Promoting Female Entrepreneurship

On 8 April, 14 young women known as the Astucieuses visited the Arvida Research and Development Centre (ARDC). The experience was highly enriching for these women majoring in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) fields in university. COlab, a partner of Rio Tinto’s Regional Economic Development (RED), created this initiative that gave the qualified young women the chance to see first-hand the work being done in one of eastern Canada’s largest private research centres.

Established three years ago, COlab is a research and social innovation centre dedicated to increasing the digital capabilities and skills of individuals, businesses, and communities. “The link between Colab and RED formed naturally,” said Emmanuel Bergeron, Director, Regional Economic Development at Rio Tinto. “The unique nature of what we do goes far beyond funding, as we also invest time and skills into the project and connect people. We bring a human side to the table. This is one of the great strengths of our contribution.”

A highly qualified female workforce

The Astucieuses is a 30-week programme designed to develop participants’ entrepreneurial and digital skills. The current cohort includes students from all over the world—Réunion Island, Tunisia, Algeria, Nigeria and, of course, Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean. They are pursuing doctorates, master’s degrees, and bachelor’s degrees in engineering, computer science, and geology.

“They were strangers to each other at the beginning of the programme,” said Julie Dufresne, advisor at COlab. “It’s so rewarding to see them unlock their potential with such confidence. Having the opportunity to visit the ARDC and meet inspiring women who are models of leadership is very empowering. It’s an experience that lets them see the different paths that are open to them for the future, both as entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs, in a multinational company such as Rio Tinto.”

Role models for women in science

The 14 Astucieuses were able to get to know women who work in science and are thriving at the ARDC.

Josette Ross, the first woman to become general manager of the ARDC, said, “These meetings were super stimulating, in so many ways! What stood out for me was the variety and diversity—not only in terms of culture, but even more so in terms of the great minds in attendance. These brilliant young women have their own personalities, with different mindsets and experiences and each with their own way of approaching things. Such diversity is very enriching in a work team. We wanted to show them that it is possible to thrive in science and tackle stimulating challenges in this field.”

By supporting COlab, Rio Tinto’s RED is investing in the next generation of women so that they can carve out their own path and play a greater role in STEM fields.