From adventure tourism to engineering, these Newfoundland women are trailblazers in their fields

From adventure tourism to engineering, these Newfoundland women are trailblazers in their fields

From left to right, Beulah Oake, Sue Rendell and Shirley Kennedy have all contributed to Newfoundland and Labrador society. (Submitted by Beulah Oake, Sue Rendell and Shirley Kennedy)

International Women’s Day, celebrated annually on March 8, encourages global efforts to achieve gender parity, equality and advancement.

In recognition of International Women’s Day, CBC News spoke with three women who were pioneers in their field in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Shirley Kennedy

Shirley Kennedy was a mechanical engineer when men almost universally dominated the field. (Submitted by Shirley Kennedy)

Shirley Kennedy is proud to be one of the first women to work in mechanical engineering at the Corner Brook pulp and paper mill.

Kennedy started working there in 1972 as a cleaner. The cleaning staff weren’t union employees then, she said, and she was one of the women pushing for change.

Without that change, the cuts could have ended her career at the plant, she said. Instead, his seniority landed him a job in terminal mechanical pulping.

She had a lot to learn mechanically and was nervous about taking on the role.

“I always say if someone had a gun in my back that first day, I couldn’t have felt worse,” she said.

Her older male colleagues agreed, but younger men sometimes didn’t like being outclassed by a woman. She reached the rank of main operator.

“I went to a man from our union – he was a person I trusted. I said to him, ‘what should I do?'” she said. “He said take the job. I said I couldn’t do it, no woman had done it. He said if I couldn’t do it, no man could. He said to me. knew and I knew what could happen.”

Sue Rendell

Sue Rendell has played a key role in the development of adventure tourism on the west coast of Newfoundland. (Submitted by Sue Rendell)

Sue Rendell began and ended her career in the adventure travel industry with a love of the outdoors.

Growing up in Goose Bay, Rendell remembers enjoying all kinds of hobbies, spending time at Snow Goose Ski Resort back when there was only one tow rope. As a student, Rendell excelled at volleyball, earning berths on varsity, provincial and national teams and induction into the Newfoundland and Labrador Volleyball Hall of Fame.

She then worked in physical education and recreation and was instrumental in developing the adventure tourism program at the College of the North Atlantic.

In 1990, Rendell and partner Bob Hicks turned their skills and passion for the outdoors into one of Newfoundland’s first adventure travel companies, Gros Morne Adventures. They strategically planned, made connections and promoted Newfoundland and Labrador as an outdoor destination.

At first it was a tough sell, but with determination they scaled up, connected with other tourism service providers and lobbied provincial organizations for support. Their efforts grew their own business and the industry in western Newfoundland.

Rendell and Hicks chose to retire when they could enjoy the pursuits that brought them to the industry in the first place.

Looking back on her accomplishments, Sue says that even in the toughest times, her passion was the source of her success.

“Life can be short. There was never a time when I got up and thought, ‘Oh my God, I have to go to work. I was tired, but I liked it.”

Beulah Oake

Beulah Oake says she was the first elected female alderman in Deer Lake. (Submitted by Beulah Oake)

Beulah Oake is well known as the owner and operator of the Seven Oakes Island Inn in Change Islands.

She and her husband Eddie took over the original building when it was in disrepair, with no electricity or sewer. They repaired the building and, at 84, she still runs the inn and dining room.

Oake also has a long list of other accomplishments. In the 1970s, she says, she was elected the first female councilor in Deer Lake. She also claims to be the first woman to run an Irving station in Deer Lake and the first person to run the Deer Lake airport canteen.

“My life has been very interesting and very, very rewarding. I’ve worked very hard.”

What advice would Oake share today?

“Put your customers first. I think we have to make sure that we take good care of our employees. Going the extra mile won’t hurt at all.

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