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Women in Mining: Maureen Jensen

Mining a fantastic career for securities commission head

Maureen Jensen, executive director and CAO of the Ontario Securities Commission.

But for a twist of fate, Maureen Jensen may never have become a geologist. Jensen, the daughter of a Falconbridge mining engineer who grew up in Sudbury, was studying pre-med at the University of Toronto when a course in geology piqued her curiosity. Immediately, she was hooked.

“I decided that I wanted to be a geologist, not a doctor, and, of course, my mother cried about it for three years,” she laughed. “I love it, and I still think of myself as a geologist, even though I’m not working in that field anymore.”

As executive director and CAO of the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC), Jensen oversees the body that administers and enforces securities law in the province of Ontario.

The office is responsible for establishing standards surrounding reporting in mineral exploration. Jensen started out in hard-rock geology, with a focus on base metals and gold, working in mines and on exploration projects all over North America, Mexico, Central America, South Africa and the U.S.

She has been a prospector, and founded a couple of junior mining companies with her husband, Torben.

Following the Bre-X scandal in the mid-1990s, she was named to the Mining Standards Task Force, designed to clean up mining reporting standards.

Sixty-four of the 66 published recommendations have been implemented. Though the OSC received some pushback at the time, the regulations have transformed the industry.

“These rules are a sea change in the world, and Canada is now looked on as the best jurisdiction for this kind of disclosure; it has pushed a lot of the standards globally,” Jensen said. “(Investors) invest in the Canadian disclosure regime because they can understand what the companies are doing better and they can compare what they’re talking about because they all have to report under the same standard.”

It hasn’t always been smooth sailing for Jensen. One of 10 women in a graduating class of 35—she remains friends with many of her former classmates—she did struggle as a woman trying to make it in the business.

In her early years, Jensen said, it was hard to get field work and she was given any number of excuses to prevent her from experiencing it: there was only one toilet on site, there weren’t separate facilities for women, she wouldn’t like living in a tent for three months.

Because it was so hard to get those jobs, she found herself fighting hard for them. And it persisted into the corporate side of the sector.

“Almost exclusively I was the only woman in the boardroom and it was very hard to get other CEOs to take you seriously until you could show that you could get the job done,” she said. “You had to prove yourself over and over and over.”

That old boys’ club approach to the mineral industry has greatly improved since she started in the business in the 1970s, and today Jensen said she and other women of her era are working to mentor succeeding generations of women, encouraging them to go into senior management and take on board roles.

She’s now seeing more women in senior roles, and describes the network of women in mining across the country as “incredible.”

The biggest challenge to finding success in the industry is largely about people proving themselves, Jensen said, but emphasized both men and women face those pressures.

Contemporary challenges aren’t really about gender balance, she added, but about replenishing the stock of retiring senior management professionals, and mining companies would be wise to concentrate on building corporate social responsibility.

“They’re going to have to rejuvenate this business, and to get young people to look at this business it has to be socially responsible,” Jensen said. “That’s a big issue, and part of being socially responsible is having a good diversity balance, and not just in the companies, but at the senior tables and at the boardroom.”

Jensen credits an enduring curiosity about the world around her for leading her through a long career in all facets of the industry, through prospecting, mining, corporate, and regulation. She relates well to the old adage that says if you’re passionate about something, you never work a day in your life.

“Never stop learning and trying new things,” she advised. “I think one of the best things to do is don’t get stuck, but keep expanding your horizons.”

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