Telfer Alumna Seeks Sustainable Growth in Mining
Katherine Arblaster (BCom ’11) is the vice-president, sustainability and ESG (environmental, social and corporate governance), at Uranium Energy Corp. She’s passionate about sustainable growth in communities around the world.
Katherine started her career in Nicaragua, followed by East Africa, finally settling back in Toronto. With experience in finance, international development and corporate sustainability across different industries and around the world, she strives to promote social and economic growth in communities through sustainable and inclusive business practices.
Choosing Ottawa for the politics
Hailing from Toronto, Katherine decided that the epicentre of politics, Ottawa, was the optimal place to study. “The capital is full of opportunities for students to see how Canada interacts with the rest of the world from a political and business standpoint.” In addition, the newly constructed Desmarais Building, home of the Telfer School of Management, opened the year that Katherine began her undergraduate program in international management. “It was an exciting time to be part of Telfer.”
Life at Telfer and beyond
Katherine says she was very involved with the Telfer student community, participating in events and programs such as Managers Without Borders, which she led in her final year. This included supporting international students, helping them integrate into the Telfer community and getting to know Ottawa better. Katherine maintained these connections throughout university, so when she participated in an international exchange at the Amsterdam University of the Applied Sciences, she already had a social network to help with her transition. She also travelled across Europe and parts of Africa to strengthen her knowledge and understanding of international trade and commerce.
Katherine had a particular liking for her Leadership, Strategy and Sustainability course, which explores topics related to corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability. She still has fond memories of the course, taught by David Wright, whose research focuses on solar power. After university, Katherine worked at a microfinance bank in Nicaragua for two years. She was hired because of her international management degree, which had financial, economic, political and international development components.
Promoting sustainability around the world
Interested in addressing inequalities around the world, Katherine worked in the non-profit sector, supporting various international development projects across East Africa and Latin America. She worked on community engagement and social development projects around mine sites in agricultural communities and used funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a clean seed supply chain for cassava, a staple crop in East Africa. “Why in Canada do we have so much, and other countries so little?” she wondered. “During these years, I learned so much about myself and how the world works.”
A new career back home
Learning from her journey abroad in the non-profit sector, Katherine became particularly interested in corporate sustainability. “Business is such a strong tool for sustainable growth and development in communities,” she explains. This interest led her to the business world, where she found a position as senior consultant, sustainability and climate change, at Deloitte.
Katherine says that, at Deloitte, she developed many skills in a short time. She had the opportunity to work with executives and learn how business leaders, most of whom were men, make decisions. “As you move up the hierarchy, there are less and less women. There was about 30% (female) representation at manager level, and less than 10% at the partner level.” Despite this, Katherine eventually transitioned into Deloitte’s strategy and business design team, which works with clients to tackle strategic challenges and redesign their business strategies to thrive in competition. After her five years in consulting, Katherine took on a senior manager role at Deloitte.
Then, wishing to help grow a company central to the energy transition, Katherine took on a new challenge, working in the mining industry as VP, sustainability and ESG, at Uranium Energy Corp. “Mining is the right industry to create the type of impact I want to,” she says. Although it is a very male-dominated industry, Katherine knew that she would make a meaningful impact in her area of expertise because of her experience working in a fast-paced, demanding environment mostly with men. Not only has she taken on the new challenge of sustainability at Uranium Energy Corp., but she uses her leadership to encourage more women and people of diverse backgrounds to look for opportunities in typically male-dominated industries.
Developing confidence in your voice
Katherine highlights the importance of having strong female and male mentors on every journey to success. “I believe that female mentors for female employees are important relationships, but I also believe that men have an important role in mentoring women to enable their success,” she explains. “I had strong male advocates that helped me be successful and become comfortable being the only woman at the table.”
An advocate for issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), Katherine is hopeful that more women will seek opportunities in such a high-impact area. She offers some strategies to balance the male-female ratio in male dominated industries, including emphasizing the importance of DEI in hiring practices and ensuring that information about opportunities is equally advertised to all groups. “We should talk about industries that need more females and encourage women to go into those industries.”
“I know it’s easier said than done.” Katherine explains the importance of pushing yourself forward and building confidence. “I had to remind myself that my voice is just as important as everyone else’s. As I have gotten older, I have learned that most people are learning every day, including the most senior people. So, it’s okay to make a mistake or be wrong, as long as you take it as an opportunity to learn.”
The importance of a strong network
Katherine recognizes the importance of staying connected through various engagement opportunities and does so with Telfer through her own network. Many of her closest friends are Telfer alumni, paving the way for positive change in different industries. “It’s been such a pleasure to watch my fellow alumni grow in their own ways and find opportunities in diverse careers.”