Women in STEM, namely in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics are making waves all around the world. The fields have been predominantly male but are now seeing an increase in female professionals, despite the gender disparity that continues to exist.
Nicole Tardif is one of those women that comes to mind when one thinks about strong leaders in STEM and in Northern Ontario. She is currently the Program Coordinator for the Goodman School of Mines at Laurentian University and has been for the past 5 years, but she has been pursuing a career in the field of resources since her early days at Laurentian. “Mining is a very male dominated industry, even in Canada,” says Nicole. “Women face a lot of challenges to be successful in this industry, but I knew I wanted to pursue a career related to resources despite that.”
Nicole is a bilingual two-time graduate of Laurentian University, with a B.Sc. and M.Sc. in Geology. During her studies, she worked for a major exploration company (BHP), a junior exploration company (ShinningTree Resources) and both provincial and federal geological surveys. After earning her Bachelor of Science, she worked with the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines as a Surficial Geologist for a year. She then returned to Laurentian for her M.Sc. to work on a federally funded exploration project in Flin Flon, Manitoba. Nicole led the Society of Economic Geologist graduate student group for the University and facilitated international field trips and conferences.
“Dr. Harold Gibson, from the Harquail School of Earth Sciences, has been one of my biggest mentors in my time at Laurentian University and in my career,” says Nicole. “He has always encouraged me to keep going and has helped me through some difficult personal struggles. I am very thankful to have his support.”
Upon her second graduation, she stayed on the University campus, working as a Geoscience Technologist and Outreach Officer for almost 10 years before moving up to her current position, with the Goodman School of Mines. Her focus in this role is the co-ordination of new course development, supporting community outreach and promoting the school on national and international levels.
Earlier this year, Nicole was selected as one of only fifty women to participate in the first International Women in Resources Mentorship Program (IWRMP), a collaboration between International Women in Mining, Women in Mining Canada and Metisphere. The six-month program aims at matching up mentors and mentees of various industry-related levels of experience, from all around the world, in an attempt to have them help each other explore the challenges and successes they face at work.
“The IWRMP was a world class opportunity. It was a well-structured program that provided me with the opportunity to learn leadership and coping skills, and to be empowered by an experienced mentor doing similar work in a university in Mongolia. My mentor was able to share her experiences, within a different cultural lens, and help me navigate through my own environment. We developed a great friendship.”
Nicole has certainly made her mark in the industry through various roles she has held, some of those as a volunteer. She is currently a Director and Chair of Modern Mining & Technology Sudbury, which is a committee consisting of mining industry professionals who plan events for young people and teachers to encourage learning and interest in mining and exploration as a career. Nicole also participates on numerous committees such as the Mining Industry Human Resources Council’s (MiHR) Gearing Up as a Steering Committee member, as well as in Dynamic Earth’s External Advisory Committee, currently working on an expansion proposal for the non-profit. On top of all that, Northern Ontario Business presented her with a 40 Under Forty Sudbury award, in 2013.
Not only is Nicole an outstanding leader, mentee and mentor, she is also a cervical cancer survivor. “At 24, I was told I had a small chance of survival with this terrifying disease. I survived but lost my ability to bear children. I used my recovery story as fuel help others and to raise money for cancer research locally with the Canadian Cancer Society, through the Colours of Hope 5K walk/run,” says Nicole. She continues to help raise awareness and funds for cancer research, all while being a wife and a mother to an 11-year old girl that her and her husband adopted from South Africa. Nicole is also currently pursuing an MBA at Laurentian University, all while trying to find the formula to balancing work life and family life.