Women in leadership share their perspectives on International Women’s Day

March 08, 2024 — People Stories

International Women’s Day is a day when women are recognized for achievements and progress made in the journey to equality. It is a time to reflect on barriers to success, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in society, both personally and professionally.

The world has made unprecedented advances, but true gender parity remains a long way off.

In 2024, the United Nations has set “Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress” as the theme of IWD. To more fully explore the progress made and yet to be made, it is important to go beyond simply acknowledging female leaders. There is value in sharing experiences and real-world stories about our personal, professional, and academic journeys, so we can inspire the opportunities for change and ensure progress for future generations.

Here, four members of SNOLAB’s leadership group reflect on their journeys.

Dr. Jodi Cooley – Executive Director, SNOLAB

SNOLAB ED Jodi Cooley says the key to launching and maintaining a successful career is passion for the field.

“The most important thing was doing good science that I was passionate about. Almost as important as doing good science, was to do it with good people. That allowed me to build good relationships and opened opportunities to lead projects and people. Other skills that were important were learning to be adaptable, making decisions and seeing those decisions through to conclusion, and being innovative.

“I think we still struggle as a society to recognize women equally. In physics, it is well documented that women are still struggling against preconceived and unconscious biases. Overcoming those notions can be difficult because they are outside our control. We can’t control the behaviours of others.

“I have had many mentors, both men and women, who encouraged me at different stages of my life. Without them, my life would be completely different. However, the first people in my life that I owe gratitude to are my parents. My parents taught me to build community and my mom was adamant that I get a college education.

“Perseverance is a trait that will serve you well. Fearlessly tackle challenges head on. Know that if you are working at the limits of your ability, you will fail. It is what you do with that failure (will you try again or quit?) that will define your ultimate success.”

Sandra Moskal – Chief Financial Officer, SNOLAB

SNOLAB CFO Sandra Moskal says communication is the most effective team- and career-building tool.

“The finance department is a small but mighty department that works for the entire organization. I believe that I maintain open communication between myself and my team as well as with all divisions within SNOLAB. My door is always open, and I believe everyone feels they can reach out for assistance, input, or information. I try to openly share information, listen to others’ ideas, and encourage feedback in order to create a collaborative working environment.

“There is no typical day as the role changes based on the time of year. For example: budgeting, year end, quarterly reporting, monthly reporting. Intertwined in all of these duties, is the interactions with other groups on a daily basis which makes working at SNOLAB so enjoyable.

“The Chief Financial Officer’s job is to ensure SNOLAB has accurate financial reporting and strong budgetary oversight. As a direct report to the Executive Director, I am also responsible for ensuring that she and the other directors are informed of our current financial situation and of any issues as they arise.

“When I saw the ad posted for the position at SNOLAB, I was immediately intrigued because, as a resident of Sudbury for most of my life, I was aware of SNOLAB and its successes over time. A chance to change career paths and work in a scientific organization as a non-scientific person was both daunting and exciting. I believe I have a significant role to play at SNOLAB, albeit non scientific, as strong financial governance is paramount to the success of any organization.”

Mehwish Obaid – Manager of Technical Services, SNOLAB

SNOLAB Project Management Office Manager Mehwish Obaid says empathy is an ingredient that must be woven into every successful workplace.

“Two crucial leadership skills that propelled my advancement at SNOLAB are communication and empathy. Your team consistently seeks a leader capable of articulating ideas clearly, actively listening, and providing timely feedback. I strongly advocate for all managers and supervisors to cultivate empathy in the workplace. Understanding the needs of your team is key to effective management. Empathy fosters trust and understanding among team members, leading to improved communication and decision-making.

“My role at SNOLAB involves a varied schedule. On typical weekdays, I spend most of my time in my office attending meetings and reviews. These meetings cover strategic planning, upcoming work requests, project management, data analysis, and review of continuous improvement initiatives. I engage with my supervisors and other stakeholders to ensure alignment and progress on various fronts. However, some days are more dynamic, as I head underground to oversee laboratory operations and collaborate with my team on process improvements, quality assurance, and inspections. As the day wraps up, I review the day’s updates, evaluate our progress towards goals, conduct safety checks, and plan for the next day and upcoming project meetings.

“The key to success lies in seeking mentorship and maintaining resilience. You will encounter numerous challenges but being resilient and learning from these experiences will only strengthen you as an individual and as a professional. Take pride in all your accomplishments, irrespective of their size, and celebrate them. Engineering can be daunting, but don’t let setbacks deter you. Stay resilient and persevere. Remember, you have the capability to access guidelines, tools, resources, and networks to succeed more efficiently and effectively every day.”

Samantha Kuula – Director of Corporate Services

SNOLAB Corporate Services Director Samantha Kuula says women in leadership positions have a key role to play in investing in the next generation.

“My advice is not for young women entering the profession, but for those who have made it. Take a moment to identify those who may need a mentor and extend a helping hand; share your knowledge and lessons learned; help them navigate the path you forged to make way for even more female leaders.

“I have been at SNOLAB for more than 15 years and in that time I have held a number of roles that each helped me gain experience and skills to move into the leadership role I have today. Throughout this journey, the best learning opportunities came from being a parent; I learned empathy, resilience and gained perspective. I also learned to really listen to issues that were being presented to me to define the core problem.

“In my corner of the professional world, I find women feel they need to set themselves apart and this can be isolating; we need to be a boss, but our competency is always questioned, we often feel like we can never fail or show weakness,  we question whether we should be in our role at work all while carrying the bulk of the mental load from home. It is only after reaching a senior role that I can clearly see where we are failing our next generation and feel comfortable using my platform to advocate so others can avoid or learn from our unique challenges.”