- When asked about the insights she would provide to women entering the industry, her automatic response was “we need more women in STEM fields!”. Melanie highly encourages young women to pursue a career in geosciences, as it is a diverse field with numerous opportunities to follow your passion. Her advice is to ignore the stereotypes and allow your motivations and inspirations to be the sole driving force behind what you choose to pursue.
Sarah MacDonald – Executive Assistant and Office Manager
- As a detail-oriented, professional administrator, Sarah joined HGC in 2014, applying her organizational and relationship skills to set company goals and implement strategies to achieve them. She is a key contributing member to the organization, supporting company executives as well as daily, operational and administrative functions. Sarah has been fundamental in establishing critical administrative functions such as financial systems, human resources, project management applications, work processes implementation and health and safety programs.
- Finding joy in variety, her favourite thing about working for HGC is how each day brings something new and no two days are the same. Sarah works at the core of our company, enabling her active engagement with each team member. From this, she appreciates her continuous opportunity to learn and evolve both as a person and a professional. In her spare time, Sarah loves nothing more than spending time with her family outdoors. She is a life-long camper and adventurer throughout Alberta and BC.
- Sarah encourages all women who are starting their careers to be open to opportunities. If you are prepared and willing to take new opportunities when they are presented to you, then the sky is the limit. Each opportunity you take, is an opportunity to learn.
Women of HGC
- Karin – Senior Project Manager
- Sarah – Executive Assistant and Office Manager
- Sherry – Financial Manager
- Melanie – Senior Hydrogeologist
- Lisa – Senior Hydrogeologist
- Kim – Environmental Field Technician
At HGC, we believe both women and men are critical in the conversation on bridging the gender gap within the STEM industry. We interviewed Lee Martin, Technical Services Manager, who had the benefit of graduating in an engineering class from the University of Calgary which was approximately 50% female. Unaware of how unusual this was, he began his professional career and quickly realized female engineers were fairly rare in practice.
Lee has been blessed with the opportunity and privilege to work with, learn from and lead amazing female engineers over the course of his career. Those experiences have directly influenced his practice and have had a strong impact on his growth as a leader. When asked on the significance of women in the industry, Lee advocates “It is important as an organization and as a leader to get, and truly consider, a diverse set of viewpoints and opinions. This helps you to think outside of the box and avoid getting trapped in group think. If you fail to build an organization that recognizes the importance of diversity, then you are dooming yourself to live in an echo chamber. And from a purely business selfish point of view, if you don’t actively work to build a welcoming home for those diverse voices, you are severely limiting your ability to attract and retain talent.”
The #choosetochallenge theme for International Women’s Day 2021 encourages our society to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, we can create an inclusive world through the continued empowerment and advancement of women in all professions. From challenge comes change, and at HGC we choose to challenge.