Kitimat employee

Why more women are needed in science

Encouraging a culture of curiosity and technical excellence is important for innovation.

Last updated: 24 May 2024

It’s been nearly 150 years since the first woman received a bachelor’s degree in science and English literature in Canada. Yet as recently as 2016, women still only made up around 34% of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and computer science (STEM) bachelor's degree holders in Canada.

Encouraging a culture of curiosity and technical excellence is important for innovation. It's something we foster through our RioExcel program where participants, known as RioExperts, become our thought leaders and drivers of technical knowledge and expertise within the company. We have 170 RioExperts. Of those, 31 are in Canada and only 3 of those are women. We spoke to the 3 women about their careers and why more women are needed in science.

About the RioExcel program

In 2018, we established the RioExcel program to recognize the contribution technical experts make to our business. Successful senior-level applicants to RioExcel become RioExperts. This recognition celebrates their collaborative efforts within the company and with external experts to develop some of our most innovative solutions. Our RioExperts embody the exceptional depth of skill and expertise at Rio Tinto, while also mentoring, guiding, and upskilling our teams.



“I am grateful for the knowledge sharing and mentorship I have received along the way.”

I was born and raised in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut in northern Canada. As a student, I spent summers working in remote exploration camps mapping bedrock geology. After completing university, I started my career with the provincial government in Yellowknife and transitioned into exploration during the diamond rush in the Northwest Territories.

I started working at Diavik shortly after it started production in 2005. I set up the site drilling, sampling, and mining databases. I also brought the resource modelling in-house, standardised reporting and set up a reconciliation process to compare our predicted versus actual diamond yields. Today, I am a Principal Resource Geologist and proud to have been an important contributor to the successful mining project at Diavik as it moves towards the end of operations in 2026 and enters closure.

Over the years, there have been many opportunities to improve the way we do things and solve problems. Whenever I can, I encourage maximising the value of the ore we extract. This approach takes persistence, but this is truly sustainable mining.

I joined the RioExcel program in 2021 to progress my technical career. The program offered specialised training opportunities and exposure to other parts of the business. I am grateful for the knowledge-sharing and mentorship I have received along the way.

Women are underrepresented in technical fields. It is something I have seen throughout my career. To address it, the simple answer is more women need to be hired in technical roles.

Picture of Julie Elize

Julie Élize

“If you can see it, you can be it.”

I joined the Arvida Research and Development Centre (ARDC) in 2019 as a senior research scientist. I’m in charge of research and development projects looking for new ways to use bauxite residues and industrial by-products created during our production process.

One of my proudest achievements is the work I did to valorise anhydrite, a residue now recognized as a fertiliser for several crops such as wild lowbush blueberries. Our Chief Executive even has a pot of jam made from our blueberries!

Another career highlight, and something that surprised me, was being the first woman in Quebec to be accepted into the RioExel program.

My goal is to solve complex problems to bring positive change for the environment.

I want to be a role model for my children and for young girls who want to be in science. I want to set the example and break down barriers for women in the industry. That could be the difference — if you can see it, you can be it.

Profile image of Marie Christine


“I want to inspire other women and show them that it's possible to have a technical career as a woman.”

I’ve always loved science. When I was at school, I loved mathematics, physics and chemistry and from a young age I knew that I wanted to work in science, despite it being a male-dominated field.

I started working in research and development at the ARDC in 2017. At the ARDC, curiosity is a part of our daily lives. It's ingrained in us. We go beyond our ideas, break out of silos and work as a team. We truly believe that alone, we go fast, but as a team we go further.

We’re fortunate to be able to work in several facilities and benefit from a large "playground" where people open doors for us. The diversity of opportunities and projects you can work on is extraordinary. I love being an expert in my field and am proud of the work I do to help the company reach their ESG objectives. It’s a beautiful mission. It’s a great source of pride to be recognised by the company through the RioExcel program for the work I’ve done to help improve our environmental performance.

As women, it can be difficult to claim our space in a male-dominated industry. But that doesn’t have to be a reason to not go into science. We need more women in science because they bring diverse ways of thinking. My advice to women who are thinking about a technical career: don’t hesitate and you’ll find your space.


Josette Ross

General manager, Arvida Research and development Centre (ARDC)
“As the first woman in 75 years to head the ARDC, I’m seeing an increase in the number of women recognised as RioExperts. This is good news! However, we still have a long way to go.”

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