In 2020, we have hundreds of wonderful female employees at Ontario Parks. But it was not always like this.
Some working women helped pave the way for opportunities for women in management positions. Here are the stories of two women who have the honor of being the “first” in their respective roles.
First female superintendent
Our first superintendent was Kathy Sauvé of Sharbot Lake Provincial Park and Silver Lake Provincial Park.
Kathy started with Ontario Parks in 1975 as a summer student at Bon Echo Provincial Park. Over the years, she held various positions at the parks and at the White Lake Fish Farming Station.
Kathy became our first park superintendent in 1986 at Sharbot Lake Provincial Park. She also assumed management of Silver Lake Provincial Park and Menzel Centennial Provincial Park. She managed Murphys Point Provincial Park from 1995 to 2001, meaning she had four parks under her management during this time.
Kathy was honored to be a role model for women working in parks.
“It’s a great honor. I always felt a strong sense of pride in being a part of our park system and the MNRF. People supported and encouraged me throughout my career and I was grateful for that. “It was important to me not to disappoint other women.”
Staff orientation day was Kathy’s favorite day of the year. Each year, she watched as more staff joined the Ontario Parks family and came together as a team.
In Kathy’s early years as superintendent, few women held leadership positions at Ontario Parks. One of her greatest joys was watching our workforce evolve, as more and more women took on management roles.
“When I went to the parks staff conference, you saw very few women there. Every year you saw more and more women and it was fantastic to see.”
Kathy continued to manage parks until her retirement in 2013, after 38 years with Ontario Parks.
First head of female zone
Sandy White’s career with the MNRF began in 1981, when he worked as a junior ranger at Ivanhoe Lake Provincial Park. Sandy spent years working in the environment, including Arctic gold research, acid rain research, lake sampling, fisheries research, firefighting, and tree planting. Every summer, Sandy returned to work as a ranger for the MNRF. Sandy became Ontario Parks’ first female zone manager in 2011.
“I really had a passion for the environment and throughout my career, this always brought me back to the MNRF.”
Sandy eventually went on to work as a ranger program coordinator and spent 20 years working in youth programs. Looking for a change, she came to Ontario Parks with the charge of overseeing all provincial parks in southeastern Ontario.
“I love the diversity of my portfolio. We have the ability to make changes. We achieve many things thanks to the diversity of what our people bring to the table.”
Kathy Sauvé (Park Superintendent), Heidi McGovern (Operations Technician), Lynette Whan (A/Assistant Park Superintendent) and Corrie Bourgoin (Park Secretary).
When it comes to their favorite memories, both Kathy and Sandy have plenty to choose from.
Kathy frequently celebrated other women joining Ontario Parks. She remembers the excitement of having two other women join her as superintendents and having a female director leading Ontario Parks.
In 2007, Kathy led a female-dominated team at Sharbot Lake. For the only time in our history, a park had a female park superintendent, a deputy park superintendent, an operations technician, and a park secretary all at the same time.
What Sandy likes most about her current position is being able to leave a positive legacy for young women who want to work for Ontario Parks.
“I am very proud to say that the legacy I leave behind is that of a woman in a senior management position at Ontario Parks, when it was all men at the table.
“In my area, you will see that my Deputy Superintendent positions are moving towards a 50/50 split between women and men. “More women have taken on positions as park rangers and operations technicians, which is giving them the skills necessary to be leaders in this organization.”
Some words of advice
Kathy and Sandy have some sage advice for success.
“I strongly believe in being productive and taking initiative. Empower yourself by taking risks and get out of your comfort zone. Stand up for yourself and the people you work with, but do it in a respectful way. Stay positive and motivated, and take advantage of opportunities. Remember to be kind, have a sense of humor and smile often.” – kathy
“Follow your dreams and find what you really want to do. If things aren’t going well, accept the challenge and make a change. Empower people to present ideas. Even if they seem ridiculous, keep trying, because eventually, if there is momentum, there will be change, and change for the better. “We talk a lot about diversity and inclusion, but if we really get people to act, things will change.” – sand
Thanks to Kathy and Sandy for all their hard work!