Launched October 16 at USask’s Gordon Oakes Red Bear Student Centre, MentorSTEP supports Indigenous women to pursue STEM and related business, health, and environmental disciplines related to mining. Saskatchewan’s mining industry aims to build bridges for Indigenous women to step into technical, production and professional roles.
MentorSTEP brings together roughly 20 members of Saskatchewan’s mining community, matched as mentors to young Indigenous women at USask who are pursuing a variety of STEM and related degrees. As well, Indigenous high school girls from Saskatoon and participating First Nation partner schools will engage with USask student mentors in STEM disciplines.
The two-year pilot program supports mentorship and research internships, including professional engagement events such as virtual mine tours, Indigenous cultural ceremonies, learning labs, site visits, networking, and career development.
“MentorSTEP is a unique opportunity to overturn systemic barriers that have prevented women and girls in our member nations from accessing credentials and supportive networks in science, technology, engineering, math and related disciplines such as business, environment or health, which are relevant to careers in mining,” said Tribal Chief Mark Arcand of the Saskatoon Tribal Council.
MentorSTEP is founded on Indigenous mentorship practice of shared activities, experiences, stories, and cross-cultural learning. Mentors and mentees meet monthly and learn from each other through group events. Research internship applications for summer 2020 will open in February.
“MentorSTEP represents a new way to support young Indigenous women pursuing STEM programs and careers in mining,” said iMii Executive Director Al Shpyth, adding that Saskatchewan’s minerals industry understands that a diverse and inclusive workforce is important to the whole province.
Canada’s mining industry is the leading private sector employer of Indigenous people in Canada, at six to seven per cent of its workforce. Many mines are right next door to Indigenous communities, where local talent and local careers are key to success. Women currently occupy about 17 per cent of minerals industry positions across Canada, though the majority hold administrative and support roles.
“Building a cohort for Indigenous women matched with faculty and industry mentors via MentorSTEP reaches across multiple barriers, such as supporting women in STEM, women in mining, and uplifting Indigenous women’s success in those areas,” said USask team lead Merle Massie, coordinator of undergraduate research in the Office of the Vice-President Research.